пятница, 18 октября 2019 г.

Unstill Life Wanting to know more about the dark world inside…

Unstill Life

Wanting to know more about the dark world inside our cells, microscopists are usually torn by a choice – do they aim for a detailed 3D picture or capture a quick, but less-detailed video? Super-resolved structured illumination microscopy (SR-SIM), for example, captures high-resolution pictures of the tiniest aspects of a living cell, but these images require processing which usually limits how fast pictures can be snapped. Here though, a new technique uses algorithms to offload the processing work to a separate graphics processing unit – an example of GPU-acceleration captures this image of a living bone cancer cell in a fraction of a second, with its nucleus highlighted in blue, mitochondria (green) and cytoskeleton (pink). Using SR-SIM to take videos has huge potential – from recording the speedy movements of tiny microbes in living cells to allowing researchers to quickly ‘screen’ samples based on tell-tale signs of health and disease.

Written by John Ankers

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2019 October 18 Interstellar Interloper 2I/Borisov Image…

2019 October 18

Interstellar Interloper 2I/Borisov
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA) et al.

Explanation: After the 2017 detecton of 1I/‘Oumuamua, comet 2I/Borisov has become the second recognized interstellar interloper. Like ‘Oumuamua, Borisov’s measured hyperbolic trajectory and speed as it falls toward the Sun confirm that its origin is from beyond our Solar System. But while detailed observations indicate ‘Oumuamua is a rocky body with differences from known Solar System objects, Borisov is definitely a far wandering comet. Taken on October 12, 2019 this Hubble Space Telescope image of Borisov reveals a familiar looking comet-like activity and concentration of dust around around its nucleus. Not resolved in the image, some estimates suggest the nucleus could be between 2 and 16 kilometers in diameter. At the time of the Hubble image, comet 2I/Borisov was about 418 million kilometers away. Borisov is still inbound though and will make its closest approach to the Sun on December 7 at a distance of about 300 million kilometers (2 Astronomical units).

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap191018.html

Stormy cluster weather could unleash black hole power and explain lack of cosmic cooling

Figure 1. The left hand panel shows an actual observation of the galaxy cluster MS 0735.6+7421, while on the right the background Hubble image has instead been overlaid with a mock observation of the jet (pink) and X-ray emission (blue) made from the simulation. Both images show cavities excavated by the lobe inflation surround by X-ray bright rims of dense gas (blue), which are filled by distorted jet material (pink). Image credit: Hubble and Chandra Image: NASA, ESA, CXC, STScI, and B. McNamara (University of Waterloo); Very Large Array Telescope Image: NRAO, and L. Birzan and team (Ohio University); Simulated Data: M. A. Bourne (University of Cambridge).

Figure 2. An artist’s impression of the jet launched by a supermassive black hole, which inflates lobes of very hot gas that are distorted by the cluster weather. Image credit: Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge.

“Weather” in clusters of galaxies may explain a longstanding puzzle, according to a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge. The scientists used sophisticated simulations to show how powerful jets from supermassive black holes are disrupted by the motion of hot gas and galaxies, preventing gas from cooling, which could otherwise form stars. The team publish their work in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

 Typical clusters of galaxies have several thousand member galaxies, which can be very different to our own Milky Way and vary in size and shape. These systems are embedded in very hot gas known as the intracluster medium (ICM), all of which live in an unseen halo of so-called ‘dark matter’.

A large number of galaxies have supermassive black holes in their centres, and these often have high speed jets of material stretching over thousands of light years that can inflate very hot lobes in the ICM.

 The researchers, based at the Kavli Institute for Cosmology and Institute of Astronomy performed state-of-the-art simulations looking at the jet lobes in fine detail and the X-rays emitted as a result. The model captures the birth and cosmological evolution of the galaxy cluster, and allowed the scientists to investigate with unprecedented realism how the jets and lobes they inflate interact with a dynamic ICM.

They found that the mock X-ray observations of the simulated cluster revealed the so-called “X-ray cavities” and “X-ray bright rims” generated by supermassive black hole-driven jets, which itself is distorted by motions in the cluster remarkably resemble those found in observations of real galaxy clusters.

 Dr Martin Bourne of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge led the team. He commented: “We have developed new computational techniques, which harness the latest high-performance computing technology, to model for the first time the jet lobes with more than a million elements in fully realistic clusters. This allows us to place the physical processes that drive the liberation of the jet energy under the microscope.”

 As galaxies move around in the cluster, the simulation shows they create a kind of ‘weather’, moving, deforming and destroying the hot lobes of gas found at the end of the black hole jets. The jet lobes are enormously powerful and if disrupted, deliver vast amounts of energy to the ICM.

The Cambridge team believe that this cluster weather disruption mechanism may solve an enduring problem: understanding why ICM gas does not cool and form stars in the cluster centre. This so-called “cooling flow” puzzle has plagued astrophysicists for more than 25 years.

 The simulations performed provide a tantalizing new solution that could solve this problem. Dr Bourne commented: “The combination of the huge energies pumped into the jet lobes by the supermassive black hole and the ability of cluster weather to disrupt the lobes and redistribute this energy to the ICM provides a simple and yet elegant mechanism to solve the cooling flow problem.”

A series of next generation X-ray space telescopes will launch into orbit over the next decade. These advanced instruments should help settle the debate – and if intergalactic weather really does stop the birth of stars.


The simulations have been performed on the STFC DiRAC HPC facilities which are part of the National e-Infrastructure. The research was funded by European Research Council, STFC and the Kavli Foundation. This work has been accepted by Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: “AGN jet feedback on a moving mesh: lobe energetics and X-ray properties in a realistic cluster environment” by Martin A. Bourne, Debora Sijacki and Ewald Puchwein.

Science Contact

Dr Martin Bourne
Kavli Institute for Cosmology, Cambridge
Institute of Astronomy

Mob: +44 (0)7557380858

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Prehistoric Tools, The Potteries Museum and Gallery, Stoke on Trent, 5.10.19.

Prehistoric Tools, The Potteries Museum and Gallery, Stoke on Trent, 5.10.19.

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Artemis, meet ARTEMIS: Pursuing Sun Science at the Moon

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center logo.

Oct. 17, 2019

By 2024, NASA will land astronauts, including the first woman and next man, on the Moon as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program. This won’t be the first time NASA takes the name Artemis to the Moon though. Two robotic spacecraft orbiting the Moon today were initially known as ARTEMIS — short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun. Since 2011, these spacecraft have been sending scientists valuable information about the lunar environment, and laying groundwork critical to returning humans to the Moon.

The mission, now renamed THEMIS-ARTEMIS, uses spacecraft that were originally apart of the mission known as Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, or THEMIS, for short, which launched five spacecraft in 2007 to discover the physical processes that occurred during the events that cause the auroras.

“THEMIS-ARTEMIS has been a pathfinder for technologies that will be important for NASA’s new Artemis program,” said Jasper Halekas, THEMIS-ARTEMIS scientist and researcher at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “Some of the work we’ve done in terms of navigation and operations will be used by future missions.”

Image above: NASA’s twin ARTEMIS spacecraft have studied the solar wind’s interaction with the Moon, including the lunar wake that distorts nearby magnetic fields. Image Credits: E. Masongsong, UCLA EPSS.

One Mission into Two

The five THEMIS spacecraft were sent into carefully designed orbits that brought them in alignment every four days. After two productive years of discoveries about radiation and particles in the near-Earth environment, the spacecrafts’ orbits had significantly precessed, or drifted. Orbit precession is a natural and expected phenomenon for spacecraft that typically doesn’t affect scientific studies. But in the case of THEMIS, it meant the spacecraft would no longer align every four days.

THEMIS Sees Magnetic Reconnection

Video above: This animation of a substorm shows how particles from the Sun can cause Earth’s magnetic field lines to realign and release stored energy and particles, some of which is funneled down into Earth’s upper atmosphere, causing the auroras. Video Credits: NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab.

Knowing the orbits would eventually precess, the THEMIS scientists, in a joint effort coordinated through NASA and the Space Sciences Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, decided in advance to do something new with two of the spacecraft. Instead of spending the remaining fuel to reset the orbits, they’d send them off in a radically new direction — to the Moon.

“NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center did some wonderful orbit navigation design for us and came up with these very clever orbits that allowed us to get to the Moon,” Halekas said. “And we’re still there.”

Thus, the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission was born. The mission’s acronym was created to reflect its science and position at the Moon, since in Greek mythology, Artemis was goddess of the Moon. Artemis was also the twin of Apollo. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently named the new lunar program Artemis for these reasons, plus the fact that the agency will send the first woman to the Moon as part of the program.

“THEMIS-ARTEMIS is NASA’s only long-term monitor of conditions in and around the lunar environment,” said David Sibeck, THEMIS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

ARTEMIS Orbits Magnetic Moon

Video above: A series of complex maneuvers, created through a joint effort of NASA and UCB’s Space Sciences Lab, sent two of the THEMIS spacecraft into orbit around the Moon to initiate the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Spacecraft Reborn

With the same instruments it used to look for events around Earth, the new mission uses the two spacecraft to learn about how the Moon interacts with the space around it.

“Before THEMIS-ARTEMIS was at the Moon, most people had the idea that the Moon was just a big rock in the sky and it didn’t interact a lot with its environment,” Halekas said. “The understanding that we’ve built up over the last eight years is that the Moon is really connected to the space environment around it. The space environment affects the Moon and vice versa.”

Over the years scientists have made discoveries about the solar wind  and its impact on the Moon’s surface, interplanetary electromagnetic fields, the structure of the lunar interior, and the particles in the tenuous lunar atmosphere and ionosphere.

Magnetic Bubbles on the Moon Reveal Evidence of Sunburn

Video above: Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Working Together

In addition to furthering our understanding of the Moon, the measurements THEMIS-ARTEMIS has made will be useful for upcoming missions, including the Artemis program.

“When we’re designing robotic systems and systems for humans on the Moon, we have to understand the conditions they’ll be exposed to,” Halekas said. “The measurements from THEMIS-ARTEMIS have helped us find what those conditions are and how they change with time.”

THEMIS-ARTEMIS could provide real-time measurements of highly energetic particles that can be hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts. It will also provide valuable information for instruments placed on the lunar surface. Just like a weather satellite can provide information about incoming storms, THEMIS-ARTEMIS can give information about the space environment to help contextualize discoveries made on the surface.

“THEMIS-ARTEMIS would be a natural partner for any heliophysics mission that is sent to the Moon either on a spacecraft or on the lunar surface,” Sibeck said. “Both spacecraft are working just fine, taking their full sets of measurements, and could last for a very, very long time in that environment.”

As part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative under the Artemis program, NASA will send a suite of new instruments and technology demonstrations to study the Moon ahead of a human return. The first two lunar deliveries on commercial landers are targeted to launch in July 2021. While many of these investigations focus on lunar science, some hark back to THEMIS’s roots in the science of heliophysics, the study of the Sun’s interaction with the solar system. The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment, or LUSEE instrument, will look at electromagnetic phenomena on the lunar surface. The Lunar Environment heliospheric X-ray Imager, or LEXI instrument, will plant a telescope on the Moon to study the Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind.

In the coming years, THEMIS-ARTEMIS, like the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, will continue to provide valuable information to NASA as preparations continue to send astronauts forward to the Moon, and ultimately on to Mars.

Related Links:

Commercial Lunar Payload Services: http://www.nasa.gov/clps

NASA Mission Reveals Origin of Moon’s ‘Sunburn’: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/nasa-mission-reveals-origins-of-moons-sunburn

Studying Magnetic Space Explosions with NASA Missions: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/studying-magnetic-space-explosions-with-nasa-missions/

Learn more about NASA’s ARTEMIS and THEMIS Missions: https://www.nasa.gov/themis-and-artemis

Learn more about NASA’s Artemis Program: https://www.nasa.gov/artemis/

Earth’s Moon: http://www.nasa.gov/moon

Image (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Goddard Space Flight Center, By Mara Johnson-Groh.

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Koch, Meir Spacewalk Moves to Friday as Crew Adjusts Schedule

ISS- Expedition 61 Mission patch.

October 17, 2019

NASA is targeting a spacewalk for no earlier than Friday to replace a failed power controller, also known as the battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The Expedition 61 crew is adjusting its schedule this week to accommodate the new spacewalk plans at the International Space Station.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are continuing their preparations for the upcoming excursion. The duo will set their suits to battery power on Friday at 7:50 a.m. when the spacewalk officially starts and exit the Quest airlock. NASA TV begins its live coverage beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Image above: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they will use on their first spacewalk together. Image Credit: NASA.

The pair in their U.S. spacesuits will venture to the far side of the station on the Port 6 truss structure. Once there, the spacewalkers will take about five-and-a-half hours to replace the failed power regulator with a spare BCDU. The BCDU had been in operation since December 2000 and is due to return to Earth on the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship for inspection. The device regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the station.

Station managers will investigate the loss of the BCDU and reschedule the three battery replacement spacewalks for a future date. In the meantime, the five planned spacewalks to repair a cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, are still on the calendar for November and December.

Related links:

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

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

Quest airlock: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/joint-quest-airlock

Truss structure: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/truss-structure

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS): https://www.nasa.gov/feature/extending-science-in-the-search-for-the-origin-of-the-cosmos

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), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

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Tectonic Types 😍😍 | #Geology #GeologyPage #PlateTectonic…

Tectonic Types 😍😍 | #Geology #GeologyPage #PlateTectonic

Infographic Copyright © Elena Hartley

What is Plate Tectonics?


What are the different types of plate tectonic boundaries?

Read more : http://www.geologypage.com/2019/03/what-are-the-different-types-of-plate-tectonic-boundaries.html — view on Instagram https://scontent.cdninstagram.com/vp/66a31bf21a4cf2fbcfa0f9c5842706c3/5E5F7111/t51.2885-15/sh0.08/e35/s640x640/72531435_398259391119975_3573152273528402618_n.jpg?_nc_ht=scontent.cdninstagram.com

Researchers map the evolutionary history of oaks

How oaks are related has long posed a challenge to scientists. Dr. Andrew Hipp, senior scientist at The Morton Arboretum, led an international team of 24 scientists to unravel the history of global oak diversity for the first time using DNA sequencing of 260 oak species, combined with genomic mapping and fossil data.

Researchers map the evolutionary history of oaks
The extensive Oak Collection at The Morton Arboretum contains well-documented
oak species and hybrids [Credit: The Morton Arboretum]

Fundamental questions about relationships between organisms and the genes that drive ecological diversification underlie the secrets of biodiversity. Understanding the past of this ecologically, economically and culturally important group provides a baseline of knowledge that will allow scientists to address additional questions about oaks and other trees, as well as help with conservation efforts.

«This paper demonstrates that oaks have repeatedly and globally diversified in response to ecological opportunity» says Hipp. «The changes in the global landscape have given us the gift of the oak diversity we observe today.»

Patchwork of Histories

The study provides the most detailed account to date of the evolutionary history of the world’s oaks. Investigating which parts of the oak genome distinguish species from one another, researchers at The Morton Arboretum, in collaboration with 17 institutions around the world, discovered that each gene or stretch of DNA in the genome has the potential to record multiple histories; each section bears the history of speciation of one oak lineage, but it may record the history of hybridization for a different lineage. In other words, there is no one region of the genome that defines oaks: it is the patchwork of histories embedded in the genome that characterize the history of oak evolution.

In addition, this research shows that different oak lineages have repeatedly diversified in the same area. Red oaks, white oaks, ring-cupped oaks, turkey and cork oaks, and three of the other oak sections arose rapidly and segregated to either the Americas or Eurasia. All of these lineages can be found in part of their range with at least one other lineage. As oaks migrated, species interbred, hybridized and diversified opportunistically in response to changes in the landscape. The highest rates of species diversification have been in response to migrations into new territory. Over and over, oaks have taken advantage of ecological opportunity to produce the diversity we see today, providing humans with ships, homes, wine barrels, furniture and acorns to eat, and providing food and homes for countless insects, mammals, birds and fungi.

«For the first time, this paper demonstrates that the history of different [oak] lineages is driven by different sets of genes,» said co-author Dr. Antoine Kremer from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. «The story of oak evolution is especially fascinating due to the ecological and morphological convergence in different oak lineages that cohabit on the same continent.»

The importance of oaks

Oaks support the planet’s ecosystem like very few other tree species do. As both stately trees and dry-land shrubs, oaks are fundamental to the health of forests, providing critical food, habitat and shelter for animals, birds and insects, and have the highest amount of biomass compared to any other tree species in the forest, working harder to clean the air than many other tree species. Today, oaks need the help of people. Around the world, oaks are under threat, due to pests, diseases and loss of habitat. If oaks are lost, it will upset the delicate balance of forest ecosystems and leave humans without their benefits. Researchers and conservationists at The Morton Arboretum are committed to ensuring oaks thrive. Learn more about what The Morton Arboretum is doing to conserve oaks globally.

The findings are published in New Phytologist.

Source: The Morton Arboretum [October 14, 2019]



2,000 year-old tomb unearthed in east China

Chinese archaeologists have uncovered a batch of cultural relics from a tomb dating back around 2,000 years in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province.

2,000 year-old tomb unearthed in east China
Credit: China Org

The ancient tomb was found in Donghai County in the city of Lianyungang. Staff at the county’s museum said they have excavated a bronze statue, a mirror decorated with animal patterns and three iron swords from the tomb. Dozens of ancient coins were also unearthed, but all are in poor condition.

2,000 year-old tomb unearthed in east China

2,000 year-old tomb unearthed in east China
Credit: China Org

After on-site investigation and clean-up, archaeologists concluded that the owners of the tomb are a couple and the burial occurred during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 A.D. — 220 A.D.).

2,000 year-old tomb unearthed in east China

2,000 year-old tomb unearthed in east China
Credit: China Org

Excavation of these cultural relics provides rare materials for further research on local history and culture, experts said.

Source: Xinhua News Agency [October 14, 2019]



Resurrection of over 50,000-year-old gene reveals how malaria parasite jumped from...

For the first time, scientists have uncovered the likely series of events that led to the world’s deadliest malaria parasite being able to jump from gorillas to humans. Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Montpellier reconstructed an approximately 50,000-year-old gene sequence that was acquired by the ancestor of Plasmodium falciparum, giving it the ability to infect human red blood cells.

Resurrection of over 50,000-year-old gene reveals how malaria parasite jumped from gorillas to humans
Credit: Adobe Stock

They found that this rh5 gene enabled the parasite to infect both gorillas and humans for a limited time, explaining how the jump was made at a molecular level. The team also identified the specific DNA mutation that subsequently restricted P. falciparum to humans.

The study, published in PLOS Biology, provides a plausible molecular explanation for how one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases came to infect humans, and will be important more generally for understanding how pathogens are able to jump from one species to another.

Malaria remains a major global health problem causing an estimated 435,000 deaths per year, with 61 per cent occurring in children under five years of age. P. falciparum is the species of parasite that is responsible for the most deadly form of malaria and is particularly prevalent in Africa, where it accounted for 99.7 per cent of malaria cases in 2017.

P. falciparum is one of seven species of parasite that can cause malaria in a family known as the Laverania. These parasites originated in African great apes and today are restricted to their own specific host species, with three parasite species confined to chimpanzees and three to gorillas. The seventh, P. falciparum, only infects humans, after switching host from gorillas through a process known as zoonosis around 50,000 years ago.

Genome sequencing of all seven Laverania parasite species revealed a section of DNA that had transferred from a gorilla parasite, Plasmodium adleri, to the ancestor of P. falciparum. This DNA sequence included a gene called rh5. This gene produces the protein RH5, which binds to a protein receptor in human red blood cells called basigin.

This RH5-basigin interaction is critical for the P. falciparum parasite to infect humans. As such, RH5 is a promising malaria vaccine target — if this interaction can be disrupted, the parasite would no longer be able to invade human red blood cells and cause malaria.

To further investigate the origin of P. falciparum, researchers at the University of Montpellier used ancestral sequence reconstruction to ‘resurrect’ the RH5 DNA sequence that was transferred to the ancestor of P. falciparum around 50,000 years ago. Synthetic copies of the ancestral rh5 gene were created in the laboratory by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, where the molecular interactions of the RH5 protein could be observed.

Researchers had expected that the transferred RH5 protein would bind only gorilla basigin, but remarkably this protein had the dual property of being able to bind both gorilla and human basigin. This immediately suggested how the parasite could switch hosts.

Dr Francis Galaway, first author of the study and Staff Scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: «The fact that this ancestral RH5 protein was able to bind to the red blood cell receptor basigin from both humans and gorillas, immediately provided a molecular explanation for how P. falciparum evolved to infect humans.»

Subsequently, the researchers were able to identify six differences between the ancestral RH5 sequence and the current sequence in P. falciparum. One of these mutations was found to result in the complete loss of the ability to bind to gorilla basigin, explaining how P. falciparum became restricted to humans.

Dr Franck Prugnolle, from the University of Montpellier, said: «It’s fascinating to be able to ‘resurrect’ ancestral genes such as the one which allowed Plasmodium falciparum to jump from gorillas to humans. We’ve discovered not only how a species host switch has occurred, but the individual mutation which has then restricted P. falciparum to a single host species.»

When diseases, such as influenza or malaria, jump from animals to humans in this way it is known as a zoonosis. It occurs when pathogens that are already able to infect an animal host acquire genetic material that enables them to also infect humans. In the case of P. falciparum malaria, it is thought that the genetic transfer of the rh5 gene occurred when a gorilla cell became infected with two species of Plasmodium parasite simultaneously — an event known as an introgression. When an introgression occurs, genetic material is swapped from one species to another.

The type of introgression event that is presumed to have resulted in P. falciparum jumping from gorillas to humans is incredibly rare. Among the seven Laverania species, comparative genome analysis has revealed just a few instances over a span of around one million years where a sequence of DNA was transferred from one parasite to another.

Dr Gavin Wright, lead author of the study and Senior Group Leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: «In the history of mankind, Plasmodium falciparum malaria has arguably been responsible for more human deaths than any other disease. So it is both important and fascinating to understand the molecular pathways that enabled this deadly parasite to infect humans.»

Source: Wellcome Sanger Institute [October 15, 2019]



Research launching to the space station ranges from radiation protection to rover control

ISS — International Space Station logo.

Oct. 17, 2019

Supplies and scientific experiments ride to the International Space Station on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft (NG-12) scheduled for launch on Nov. 2. The investigations making the trip range from research into human control of robotics in space to reprocessing fibers for 3D printing. Cygnus lifts off on the Antares rocket from pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia.

Resupply missions from U.S. companies ensure NASA’s capability to deliver critical science research to the space station and significantly increase its ability to conduct new investigations in the only laboratory in space. This is the first mission under Northrop’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract with NASA.

Here are some of the scientific investigations NG-12 delivers to the space station:

More Probing of Mysteries of the Universe

Stars, planets and the molecules of which they are made represent only about 15 percent of the mass content of the universe. The rest is dark matter. However, no one has ever seen this material or been able to study it directly. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer — 02 (AMS-02) has been looking for evidence of this mysterious substance from the vantage point of the International Space Station since 2011. AMS consists of an international team from 16 countries under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Image above: View of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer — 02 (AMS-02) on the outside of the space station, taken during an Expedition 50 extravehicular activity (EVA). Image Credit: NASA.

NG-12 carries components needed for prolonging the operational life of AMS-02. In a series of spacewalks planned for later this year, astronauts will update the instrument, including cutting and reconnecting fluid lines in space for the first time.

Driving a Rover on the Ground from Space

Future missions to the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies are likely to involve landing robotic explorers to “test the waters” on uncharted planets before sending humans. ANALOG-1, part of a European Space Agency initiative, tests communications, operations and control strategies for robots. Previous studies have shown that humans experience degraded sensorimotor functions in microgravity that could affect their operation of a robot. The space station makes it possible to investigate these issues under true microgravity conditions by having crew members in space control a rover on Earth. Maneuvers include selection, collection and storage of geologic samples with a multi-purpose robotic arm and navigating the rover along a defined path.

Testing Personal Protective Equipment for Astronauts

Image above: The AstroRad vest undergoes fit testing at the Kennedy Space Center before launching to the space station for astronaut evaluation of ease of use and comfort.
Credits: Lockheed Martin Space. Image Credits: NASA.

Astronauts need protection from exposure to radiation, especially as they travel to the Moon and Mars. Unpredictable solar particle events, for example, could deliver, in just a few hours, a radiation dose high enough to cause serious health problems. The AstroRad Vest investigation tests a garment that shields specific, radiation-sensitive organs, tissues and stem cell concentrations, which could reduce the risk. Astronauts wear the garment while performing daily tasks and provide feedback such as how easy it is to put on, how it fits and feels, and the range of motion it allows.

3D Printing with Recycled Materials

Image above: The Made in Space Recycler hardware prepared for launch to the space station to test reprocessing plastic into 3D printing filament. Image Credit: Made In Space, Inc.

Made in Space Recycler (MIS Recycler) tests systems for reprocessing plastic into 3D printing filament for creating new items in microgravity. It recycles polymers into filament for use in the Additive Manufacturing Facility, a 3D printer operating on the orbiting laboratory since 2016. The investigation looks at which materials process most effectively into 3D printing filament and which ones can be reprocessed many times without degrading. Researchers plan to analyze samples printed in space after they return to Earth and compare them to samples printed similarly on the ground.

Malting Barley in Microgravity

Barley contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Malting converts starches from the raw grain into various sugars suitable for use in brewing, distilling and food production. Understanding how barley responds to microgravity could identify ways to adapt it for nutritional use on long-duration spaceflights. Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity tests an automated malting procedure and compares malt produced in space and on the ground for genetic and structural changes.

Faster, Cheaper Access to Space

NanoRacks-Craig-X FTP  is a platform for several investigations, including a collaboration between Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute that tests the performance of 3D-printed carbon fiber composites in the extreme environment of space. The materials are designed for use in aerospace applications, but results could replace lengthy and expensive carbon fiber manufacturing methods on Earth. In addition, the study may help improve the design of implantable devices for therapeutic drug delivery developed by Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Dinner, Fresh from the Oven

Image above: The specially-designed Zero-G Oven, a tool for examining heat transfer properties and the process of baking food in microgravity. Testing this oven on the space station may lead to the capability of preparing fresh-baked food on spacecraft for future deep space explorers. Image Credit: Zero G Kitchen.

Everyone enjoys the aroma of fresh-baked cookies, even astronauts. On future long-duration space missions, fresh-baked food could have psychological and physiological benefits for crew members, providing them with a greater variety of more nutritious meals. Zero-G Oven examines heat transfer properties and the process of baking food in microgravity. It uses a specially-designed toaster-like oven with a top temperature of 363.3 degrees Celsius or 685 degrees Fahrenheit.

Studying the Effect of Dark and Light on Liver Health

Microgravity as a Disruptor Of The 12-hour Circatidal Clock (Rodent Research-14) studies how disruptions to daily light cycles affect human cells and organs. Recent research shows that genes associated with 12-hour light and dark phases, or the 12-hour molecular clock, also are associated with the most common form of human liver disease. Liver disease contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes. The 12-hour clock’s role in controlling proper liver function has major implications for maintaining human health. Results could provide insights into liver disease and reveal new therapies, including pharmaceuticals.

Scientific Investigations Set for Space on Northrop Grumman CRS-12

Related links:

Northrop Grumman Cygnus: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/northrop-grumman.html

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer — 02 (AMS-02): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=729

ANALOG-1: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1863

AstroRad Vest: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7803

Made in Space Recycler (MIS Recycler): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7745

Additive Manufacturing Facility: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=1934

Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7911

NanoRacks-Craig-X FTP: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7759

Zero-G Oven: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7993

Rodent Research-14: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7906

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

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

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

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Science Office/Melissa Gaskill.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

HiRISE Views NASA’s InSight and Curiosity on Mars

NASA — Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) logo.

October 17, 2019

The HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently sent home eye-catching views of the agency’s InSight lander and its Curiosity rover.

HiRISE has been monitoring InSight’s landing site in the Elysium Planitia region of the Red Planet for changes to the surface, such as dust-devil tracks. Taken on Sept. 23, 2019, at an altitude of 169 miles (272 kilometers) above the surface, the new image is NASA’s best view yet of InSight from space. It clearly shows the two circular solar panels on either side of the lander body, spanning 20 feet (6 meters) from end to end.

Image above: The HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter got its best view yet of the InSight lander on September 23, 2019. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

The bright spot on the lower side of the spacecraft is the dome-shaped protective cover over InSight’s seismometer. The dark halo surrounding the spacecraft resulted from retrorocket thrusters scouring the surface during landing, while dust devils created the dark streaks that run diagonally across the surface.

Several factors make this image crisper than a set of images released after InSight’s November 2018 landing. For one thing, there’s less dust in the air this time. Shadows are offset from the lander because this is an oblique view looking west. The lighting was also optimal for avoiding the bright reflections from the lander or its solar panels that have obscured surrounding pixels in other images. However, bright reflections are unavoidable with the seismometer cover just south of the lander because of its dome shape.

Driven by Curiosity

HiRISE has also been keeping tabs on NASA’s Curiosity, which is roughly 373 miles (600 kilometers) from InSight, exploring a region called «the clay-bearing unit.»

Animation above: This animation shows the position of NASA’s Curiosity rover as it journeyed through «the clay-bearing unit» on Mars between May 31 and July 20, 2019. The HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took both images. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

A GIF released today shows Curiosity as a gray speck as it traveled 1,106 feet (337 meters) from a location within the clay-bearing unit called «Woodland Bay» (top center) to «Sandside Harbour» (bottom center, near the dark sand patch) between May 31 and July 20, 2019.

Look carefully and you can even see the rover’s tracks arcing to the right side of the second image.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight, MRO and Curiosity missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of Caltech. The University of Arizona in Tucson operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. MRO was built by Lockheed Martin Space.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Find more information about InSight, Curiosity, MRO and HiRISE at:




About InSight

InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

InSight’s seismometer (SEIS): https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/mission/instruments/seis/

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Alana Johnson/JPL/Andrew Good.

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Moon Shadow (on Jupiter)

NASA — JUNO Mission patch.

October 17, 2019

Jupiter’s volcanically active moon Io casts its shadow on the planet in this dramatic image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. As with solar eclipses on the Earth, within the dark circle racing across Jupiter’s cloud tops one would witness a full solar eclipse as Io passes in front of the Sun.

Such events occur frequently on Jupiter because it is a large planet with many moons. In addition, unlike most other planets in our solar system, Jupiter’s axis is not highly tilted relative to its orbit, so the Sun never strays far from Jupiter’s equatorial plane (+/- 3 degrees). This means Jupiter’s moons regularly cast their shadows on the planet throughout its year.

Juno’s close proximity to Jupiter provides an exceptional fish-eye view, showing a small fraction near the planet’s equator. The shadow is about 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) wide, approximately the same width as Io, but appears much larger relative to Jupiter.

A little larger than Earth’s Moon, Io is perhaps most famous for its many active volcanoes, often caught lofting fountains of ejecta well above its thin atmosphere.

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this enhanced-color image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. The raw image was taken on Sept. 11, 2019 at 8:41 p.m. PDT (11:41 p.m. EDT) as the Juno spacecraft performed its 22nd close flyby of Jupiter.  At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 4,885 miles (7,862 kilometers) from the cloud tops at a latitude of 21 degrees.

JUNO spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing.   

More information about Juno is at https://www.nasa.gov/juno and https://missionjuno.swri.edu.

Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY 3.0/Animation (mentioned)//Text,Tony Greicius.

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