пятница, 8 ноября 2019 г.

Astronauts Unload U.S. Resupply Ship to Continue Advanced Space Research

ISS - Expedition 61 Mission patch.

November 5, 2019

A new U.S. resupply ship is open for business and the Expedition 61 crew has begun unloading over four tons of new science experiments and station hardware. Two astronauts are also studying advanced repair techniques for a cosmic particle detector attached the International Space Station.

The astronauts opened the hatches on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship after its arrival on Monday and immediately started unpacking and activating critical science payloads. Mice delivered aboard Cygnus are now living in station habitats to help scientists understand how microgravity impacts metabolic rates. The rodent study may provide therapeutic insights into Earth-bound ailments such as diabetes and liver disease.

Image above: The U.S. Cygnus space freighter is pictured as the Canadarm2 robotic arm reaches out to grapple the 12th resupply ship from Northrop Grumman. Image Credit: NASA.

Cygnus science freezers containing valuable research samples for observation are now operating inside station research racks. The crew will utilize the samples to study a variety of microgravity phenomena to benefit Earthlings and astronauts. New experiments will research how microbes affect space hardware and astronauts and explore how weightlessness affects muscle gene expression.

Cygnus also delivered hardware to enable the complex repair job required to upgrade the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal control system. Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan are preparing for several spacewalks to cut and reconnect fluid lines to ensure the AMS continues its search for dark matter and antimatter for years to come.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka logged their meals and medicine intake today to help researchers understand how space impacts bone tissue. The duo worked on a variety of Russian maintenance tasks then reviewed Cygnus emergency procedures with the rest of their Expedition 61 crewmates.

Related links:

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

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship: http://www.nasa.gov/northropgrumman

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

Microbes affect space hardware and astronauts: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7955

Muscle gene expression: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7654

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

Space impacts bone tissue: https://www.energia.ru/en/iss/researches/human/21.html

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.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

* This article was originally published here

Bronze Age Cist Cairn from Hastings Hill Barrow, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland,...

Bronze Age Cist Cairn from Hastings Hill Barrow, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, 3.11.19.

The body is of an 18 month old baby with rickets.

* This article was originally published here

Exceptional fossils may need a breath of air to form

Some of the world's most exquisite fossil beds were formed millions of years ago during time periods when the Earth's oceans were largely without oxygen.

Exceptional fossils may need a breath of air to form
A fossilized mantle of a vampyropod, a relative to the vampire squid. The ink sacis the raised structure in the center,
and muscles have a striated appearance [Credit: Rowan Martindale/The University of Texas
at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences]
That association has led paleontologists to believe that the world's best-preserved fossil collections come from choked oceans. But research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that while low oxygen environments set the stage, it takes a breath of air to catalyze the fossilization process.

"The traditional thinking about these exceptionally preserved fossil sites is wrong," said lead author Drew Muscente. "It is not the absence of oxygen that allows them to be preserved and fossilized. It is the presence of oxygen under the right circumstances."

Muscente conducted the research during a postdoctoral research fellowship at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences. He is currently an assistant professor at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The research co-authors are Jackson School Assistant Professor Rowan Martindale, Jackson School undergraduate students Brooke Bogan and Abby Creighton and University of Missouri Associate Professor James Schiffbauer.

The best-preserved fossil deposits are called "Konservat-lagerstätten." They are rare and scientifically valuable because they preserve soft tissues along with hard ones - which in turn, preserves a greater variety of life from ancient ecosystems.

"When you look at lagerstätten, what's so interesting about them is everybody is there," said Bogan. "You get a more complete picture of the animal and the environment, and those living in it."

The research examined the fossilization history of an exceptional fossil site located at Ya Ha Tinda Ranch in Canada's Banff National Park. The site, which Martindale described in a 2017 paper, is known for its cache of delicate marine specimens from the Early Jurassic - such as lobsters and vampire squids with their ink sacks still intact--preserved in slabs of black shale.

During the time of fossilization, about 183 million years ago, high global temperatures sapped oxygen from the oceans. To determine if the fossils did indeed form in an oxygen-deprived environment, the team analyzed minerals in the fossils. Since different minerals form under different chemical conditions, the research could determine if oxygen was present or not.

Exceptional fossils may need a breath of air to form
A fossilized lobster claw that may belong to a new species [Credit: Rowan Martindale/
The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences]
"The cool thing about this work is that we can now understand the modes of formation of these different minerals as this organism fossilizes," Martindale said. "A particular pathway can tell you about the oxygen conditions."

The analysis involved using a scanning electron microscope to detect the mineral makeup.

"You pick points of interest that you think might tell you something about the composition," said Creighton, who analyzed a number of specimens. "From there you can correlate to the specific minerals."

The workup revealed that the vast majority of the fossils are made of apatite - a phosphate-based mineral that needs oxygen to form. However, the research also found that the climatic conditions of a low-oxygen environment helped set the stage for fossilization once oxygen became available.

That's because periods of low ocean oxygen are linked to high global temperatures that raise sea levels and erode rock, which is a rich source of phosphate to help form fossils. If the low oxygen environment persisted, this sediment would simply release its phosphate into the ocean. But with oxygen around, the phosphate stays in the sediment where it could start the fossilization process.

Muscente said that the apatite fossils of Ya Ha Tinda point to this mechanism.

The research team does not know the source of the oxygen. But Muscente wasn't surprised to find evidence for it because the organisms that were fossilized would have needed to breathe oxygen when they were alive.

The researchers plan to continue their work by analyzing specimens from exceptional fossil sites in Germany and the United Kingdom that were preserved around the same time as the Ya Ha Tinda specimens and compare their fossilization histories.

The research was published in the journal PALAIOS.

Source: University of Texas at Austin [November 06, 2019]

* This article was originally published here

2019 November 7 Messier 45: The Daughters of Atlas and Pleione...

2019 November 7

Messier 45: The Daughters of Atlas and Pleione
Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Steward Observatory, University of Arizona

Explanation: Hurtling through a cosmic dust cloud a mere 400 light-years away, the lovely Pleiades or Seven Sisters open star cluster is well-known for its striking blue reflection nebulae. It lies in the night sky toward the constellation Taurus and the Orion Arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. The sister stars and cosmic dust cloud are not related though, they just happen to be passing through the same region of space. Known since antiquity as a compact grouping of stars, Galileo first sketched the star cluster viewed through his telescope with stars too faint to be seen by eye. Charles Messier recorded the position of the cluster as the 45th entry in his famous catalog of things which are not comets. In Greek myth, the Pleiades were seven daughters of the astronomical Titan Atlas and sea-nymph Pleione. Their parents names are included in the cluster’s nine brightest stars. This deep and wide telescopic image spans over 20 light-years across the Pleides star cluster.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap191107.html

Bronze Age Funerary Pottery, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, 3.11.19.

Bronze Age Funerary Pottery, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, 3.11.19.

* This article was originally published here

Luca to lead most challenging spacewalks since Hubble repairs

ESA - Beyond Mission patch / EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

Nov. 8, 2019

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano

The date is set for ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano’s first spacewalk of his Beyond mission. Friday 15 November marks the start of a series of complex spacewalks to service the cosmic-particle-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02).

It is the first time a European astronaut will take a leading role and the full spacewalk will be streamed live via ESA Web TV.

Location of AMS-02 on the International Space Station

Luca and his spacewalking partner NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan will exit the International Space Station airlock at around 13:05 CET (12:05 GMT). The spacewalking series is expected to be the most challenging since work to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

As the lead spacewalker, known as ‘EV1’, Luca will wear a white spacesuit with red stripes while Andrew wears the white spacesuit with no stripes.

The pair will be supported by NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir who will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm from inside the Station. This will help position the astronauts around their hard-to-reach work site, located on top of the Station’s S3 Truss structure between a pair of solar arrays and radiators.

The entire spacewalk is expected to take around six hours and it will set the scene for at least three more.

The hardware

AMS-02 records the number and characteristics of cosmic ray particles that pass through all of its detectors – over 140 billion particles to date. By tracking down the sources of these particles, scientists aim to gain a better understanding of dark matter and the origins of the Universe.

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Genetic imprint of Palaeolithic detected in North African populations

An international team of scientists has for the first time performed an analysis of the complete genome of the population of North Africa. They have identified a small genetic imprint of the inhabitants of the region in Palaeolithic times, thus ruling out the theory that recent migrations from other regions completely erased the genetic traces of ancient North Africans. The study was led by David Comas, principal investigator at UPF and at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE: CSIC-UPF) and it has been published in the journal Current Biology.

Genetic imprint of Palaeolithic detected in North African populations
Representation of the North African samples that have been
used for this study [Credit: UPF]
The field of genomics has evolved greatly in recent years. DNA sequencing is increasingly affordable and there are major projects studying genomes at population level. However, some human populations like those of North Africa have been systematically ignored. This is the first genomic study to contextualize this region of the world.

The origin and history of the population of North Africa are different from the rest of the continent and are more similar to the demographic history of regions outside Africa: the Middle East, Europe or Asia. Palaeontological remains exist that prove the existence of humans in the region more than 300,000 years ago. In any case, previous genetic studies had shown that current populations of North Africa originated as a result of a Back to Africa process, that is, recent migrations from the Middle East that populated northern Africa.

Hence, the debate that arises is one of continuity versus replacement. On the one hand, the continuity hypothesis posits that current North African populations descend from Palaeolithic groups, i.e., that such ancient humans are the ancestors of present human populations. Meanwhile, other hypotheses argue that the populations that existed in Palaeolithic times were replaced, and that the humans that currently inhabit North Africa are the result of recent migrations that arrived there as of the Neolithic.

In this study, the researchers compared genetic data from current North African individuals with data recently published on the DNA of fossil remains found at different sites in Morocco. "We see that the current populations of North Africa are the result of this replacement but we detect small traces of this continuity from Palaeolithic times, i.e., total replacement did not take place in the populations of North Africa", reveals David Comas, full professor of Biological Anthropology at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) at UPF. "We do not know whether the first settlers 300,000 years ago are their ancestors, but we do detect imprints of this continuity at least since Palaeolithic times, since 15,000 years ago or more", he adds.

"We have seen that the genetic imprint of Palaeolithic populations of North Africa is unique to the current North African populations and is decreasingly distributed from west to east in the region, inversely proportionally to the Neolithic component coming from the Middle East, which had a greater effect on the eastern region, which is geographically closer", says Gerard Serra-Vidal, first author of the article.

"Therefore, our results confirm that migrations from other regions such as Europe, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa to this area did not completely erase the genetic traces of the ancient North Africans", explains David Comas, head of the Human Genome Diversity research group of the IBE.

These results of the populations of North Africa are in contrast with what is known about the European continent, in whose current populations a strong Palaeolithic component is found, i.e., more continuity and less replacement than in North Africa.

Many genomic data are still missing, both of current populations and of fossil remains, to be able to establish the population history of the human species. "This is or particular concern in populations such as those of North Africa about which we have very little information compared to other populations in the world. In order to have a complete picture of human genome diversity still have to do a considerable amount of research", David Comas concludes.

Source:Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Barcelona [November 06, 2019]

* This article was originally published here

Human Activities Are Drying Out the Amazon: NASA Study

NASA - EOS Aqua Mission logo / EOS - AIRS Mission patch.

Nov. 5, 2019

A new NASA study shows that over the last 20 years, the atmosphere above the Amazon rainforest has been drying out, increasing the demand for water and leaving ecosystems vulnerable to fires and drought. It also shows that this increase in dryness is primarily the result of human activities.

The Amazon rainforest. Image Credits: Marcio Isensee e Sa / Adobe Stock

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, analyzed decades of ground and satellite data over the Amazon rainforest to track both how much moisture was in the atmosphere and how much moisture was needed to maintain the rainforest system.

"We observed that in the last two decades, there has been a significant increase in dryness in the atmosphere as well as in the atmospheric demand for water above the rainforest," said JPL's Armineh Barkhordarian, lead author of the study. "In comparing this trend to data from models that estimate climate variability over thousands of years, we determined that the change in atmospheric aridity is well beyond what would be expected from natural climate variability."

Image above: The image shows the decline of moisture in the air over the Amazon rainforest, particularly across the south and southeastern Amazon, during the dry season months — August through October — from 1987 to 2016. The measurements are shown in millibars. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech, NASA Earth Observatory.

So if it's not natural, what's causing it?

Barkhordarian said that elevated greenhouse gas levels are responsible for approximately half of the increased aridity. The rest is the result of ongoing human activity, most significantly, the burning of forests to clear land for agriculture and grazing. The combination of these activities is causing the Amazon's climate to warm.

When a forest burns, it releases particles called aerosols into the atmosphere — among them, black carbon, commonly referred to as soot. While bright-colored or translucent aerosols reflect radiation, darker aerosols absorb it. When the black carbon absorbs heat from the sun, it causes the atmosphere to warm; it can also interfere with cloud formation and, consequently, rainfall.

Why It Matters

The Amazon is the largest rainforest on Earth. When healthy, it absorbs billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year through photosynthesis — the process plants use to convert CO2, energy and water into food. By removing CO2 from the atmosphere, the Amazon helps to keep temperatures down and regulate climate.

But it's a delicate system that's highly sensitive to drying and warming trends.

Trees and plants need water for photosynthesis and to cool themselves down when they get too warm. They pull in water from the soil through their roots and release water vapor through pores on their leaves into the atmosphere, where it cools the air and eventually rises to form clouds. The clouds produce rain that replenishes the water in the soil, allowing the cycle to continue. Rainforests generate as much as 80% of their own rain, especially during the dry season.

But when this cycle is disrupted by an increase in dry air, for instance, a new cycle is set into motion — one with significant implications, particularly in the southeastern Amazon, where trees can experience more than four to five months of dry season.

Aqua Satellite. Image Credit: NASA

"It's a matter of supply and demand. With the increase in temperature and drying of the air above the trees, the trees need to transpire to cool themselves and to add more water vapor into the atmosphere. But the soil doesn't have extra water for the trees to pull in," said JPL's Sassan Saatchi, co-author of the study. "Our study shows that the demand is increasing, the supply is decreasing and if this continues, the forest may no longer be able to sustain itself."

Scientists observed that the most significant and systematic drying of the atmosphere is in the southeast region, where the bulk of deforestation and agricultural expansion is happening. But they also found episodic drying in the northwest Amazon, an area that typically has no dry season. Normally always wet, the northwest has suffered severe droughts over the past two decades, a further indication of the entire forest's vulnerability to increasing temperatures and dry air.

If this trend continues over the long term and the rainforest reaches the point where it can no longer function properly, many of the trees and the species that live within the rainforest ecosystem may not be able to survive. As the trees die, particularly the larger and older ones, they release CO2 into the atmosphere; and the fewer trees there are, the less CO2 the Amazon region would be able to absorb — meaning we'd essentially lose an important element of climate regulation.

The study, "A Recent Systematic Increase in Vapor Pressure Deficit Over Tropical South America," was published in October in Scientific Reports. The science team used data from NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard the Terra satellite.

More information on AIRS can be found here: https://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/

Aqua Satellite: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/aqua/index.html

Climate: https://www.nasa.gov/subject/3127/climate

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Randal Jackson/JPL/Arielle Samuelson/Written by Esprit Smith, NASA's Earth Science News team.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

* This article was originally published here

Bronze Age Cist Cairn Burial, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, 3.11.19.

Bronze Age Cist Cairn Burial, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, 3.11.19.

* This article was originally published here

Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space

Researchers at the University of Iowa report that the spacecraft Voyager 2 has entered the interstellar medium (ISM), the region of space outside the bubble-shaped boundary produced by wind streaming outward from the sun. Voyager 2, thus, becomes the second human-made object to journey out of our sun's influence, following Voyager 1's solar exit in 2012.

Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space
Iowa physicists have confirmed the spacecraft Voyager 2 has entered interstellar space, in effect leaving the solar
system. Data from Voyager 2 has helped further characterize the structure of the heliosphere, structure of the
heliosphere - the wind sock-shaped region created by the sun's wind as it extends
to the boundary of the solar system [Credit: NASA JPL]
In a new study, the researchers confirm Voyager 2's passage on Nov. 5, 2018, into the ISM by noting a definitive jump in plasma density detected by an Iowa-led plasma wave instrument on the spacecraft. The marked increase in plasma density is evidence of Voyager 2 journeying from the hot, lower-density plasma characteristic of the solar wind to the cool, higher-density plasma of interstellar space. It's also similar to the plasma density jump experienced by Voyager 1 when it crossed into interstellar space.

"In a historical sense, the old idea that the solar wind will just be gradually whittled away as you go further into interstellar space is simply not true," says Iowa's Don Gurnett, corresponding author on the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy. "We show with Voyager 2--and previously with Voyager 1--that there's a distinct boundary out there. It's just astonishing how fluids, including plasmas, form boundaries."

Gurnett, professor emeritus in the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy, is the principal investigator on the plasma wave instrument aboard Voyager 2. He is also the principal investigator on the plasma wave instrument aboard Voyager 1 and authored the 2013 study published in Science that confirmed Voyager 1 had entered the ISM.

Voyager 2's entry into the ISM occurred at 119.7 astronomical units (AU), or more than 11 billion miles from the sun. Voyager 1 passed into the ISM at 122.6 AU. The spacecraft were launched within weeks of each other in 1977, with different mission goals and trajectories through space. Yet they crossed into the ISM at basically the same distances from the sun.

That gives valuable clues to the structure of the heliosphere--the bubble, shaped much like a wind sock, created by the sun's wind as it extends to the boundary of the solar system.

"It implies that the heliosphere is symmetric, at least at the two points where the Voyager spacecraft crossed," says Bill Kurth, University of Iowa research scientist and a co-author on the study. "That says that these two points on the surface are almost at the same distance."

"There's almost a spherical front to this," adds Gurnett. "It's like a blunt bullet."

Data from the Iowa instrument on Voyager 2 also gives additional clues to the thickness of the heliosheath, the outer region of the heliosphere and the point where the solar wind piles up against the approaching wind in interstellar space, which Gurnett likens to the effect of a snowplow on a city street.

The Iowa researchers say the heliosheath has varied thickness, based on data showing Voyager 1 sailed 10 AU farther than its twin to reach the heliopause, a boundary where the solar wind and the interstellar wind are in balance and considered the crossing point to interstellar space. Some had thought Voyager 2 would make that crossing first, based on models of the heliosphere.

"It's kind of like looking at an elephant with a microscope," Kurth says. "Two people go up to an elephant with a microscope, and they come up with two different measurements. You have no idea what's going on in between. What the models do is try to take information that we have from those two points and what we've learned through the flight and put together a global model of the heliosphere that matches those observations."

The last measurement obtained from Voyager 1 was when the spacecraft was at 146 AU, or more than 13.5 billion miles from the sun. The plasma wave instrument is recording that the plasma density is rising, in data feeds from a spacecraft now so far away that it takes more than 19 hours for information to travel from the spacecraft to Earth.

"The two Voyagers will outlast Earth," Kurth says. "They're in their own orbits around the galaxy for five billion years or longer. And the probability of them running into anything is almost zero."

"They might look a little worn by then," Gurnett adds with a smile.

The Iowa study is one of five papers on Voyager 2 published in Nature Astronomy. These papers confirm the passage of Voyager 2 to interstellar space and provide details on the characteristics of the heliopause.

Author: Richard C. Lewis | Source: University of Iowa [November 04, 2019]

* This article was originally published here

2019 November 8 NGC 3572 and the Southern Tadpoles Image Credit...

2019 November 8

NGC 3572 and the Southern Tadpoles
Image Credit & Copyright: Josep Drudis

Explanation: This cosmic skyscape features glowing gas and dark dust clouds along side the young stars of NGC 3572. A beautiful emission nebula and star cluster in far southern skies, the region is often overlooked by astroimagers in favor of its brighter neighbor, the nearby Carina Nebula. Stars from NGC 3572 are toward the upper left in the telescopic frame that would measure about 100 light-years across at the cluster’s estimated distant of 9,000 light-years. The visible interstellar gas and dust is part of the star cluster’s natal molecular cloud. Dense streamers of material within the nebula, eroded by stellar winds and radiation, clearly trail away from the energetic young stars. They are likely sites of ongoing star formation with shapes reminiscent of the cosmic Tadpoles of IC 410 better known to northern skygazers. In the coming tens to hundreds of millions of years, gas and stars in the cluster will be dispersed though, by gravitational tides and by violent supernova explosions that end the short lives of the massive cluster stars.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap191108.html

* This article was originally published here

NASA Counts Down to Twenty Years of Continuous Human Presence on International Space Station

ISS 20th Logo patch.

Nov. 5, 2019

On Oct. 31, 2000, veteran NASA astronaut William “Shep” Shepherd left Earth on a journey to the International Space Station with the distinction of becoming its first commander, beginning almost two decades of continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit.

The Expedition One crew members aboard the International Space Station

At the time, the space station was a small orbiting complex of just three modules, not the sprawling research complex that today is as large as a five-bedroom home with a gym, two bathrooms and a 360-degree bay window looking at Earth below.

Before Shepherd, who lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft, and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev of Roscosmos opened the hatches to their new home two days later, only six visiting crewmembers had been inside after connecting the first two modules, one a U.S.-funded, Russian built and launched power and control module called Zarya, and the other the first U.S. connecting node named Unity.

The STS-88 crew members pose for the traditional inflight crew portrait

For Shepherd and the two cosmonauts who made up Expedition 1, entrance into the early station marked the beginning of an unprecedented era of peaceful cooperation in space, paving the way for hundreds of residents and visitors from countries around the world who conduct science in the name ofbenefitting humankind and  furthering space exploration for NASA's Artemis program to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in preparation to go on to Mars.

Highlights of space station statistics include:

- The primary pieces of the space station were delivered on 42 assembly flights: 37 on the U.S. space shuttles and five on Russian Proton/Soyuz rockets. Elements were constructed independent of one another around the globe and assembled for the first time in space.

- The space station took 11 years to fully construct. Its current configuration measures 357 feet end to end with a mass of nearly 1 million pounds. Elements of space station are continually added and reconfigured.

- There have been 221 spacewalks for space station assembly, maintenance and upgrades.

- It took a collaborative effort by 15 nations to construct the space station in orbit, and that collaboration continues today. The principal space agencies are the United States’ NASA, Russia’s Roscomos, ESA (European Space Agency), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

- 239 individuals from 19 countries have visited or enjoyed extended stays on the space station.

- Peggy Whitson holds the record for cumulative days in space by a NASA astronaut at 665 days. She also holds the record for longest duration by a woman astronaut at 289 days.

- Christina Koch is set to break that record December, 2019.
- Scott Kelly holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a NASA astronaut at 342 days where he participated in the One-Year Mission with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.

- More than 2,700 investigations have been conducted on the space station from 108 different countries.

Astronaut Scott Tingle is pictured during a robotics maintenance spacewalk

Around 250 scientific investigations are conducted on the station at any given time, and an expedition astronaut’s usual stay aboard the orbiting laboratory is six-months. The space station serves as a test bed for innovative technologies like recycling waste plastic and carbon dioxide filtration that are critical for long-duration missions on the lunar surface in the Artemis program.

Crew member safety also is important for lunar missions, so data collected from bone scans and eye exams helps inform what happens to the human body in space.

State-of-the-art facilities on board station help NASA increase understanding of what it will take to expand human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, and microgravity research into protein crystal growth and fiber-optic cables offers scalable commercial opportunities and benefits for humanity.

Astronaut Anne McClain installs of the Thermal Amine Scrubber in the Destiny module

The space station has expanded these efforts to open for more commercial activities with the goal of building a self-sustaining commercial economy in low-Earth orbit where NASA can be one of many commercial and international customers.

The 19th anniversary of Shepherd’s launch to the station kicks off NASA’s year of recognition that will continue through the 20th anniversary of his Expedition 1 launch, and the beginning of a continuous human presence on the International Space Station that continues today. Throughout the year, NASA will make new content available, such as archival footage, feature videos, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) products, special events, and unique logos for the general public. The content will recognize not only the anniversary, but also demonstrate how the research conducted and lessons learned on the space station will serve as a launching pad for future lunar and Mars exploration under the banner of NASA’s Artemis program and the continued international and commercial cooperation that will continue to return benefits for all humankind.

The Soyuz rocket lifts off with the Expedition One crew on Oct.31, 2000

Engage with the International Space Station on social media:


Spot the Station in the Night Sky: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

Humans in Space: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/humans-in-space

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

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

* This article was originally published here

Romano-British Iron Age Bronze Figure (or local deity) ploughing with oxen from Piercebridge,...

Romano-British Iron Age Bronze Figure (or local deity) ploughing with oxen from Piercebridge, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, 3.11.19.

* This article was originally published here

Thousands of new globular clusters have formed over the last billion years

Globular clusters may contain hundreds of thousands of stars and may even have as many as ten million stars that essentially emerged at the same time. They are the oldest visible objects in the universe. Globular clusters come together in dense, spherical volumes with diameters hundreds of times smaller than the diameter of our galaxy.

Thousands of new globular clusters have formed over the last billion years
Image from the Hubble Space Telescope showing young globular clusters in blue
and filaments of cool gas in red [Credit: NASA]
The Milky Way is surrounded by about 150 globular clusters, some of which are visible in the darkness of the night; but about ten or twenty thousand globular clusters can be found around the giant galaxies located at the centre of the galaxy clusters. Galaxy clusters contain hundreds or thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity and infused by hot gas (over ten times hotter than that at the Sun's core).

These globular clusters are thought to have formed shortly after the birth of the universe about 13,800 million years ago, at the same time or even before the first galaxies formed. Since then, they have remained largely unchanged apart from the ageing of all their stars and the gradual death of most of the remaining stars.

Thomas Broadhurst, the Ikerbasque Research Professor at the UPV/EHU's Department of Theoretical Physics and History of Science, explained that "it is not fully understood why the brightest galaxies form in the centre of the galaxy clusters. The fact that they contain thousands of old globular clusters may be a point to take into consideration."

A study led by Dr Lim of the University of Hong Kong and published by the journal Nature Astronomy, and in which Broadhurst collaborated, has found unexpected answers to the origin of some globular clusters located around the giant galaxies at the centre of galaxy clusters: "We discovered that thousands of new globular clusters have been forming over the last billion years out of a cool gas in the giant galaxy located in the centre of the Perseus galaxy cluster," explained Prof Broadhurst.

The younger globular clusters are closely associated with, and therefore formed from, a complex network of cool gas that extends to the outer reaches of the giant galaxy. This network of cool gas precipitates from the hot gas that infuses the entire Perseus galaxy cluster; in fact, the gas concentrates in the centre allowing it to cool faster and that leads to the creation of globular clusters. Once formed, these infant globular clusters do not remain in the network of cool gas and rain inwards onto the giant galaxy like raindrops falling from the clouds.

"So," explained Broadhurst, "one could expect that the central galaxies of these clusters will grow in brightness over cosmic time as a result of the rain of globular clusters they receive from the gas that surrounds them."

Source: University of the Basque Country [November 04, 2019]

* This article was originally published here

NASA Opens Previously Unopened Apollo Sample Ahead of Artemis Missions

NASA - Apollo 17 Mission patch.

Nov. 6, 2019

NASA scientists opened an untouched rock and soil sample from the Moon returned to Earth on Apollo 17, marking the first time in more than 40 years a pristine sample of rock and regolith from the Apollo era has been opened. It sets the stage for scientists to practice techniques to study future samples collected on Artemis missions.

Apollo 17 crew collecting Moon samples. Animation Credit: NASA

The sample, opened Nov. 5, in the Lunar Curation Laboratory at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, was collected on the Moon by Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, who drove a 4-centimeter-wide tube into the surface of the Moon to collect it and another sample scheduled to be opened in January. The sample was opened as part of NASA’s Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative, which is leveraging advanced technologies to study Apollo samples using new tools that were not available when the samples were originally returned to Earth.

“We are able to make measurements today that were just not possible during the years of the Apollo program,” said Dr. Sarah Noble, ANGSA program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The analysis of these samples will maximize the science return from Apollo, as well as enable a new generation of scientists and curators to refine their techniques and help prepare future explorers for lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond.”

Image above: Pictured from left: Apollo sample processors Andrea Mosie, Charis Krysher and Juliane Gross open lunar sample 73002 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Moon rocks inside this tube have remained untouched since they were collected on the surface and brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts nearly 50 years ago. Image Credits: NASA/James Blair.

Since the Apollo era, all samples that were returned to Earth have been carefully stored in the laboratory to preserve them for future generations. Most samples have been well studied, and many are the subject of ongoing research. However, NASA also made the decision to keep some samples completely untouched as an investment in the future, allowing them to be analyzed with more advanced technologies as they are developed. These include samples that remained sealed in their original containers, as well as some stored under special conditions, all intended to be opened and analyzed with more advanced analytical technologies than were available during Apollo.

The unopened Apollo samples were collected on Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. Two of those samples, 73002 and 73001, both collected on Apollo 17, will be studied as part of ANGSA. Advances in techniques such as non-destructive 3D imaging, mass spectrometry and ultra-high resolution microtomy will allow for a coordinated study of these samples at an unprecedented scale.

Samples 73002 and 73001 are part of a two-foot long “drive tube” of regolith (rock and soil) that collected from a landslide deposit near Lara Crater at the Apollo 17 site. The samples preserve the vertical layering within the lunar soil, information about landslides on airless bodies like the Moon, and a record of the volatiles trapped within lunar regolith, perhaps even those escaping from the Moon along the Lee-Lincoln Scarp, a fault at the Apollo 17 site.

 Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan preparing to collect samples 73001 and 73002.

“Opening these samples now will enable new scientific discoveries about the Moon and will allow a new generation of scientists to refine their techniques to better study future samples returned by Artemis astronauts,” said Francis McCubbin, NASA’s astromaterials curator at Johnson. “Our scientific technologies have vastly improved in the past 50 years and scientists have an opportunity to analyze these samples in ways not previously possible.”

Two Samples, Two Processes

Sample 73002, which has remained unopened but not sealed under vacuum since being brought to Earth, was the first sample to be extruded from its container Nov. 5. Sample processors at Johnson will spend the next several months processing the sample and distributing parts of it to the ANGSA science teams for analysis.

To aid in opening the sample, researchers have used X-ray Computer Tomography (XCT) done at the University of Texas Austin to record a high-resolution 3D image of the regolith within the tube. The imaging aids the processors as they develop strategies to remove the sample for dissection and distribution to research teams, as well as helping scientists understand the sample’s structure before opening the container. It will also protect fragile soil components from damage during opening and processing, and provides detailed images of individual grains and smaller samples known as rocklets.

After X-ray scanning, the samples are removed from their tube using specialized tools inside a glovebox filled with ultrapure dry Nitrogen, and are then subdivided into one-quarter inch segments to allow scientists to understand the variation observed along the length of the core. This is the first time NASA has processed a drive tube like this in over 25 years, and curation scientists have been hard at work over the past few months rehearsing the process.

Image above: The bottom scan of sample 73002 was taken using radiograph technology in 1974 by NASA. The X-Ray Computed Microtomography scan above was taken in 2019 at the University of Texas at Austin. This is one example of the technological developments that are enabling a new generation to conduct new science on Apollo samples.

“I grew up on the stories of Apollo, they inspired me to pursue a career in space and now I have an opportunity to contribute to the studies that are enabling the next missions to the Moon,” said Charis Krysher, the lunar sample processor who will be opening sample 73002. “To be the one to open a sample that hasn’t been opened since it was collected on the moon is such an honor and heavy responsibility, we’re touching history.”

Sample 73001, which will be opened in early 2020, was sealed on the Moon in a special core sample vacuum container and then placed within another vacuum container and sealed on Earth. That sample will be opened once scientists have fine-tuned plans for capturing the gases from the Moon collected in the container along with the sample itself. Once removed, it will be processed in a glovebox and shared with scientific teams selected for the ANGSA research.

Artemis Generation

Exploration of the Moon by astronauts in the Artemis program will be enabled by using the resources of the Moon, including water ice that can be used to make rocket fuel or oxygen to breathe. Studying these unopened samples may allow scientists to gain insight into the origin of the lunar polar ice deposits, as well as other potential resources for future exploration. They will also gain a better understanding of how well Apollo tools worked, which will help with tool designs for future lunar missions.

“The findings from these samples will provide NASA new insights into the Moon, including the history of impacts on the lunar surface, how landslides occur on the lunar surface, and how the Moon’s crust has evolved over time,” said Charles Shearer, science co-lead for ANGSA. “This research will help NASA better understand how volatile reservoirs develop, evolve and interact on the Moon and other planetary bodies.”

Image above: NASA opened a pristine Apollo lunar sample Nov. 5, 2019, at its Johnson Space Center in Houston. A team of scientists extracted the core from its tube and will soon send samples to other teams across the country to study. This sample was the first set of two scheduled to be opened in the coming months. Studying the rocks now will help a new generation of scientists better understand the Moon through the Artemis program. Image Credits: NASA/James Blair.

During the preliminary examination of these unopened Apollo samples, multiple generations of scientists, engineers, and curators will work together to study the samples. Team members who have long NASA experience, some of whom were part of the original teams to first study Apollo samples, will work with younger team members in a true collaboration between past and present generations of lunar explorers. Schmitt, the lone geologist among the Apollo astronauts and lunar module pilot of Apollo 17, which collected sample 73002, is also actively involved in the science team.

“This provides an essential link between the first generation lunar explorers from Apollo and future generations who will explore the Moon and beyond starting with Artemis,” said Shearer.

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