вторник, 12 ноября 2019 г.

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of November 4, 2019

ISS - Expedition 61 Mission patch.

Nov. 12, 2019

Crew members on the International Space Station conducted a variety of scientific investigations this past week, including research into colloid gels, the effects of disrupting the body’s daily clock and more. Monday morning, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft carrying more than 8,000 pounds of research and supplies docked to the space station as it flew over the South Pacific Ocean. The commercial resupply mission is the 12th for the company and is in orbit at the same time as NG CRS-11, which launched in April.

Image above: NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano create tape flags for use in the upcoming spacewalks to service the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Parmitano would soon after use the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) to measure an astronaut’s mass using Newton’s Second Law of Motion. SLAMMD applies a known force to an attached astronaut and uses the resulting acceleration to calculate that astronaut’s mass. Image Credit: NASA.

Nov. 2 marked the beginning of the 20th year of continuous human presence aboard the space station, which so far has hosted 239 people and more than 2,700 science experiments. The only platform for long-duration research in microgravity, the orbiting laboratory makes important contributions to Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

Image above: This black-and-white infrared photograph shows Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket with the Cygnus resupply spacecraft onboard launching from NASA’s Wallops Facility Saturday, Nov. 2. The company’s 12th contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA delivered about 8,200 pounds of science and research, supplies and hardware to the orbital laboratory and crew. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Here are details on some of the science conducted during the week:

Improving product shelf life

Operations for Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-6 (ACE-T-6) are running for 16-hours every other day for the next three weeks. The investigation studies the microscopic behavior of colloids in gels and creams to provide new insight into fundamental interactions that may improve product shelf life. Colloids, suspensions of microscopic particles in a liquid, are used in products ranging from milk to fabric softener. Consumer products often use colloidal gels to distribute specialized ingredients such as droplets that soften fabrics. These gels must serve two opposite purposes, however: dispersing the active ingredient so it can work while maintaining an even distribution so the product does not spoil.

Image above: NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are inside the cupola practicing the Canadarm2 robotics techniques they would use to capture the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter when it arrived Nov. 4 with more than four tons of science experiments, crew supplies and station hardware. Image Credit: NASA.

Protecting the body clock

Crew members installed four Rodent Habitats for Rodent Research-14 (RR-14), which uses mice to examine the effects of disruptions to the body’s circatidal rhythm or sleep/wake cycle in microgravity on a cellular and key organ level. The 12-hour body clock is an important mechanism controlling stress-responsive pathways, and the space station provides an ideal setting to examine this role. Researchers can analyze responses in the mice at the cellular level as well as effects on behavior.

Students see Earth from space

Image above: An image of Corinth, Greece, taken from the space station by the Sally Ride EarthKAM’s November, 2019 Mission 68. Image Credit: EarthKAM.

Sally Ride EarthKAM allows students remotely controlling a digital camera on the International Space Station to photograph and examine Earth from an astronaut’s perspective. Students select coastlines, mountain ranges and other geographic items of interest to photograph, and the EarthKAM team posts these images on the Internet for viewing by the public and participating classrooms around the world. Crew members set up the EarthKam on Monday for Mission 68’s weeklong imaging session.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- Standard Measures captures a consistent set of measurements from crew members to characterize how their bodies adapt to living in space.

- BEST studies the use of DNA sequencing to identify microbial organisms and improve understanding of how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living in space.

- Veg-04B, part of a phased research project to address the need for fresh-food production in space, focuses on the effects of light quality and fertilizer on a leafy crop, Mizuna mustard greens.

- ISS HAM or Amateur Radio on the International Space Station lets students around the world talk directly with crew members on the space station, inspiring them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math and engaging them with radio science technology through amateur radio.

- Vascular Echo examines changes in blood vessels and hearts of crew members in space and their recovery upon return to Earth. Some returning crew members have much stiffer arteries than when they went into space.

- The ISS Experience creates virtual reality videos from footage covering different aspects of crew life, execution of science and the international partnerships involved on the space station.

- Food Acceptability examines changes in the appeal of food aboard the space station during long-duration missions. “Menu fatigue” from repeatedly consuming a limited choice of foods may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases.

During these missions, the Orion spacecraft will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The European Service Module, provided by the European Space Agency, will serve as the spacecraft’s powerhouse and supply it with electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water in space.


The Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon, will be a home base for astronauts to maintain frequent and sustainable crewed missions to the lunar surface. With the help of a coalition of nations, this new spaceship will be assembled in space and built within the next decade.

Gateway already has far-reaching international support, with 14 space agencies agreeing on its importance in expanding humanity’s presence on the Moon, Mars and deeper into the solar system.

International Space Station


The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted. Launched in 1998 and involving the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the participating countries of the European Space Agency — the ISS has been the epitome of global cooperation for the benefit of humankind. The largest space station ever constructed, the orbital laboratory continues to bring together international flight crews, globally distributed launches, operations, training, engineering and the world’s scientific research community.

Hubble Space Telescope 


The Hubble Space Telescope, one of our greatest windows into worlds light-years away, was built with contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA).


ESA provided the original Faint Object Camera and solar panels, and continues to provide science operations support for the telescope. 

Deep Space Network


The Deep Space Network (DSN) is an international array of giant radio antennas that span the world, with stations in the United States, Australia and Spain. The three facilities are equidistant approximately one-third of the way around the world from one another – to permit constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates. The network supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and a few that orbit Earth. It also provides radar and radio astronomy observations that improve our understanding of the solar system and the larger universe!

Mars Missions 

Information gathered today by robots on Mars will help get humans to the Red Planet in the not-too-distant future. Many of our Martian rovers – both past, present and future – are the products of a coalition of science teams distributed around the globe. Here are a few notable ones:

Curiosity Mars Rover 

  • France: ChemCam, the rover’s laser instrument that can analyze rocks from more than 20 feet away
  • Russia: DAN, which looks for subsurface water and water locked in minerals
  • Spain: REMS, the rover’s weather station

InSight Mars Lander

  • France with contributions from Switzerland: SEIS, the first seismometer on the surface of another planet
  • Germany: HP3, the heatflow probe that will help us understand the interior structure of Mars
  • Spain: APSS, the lander’s weather station

Mars 2020 Rover

  • Norway: RIMFAX, a ground-penetrating radar
  • France: SuperCam, the laser instrument for remote science
  • Spain: MEDA, the rover’s weather station

Space-Analog Astronaut Training

We partner with space agencies around the globe on space-analog missions. Analog missions are field tests in locations that have physical similarities to the extreme space environments. They take astronauts to space-like environments to prepare as international teams for near-term and future exploration to asteroids, Mars and the Moon.


The European Space Agency hosts the Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills (CAVES) mission. The two week training prepares multicultural teams of astronauts to work safely and effectively in an environment where safety is critical. The mission is designed to foster skills such as communication, problem solving, decision-making and team dynamics.


We host our own analog mission, underwater! The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project sends international teams of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius, for up to three weeks. Here, “aquanauts” as we call them, simulate living on a spacecraft and test spacewalk techniques for future space missions in hostile environments.

International Astronautical Congress 

So, whether we’re collaborating as a science team around the globe, or shoulder-to-shoulder on a spacewalk, we are committed to working together with international partners for the benefit of all humanity! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how the global space industry works together, check out our coverage of the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) happening this week in Washington, D.C. IAC is a yearly gathering in which all space players meet to talk about the advancements and progress in exploration.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Early dispersal for quadrupedal cetaceans: amphibious whale from middle Eocene

Scientists have a relatively precise idea about where whales and their closest terrestrial relatives evolved more than 50 million years ago (early Eocene), thanks to the discovery of ancient cetacean fossils in India and Pakistan. Around 45 million years ago, four-legged whales (protocetids) gradually dispersed out of Asia, westward towards Africa and then reached the east coast of North America more than 41 million years ago.

Early dispersal for quadrupedal cetaceans: amphibious whale from middle Eocene
View of the locality Media Luna, where Peregocetus was discovered, in the Pisco Basin, coastal Peru,
at the beginning of the excavation, in November 2011 [Credit: O. Lambert]
Due to the relatively fragmentary fossil record on both sides of the North Atlantic, questions remain about the path they took to make it to the New World and their locomotion abilities. The newly described species Peregocetus pacificus, from middle Eocene (42.6 million years old) deposits of the fossil rich Pisco Basin (southern coast of Peru), provides some answers.

Lead author, Olivier Lambert, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Bruxelles,Belgium, presented the team's findings at this year's annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology held this year in Brisbane, Australia.

The importance of primitive whale, Peregocetus pacificus, lies in its completeness, location and age. This specimen represents the earliest skeleton of an amphibious whale from South America (and the whole Pacific).

Early dispersal for quadrupedal cetaceans: amphibious whale from middle Eocene
View of the excavation of the skeleton of Peregocetus in Media Luna,
with the Pacific Ocean in background [Credit: C. de Muizon]
"The discovery of this new quadrupedal whale by our Peruvian colleague Mario Urbina was a great surprise for all of us. When we saw that most of the forelimb and hind limb elements were preserved (even including a kneecap and phalanges displaying marks of small hooves!) we realized that this was a major find", Olivier Lambert stated. The specimen also includes mandibles, teeth, vertebrae, scapulae, pelvis, and many fore- and hind limb elements.

Sharing similarities with some western African protocetids, Peregocetus pacificus, supports the hypothesis that early quadrupedal whales crossed the South Atlantic from Africa to South America over 40 million years ago.

These early whales nearly attained a circum-equatorial distribution with a combination of terrestrial and aquatic locomotion abilities less than 10 million years after their origin in south Asia. Using large, most likely webbed feet with long toes, Peregocetus likely used its hindlimbs for underwater locomotion.

Early dispersal for quadrupedal cetaceans: amphibious whale from middle Eocene
Another view of the excavation of the skeleton of Peregocetus. Mario Urbina, the discoverer
of the locality and whale is on the right [Credit: G. Bianucci]
This discovery is not the first amazing fossil find from the Pisco Basin of Peru. "The Pisco Basin is an amazing region to study the evolution of marine mammals and other marine vertebrates. With rocks covering an interval of about 45 million years, we can follow the evolutionary history of many lineages, and interesting discoveries range from aquatic sloths and walrus-like dolphins to giant macroraptorial sperm whales and the oldest relatives of baleen whales", co-author Giovanni Bianucci says.

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology [November 08, 2019]

* This article was originally published here

2019 November 12 NGC 3717: A Nearly Sideways Spiral Galaxy...

2019 November 12

NGC 3717: A Nearly Sideways Spiral Galaxy
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Processing: D. Rosario

Explanation: Some spiral galaxies are seen nearly sideways. Most bright stars in spiral galaxies swirl around the center in a disk, and seen from the side, this disk can be appear quite thin. Some spiral galaxies appear even thinner than NGC 3717, which is actually seen tilted just a bit. Spiral galaxies form disks because the original gas collided with itself and cooled as it fell inward. Planets may orbit in disks for similar reasons. The featured image by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a light-colored central bulge composed of older stars beyond filaments of orbiting dark brown dust. NGC 3717 spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 60 million light years away toward the constellation of the Water Snake (Hydra).

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap191112.html

New fossil further resolves bauplan of extinct giant penguins

Penguins are descendants of seabirds that lost the ability to fly more than 60 million years ago in exchange for chasing the abundant food available in the ocean. New Zealand is a key area for understanding the diversity of the extinct penguins and has even revealed the existence of 'giant' penguin species (larger than living penguins).

New fossil further resolves bauplan of extinct giant penguins
Kawhia penguin reconstruction [Credit: Simone Giovanardi]

A new study describing a remarkably complete giant penguin skeleton from the Oligocene, Kawhia Harbour in the North Island of New Zealand was presented by Simone Giovanardi, Massey University Albany, Auckland, New Zealand, at this year's annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology held this year in Brisbane, Australia.

These giant penguins differed from their living descendants in the length of their front limbs and elongated beaks, perhaps suggesting differences in ecological roles when compared with living penguins. The preserved hindlimbs of the new North Island fossil are also significantly longer than all previously described specimens.

Giovanardi adds, "The Kawhia giant penguin is mostly complete and largely articulated in life position, which helps a great deal with reconstructing the relatively long and slender body." This specimen suggests a mixture of characteristics of an older body plan found in other Eocene-Oligocene giant penguins and the one found in the more derived giant penguin, Kairuku.

To date, most of the giant penguins found in New Zealand have been discovered in the South Island. This fossil was found in an Oligocene silty mudstone from the North Island of New Zealand and currently represents the most complete pre-Pleistocene vertebrate reported from this region. Giovanardi concludes by stating, "The North Island of New Zealand has its own paleontological tale to tell."

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology [November 08, 2019]

* This article was originally published here

‘The Bridestones’ Prehistoric Stone Features, Todmorden, Calderdale, 10.11.19.I made a...

‘The Bridestones’ Prehistoric Stone Features, Todmorden, Calderdale, 10.11.19.

I made a return journey on a frosty morning in bright autumn sun.

* This article was originally published here

Fossil suggests apes, old world monkeys moved in opposite directions from shared ancestor

In terms of their body plan, Old World monkeys--a group that includes primates like baboons and macaques--are generally considered more similar to ancestral species than apes are. But a new study that analyzes the first well-preserved femur of Aegyptopithecus zeuxis, a common ancestor of Old World monkeys and apes, suggests that as far as locomotion goes, apes and Old World monkeys each evolved a way of moving that was different from the ancestral species as they adapted to different niches in their environments.

Fossil suggests apes, old world monkeys moved in opposite directions from shared ancestor
Artistic reconstruction of a group of Aegyptopithecus individuals on a tree during the Oligecene
[Credit: Lucille Betti-Nash (modified by Sergio Almecija)]
"Our study shows that Aegyptopithecus preserves an ancient hip morphology not present in living anthropoid primates," said Sergio Almecija, a paleoanthropologist and evolutionary biologist in the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History who is first author on the study, which was published in Nature Communications this week. "As far as the hip is concerned, it seems that apes, humans, and Old World monkeys have all parted ways long ago--which would explain why they move around so differently today."

The fossil analyzed in the study was discovered in 2009 and is the most complete femur of Aegyptopithecus, a 15-lb (7-kg) likely tree-dwelling species that lived in Egypt about 30 million years ago, close to the time when hominoids (the group that includes apes and humans) split from the larger group that includes Old World monkeys. A well-preserved femur allowed researchers to glean details about the hip joint, a major anatomical region for inferring locomotion, using a combination of 3D morphometric analysis and evolutionary modeling.

Fossil suggests apes, old world monkeys moved in opposite directions from shared ancestor
Play session between adolescent male chimpanzee, Faustino, (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and adolescent
male olive baboon (Papio anubis). Gombe Stream Research Center, Gombe National Park, Tanzania
[Credit: © Kristin J Mosher]
For the analysis, the authors compared the fossil bone to other extinct and modern species, including humans, chimpanzees, and Victoriapithecus and Homunculus (extinct Old World and New World monkeys, respectively). The evolutionary modeling analysis used in the study included a method that was developed to identify convergent evolution in anole lizards in the Caribbean, which have independently developed comparable niche-specific adaptations across various islands.

The results indicate that the ancestral hip joint is, from an evolutionary perspective, as far from the hip joint of modern Old World monkeys as from those of the great apes--suggesting that each group evolved a distinct way of moving as they specialized for success in different environmental niches.