Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NASA Chandra - X-ray Image: A Young Supernova Remnant

More than fifty years ago, a supernova was discovered in Messier 83, a spiral galaxy about 15 million light years from Earth.

Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to make the first detection of X-rays emitted by the debris from this explosion.

Named SN 1957D (Animation) because it was the fourth supernova to be discovered in the year 1957, it is one of only a few located outside of the Milky Way galaxy that is detectable, in both radio and optical wavelengths, decades after its explosion was observed. 

Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/STScI/K.Long et al., Optical: NASA/STScI

In 1981, astronomers saw the remnant of the exploded star in radio waves, and then in 1987 they detected the remnant at optical wavelengths, years after the light from the explosion itself became undetectable.

A relatively short observation -- about 14 hours long -- from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2000 and 2001 did not detect any X-rays from the remnant of SN 1957D.

However, a much longer observation obtained in 2010 and 2011, totaling nearly 8 and 1/2 days of Chandra time, did reveal the presence of X-ray emission. The X-ray brightness in 2000 and 2001 was about the same as or lower than in this deep image.

This new Chandra image of M83 is one of the deepest X-ray observations ever made of a spiral galaxy beyond our own. This full-field view of the spiral galaxy shows the low, medium, and high-energy X-rays observed by Chandra in red, green, and blue respectively.

The new X-ray data from the remnant of SN 1957D provide important information about the nature of this explosion that astronomers think happened when a massive star ran out of fuel and collapsed.

The distribution of X-rays with energy suggests that SN 1957D contains a neutron star, a rapidly spinning, dense star formed when the core of pre-supernova star collapsed.

This neutron star, or pulsar, may be producing a cocoon of charged particles moving at close to the speed of light known as a pulsar wind nebula.

If this interpretation is confirmed, the pulsar in SN 1957D is observed at an age of 55 years, one of the youngest pulsars ever seen.

The remnant of SN 1979C in the galaxy M100 contains another candidate for the youngest pulsar, but astronomers are still unsure whether there is a black hole or a pulsar at the center of SN 1979C.

Russian Progress-47 Spacecraft: Docks With ISS Using KURS-NA on 2nd Attempt

An unmanned Russian Progress M-47 cargo craft approaches the International Space Station on July 28, 2012 to test an upgraded docking system, Kurs-NA.

An unmanned Russian cargo ship parked itself at the International Space Station tonight (July 28), in a second attempt to test an updated space docking system, NASA says.

The robotic Russian Progress 47 spacecraft re-docked to the space station to test the new Kurs-NA docking system.

The automated cargo ship safely approached the station and automatically attached itself to the Pirs docking compartment on the Russian segment of the massive orbiting laboratory at 9:01 p.m. EDT (0101 GMT July 29).

Russia intends to use the Kurs-NA docking system on future unmanned Progress spacecraft and manned Soyuz vehicles.

The Progress' safe docking followed a failed first attempt four days ago, on July 23, which was aborted after a technical glitch prevented the spacecraft from reaching the orbiting outpost.

After that attempt, the Progress 47's onboard computers kept the craft a safe distance away from the station while Russian engineers analyzed the failure.

Saturn's Icy Moon, Iapetus struck by 50-Mile Wide Landslides

A giant landslide on Iapetus reaches halfway across a 75-mile (120 kilometer) impact crater.

CREDIT: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Long landslides spotted on Saturn's moon, Iapetus, could help provide clues to similar movements of material on Earth.

Scientists studying the icy satellite have determined that flash heating could cause falling ice to travel 10 to 15 times farther than previously expected on Iapetus.

Extended landslides can be found on Mars and Earth, but are more likely to be composed of rock than ice.

Despite the differences in materials, scientists believe there could be a link between the long-tumbling debris on all three bodies.

"We think there's more likely a common mechanism for all of this, and we want to be able to explain all of the observations," lead scientist Kelsi Singer of Washington University, Dept of Earth and Planetary Sciences, reported.

M6-Class Solar Flare Erupts Towards Earth - Video

An M6-Class flare erupted fron Sunspot AR1532 on July 28th, 2012. 

Earth lies in the the path of the super-heated coronal mass ejection (CME). 

Geomagnetic storms are possible when the storm arrives.

Watch the Video of the Solar Storm Forecast to hit Earth: Solar Storm - Strong Sun Flare Erupts Towards Earth | Video

Budget Cuts Hit NOAA Aquarius Underwater Laboratory - YouTube

The future of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Aquarius Reef Base laboratory, the world's only undersea lab appears bleak owing to budget cuts from the Federal Government.

The NOAA was under orders to tighten up and the $3 million annual budget for Aquarius was eliminated, ABC News reported.

Though an Aquarius Foundation is trying to raise funds to maintain the lab, its efforts may not raise adequate funds to fund active work from the lab. Meanwhile, the lab's supporters are hoping a large donor will come forward amidst criticism that it is expensive to maintain.

Even when not in use, divers must ensure that its systems work properly every week in salt water.

Aquarius is the only undersea laboratory dedicated to marine science operating in the world.

Owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and managed by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), Aquarius operates 4.5 kilometers offshore of Key Largo, Florida 20 meters beneath the surface.

Aquarius was originally conceived and funded by NOAA's National Undersea Research Program (NURP) in the mid 1980s.

The underwater laboratory was built by Victoria Machine Works in 1986-87. Initial deployment in the U.S. Virgin Islands before Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989, and devastated St. Croix.

Aquarius was retrieved from the seafloor in 1990 and was moved to North Carolina where it was refurbished and then redeployed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in 1993.

Living the Dream - Argentina’s Boeing House

Somewhere in the Grand Buenos Aires, specifically in the neighborhood of Marcos Paz, Argentina, we found the Boeing House, a typical two sided roof chalet into which some parts of a Boeing 747 were inserted.

Taken from my favourite creative website Lost At E Minor 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Red Arrows Display over Scottish Museum of Flight

The Red Arrows display over the Scottish National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland.

NASA's Degradation Free Spectrometers - Successful launch

On July 24, 2012, NASA successfully launched a pair of newly developed spectrometers aboard a sounding rocket from the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico to an altitude of 323.8 km (201.2 mi).

This may not seem to have much to do with extending the life of a satellite floating between the Sun and Earth about 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 mi) away, but it does.

That’s because the tests' purpose was both to test new instruments for a potential future replacement of the SOHO solar observatory satellite and to recalibrate SOHO’s existing instruments.

It’s great when a space mission lasts longer than expected. Though the history of space exploration has been punctuated by failure and even tragedy, some missions shine out, such as the Viking and Opportunity Mars Landers, which operated years beyond their very short mission objectives and, of course, Voyager, a craft that is still working a generation after its launch.

However, success can bring its own problems. One of these is that a still-functioning craft may have to work with instruments never meant to last so long and are now showing their age.

A case in point is the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). This joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA was launched on December 2, 1995 and is currently parked at the Lagrange point between the Earth and the Sun where gravitational forces balance, leaving it forever in the one spot.

Since its launch, it’s been studying the Sun and has discovered over 2,200 comets. Originally planned as a two-year mission, SOHO continues to send back data.

It’s done a great job and, more importantly, is the main source of near-real time data that helps look out for solar flares. Trouble is, the instruments weren’t designed to run for 18 years and they show it. Filters degrade, surfaces become contaminated, telescope mirrors dim... In other words, it’s going slowly blind.

There isn’t much that can be done to repair SOHO, but future missions will benefit from more durable instruments. That is the purpose of the sounding rocket test.

Among its payload were two Degradation Free Spectrometers (DFS). These are similar to the spectrometers used by SOHO, but where the satellite’s are gradually failing, these are designed to avoid that fate on a future mission.

Instead of conventional optics, they use a rare gas photoionization-based Optics-Free Spectrometer (OFS) {pdf} and a Dual Grating Spectrometer (DGS) {pdf}. These are made filter-free and optics-free by using rare-gas chambers, photoelectron focusing techniques, gratings and light baffles to exclude unwanted light without filters.

The mission was mainly to test the spectrometers, which are capable of, in the words of NASA’s press release, “high cadence measurements of the highly variable Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) solar flux and have minimal degradation over multi-year time scales while observing the sun 24/7."

What that means is that the spectrometers can make precise observations of the Sun at the extreme end of the ultraviolet spectrum for years on end without the mechanism wearing out.

The other purpose was to help calibrate SOHO. In addition to the new spectrometers, the sounding rocket also carried a clone of SOHO’s Solar Extreme Ultraviolet Monitor (SEM) {pdf}.

This was calibrated at the National Institute of Standards and Technology both before and after flight to provide a calibration check for SOHO, so observations from the satellite can be corrected. If all goes well, it may give SOHO a little more life and its successor a lot more time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

NASA shows off new Mars lander - Morpheus, fueled by Methane

NASA unveils the prototype of a remarkable new landing vehicle this week that is set to form the basis of new space probes to explore the Solar System.

Named Morpheus, the lander is designed to fly to a variety of destinations including Mars, planetary moons or asteroids.

It will incorporate intelligent technology that allows it to register the presence of surface hazards such as boulders and avoid them.

It will also be powered by new "green" propulsion system that uses liquid oxygen and methane because these are fuels that could be readily produced on other worlds.

Another benefit of using methane is that it can be stored for longer in space than can other common rocket propellants. Methane also is cheaper and safer to operate and could be made from ice found on the moon or Mars.

Video of a tethered test of Morpheus. Credit: NASA

The NASA-designed vehicle was manufactured and assembled at JSC and Armadillo Aerospace, and is the second vertical test bed built by the project team. The first, Pixel, was literally put together from spare parts supplied by the commercial company.

NASA converted the Pixel lander to use liquid oxygen and methane as its fuel, fitted it with instruments and carried out early guidance, navigation and control testing. Pixel was flown last year under tether 17 times and three free flights, at Armadillo’s facility near Dallas.

Science fiction comes to life in Italian lab

A bionic hand at the Istitute of Biorobotic of the Italian University St. Anna School in Pisa.

At the university, a bionic arm commanded by the human brain or a limb extension that allows rescuers to lift rubble after earthquakes are just some of the futuristic innovations in the pipeline.

At Italy's Sant'Anna university, a bionic arm commanded by the human brain or a limb extension that allows rescuers to lift rubble after earthquakes are just some of the futuristic innovations in the pipeline.

"The idea is to get robots out of factories where they have shown their worth and to transform them into household machines which can live together with humans," says Professor Paolo Dario, director of the college's bio-robotics department.

The university in the historic town of Pisa in Tuscany is a veritable factory of ideas.

Researchers here are working on projects ranging from a robot that can come to your door to collect your recycling to tomatoes that slow the effects of ageing and plants that survive underwater to help flood-prone regions of the world.

A Body Extender robot at the Perceptual Robotics Laboratory at Sant'Anna University in Pisa, Italy.

The exoskeleton or "body extender", a prototype costing a million euros, meanwhile, is a kind of armour weighing 160 kilos which multiplies the strength of its human user by 20. "You can innovate here.

Whoever has a project gets help, ideas are not blocked. We are investing in individuals," the rector of Sant'Anna, Maria Chiara Carrozza, a professor of bio-robotics said in an interview.

The dustcart looks like the famous R2-D2 from Star Wars with its laser scanner and location sensors.

The idea is that it can work through phone bookings to come to your street at a fixed time to collect your waste.

"We tested it for two months with 15 families living in one of the towns near here. Everything worked well but there are still some problems to sort out," said Pericle Salvini, a member of the team behind the project.

"First of all it is slow for security reasons and it sometimes blocks the traffic. Also it cannot legally be on the road since there is no type of insurance for this type of robot in case of an accident," he said.

Researcher Pericle Salvini work on a DustClean Robot at the Institute of Biorobotic at Sant'Anna University in Pisa.

The dustcart looks like the famous R2-D2 from Star Wars with its laser scanner and location sensors.

The idea is that it can work through phone bookings to come to your street at a fixed time to collect your waste.

Professor Dario also heads up a project entitled "The Robot Companions for Citizens" which is one of six contestants for a European Union prize of one billion euros ($1.2 billion) in funding spread out over a decade.

Marco Controzzi, who is working on a bionic arm, says it will operate by using electrodes attached to the skin or implanted in your head. "It will move only according to your intentions," he said, adding that powering it would be easy as it can run on just two mobile phone batteries.

The exoskeleton or "body extender", a prototype costing a million euros, meanwhile, is a kind of armour weighing 160 kilos (353 pounds) which multiplies the strength of its human user by 20. "The idea is to use this type of instrument for emergency workers in disasters like an earthquake," said engineer Marco Fontana.

Diabetes: New Compound Prevents Retina Damage

A compound that prevents damage to the retina caused by diabetic retinopathy has been developed by scientists.

University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center scientists have developed a compound that targets two mechanisms: inflammation and the weakening of the blood barrier that protects the retina that is the root cause of the disease.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels in the retina, and can cause blindness in adults.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.

Crystal structure of Vammin, a VEGF-F from a snake venom
Until now, scientists believed that retina damage was caused by the activity of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that weakens the protective blood-retinal barrier.

Drugs, created to treat diabetic retinopathy, have been desigend to block the protein but now, researchers have found that inflammation could also contribute to the disease.

"In diabetic retinopathy and a host of other retinal diseases, increases in VEGF and inflammatory factors - some of the same factors that contribute to the response to an infection - cause blood vessels in the eye to leak which, in turn, results in a buildup of fluid in the neural tissue of the retina," said David A Antonetti, a Kellogg Eye Center researcher, in a statement. "This insidious form of modified inflammation can eventually lead to blindness."

Scientists created the new compound while studying kinase C (aPKC), a protein that was common to both mechanisms as an important target in regulating the disease process.

They claim that the new compound blocks the kinase C (aPKC) protein, which in turn blocks the VEGF protein and reduces inflammation.

"This is a great leap forward. We've identified an important target in regulating blood vessel leakage in the eye and we have a therapy that works in animal models. Our research is in the early stages of development. We still have a long way to go to demonstrate effectiveness of this compound in humans to create a new therapy but the results are very promising," Antonetti said.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Searching Deep into Space and the Universe

NASA may eventually keep an eye on super-hot galaxy clusters thanks to an invention inspired by a roll of Scotch tape.

The center of a galaxy cluster houses a soup of superheated gas and plasma, in which electrons bounce around at about the speed of light.

Scientists are keen to get a glimpse of the intense X-rays emitted from these fiery centers, which could shed light on the physics at work in the centers of galaxy clusters and help researchers understand the evolution of the universe

But there's a problem: The special mirrors -- which are curved and nested inside a cylindrical assembly -- that scientists use to collect these X-rays are expensive to make. In June, NASA launched the NuStar X-ray telescope to look for black holes and other celestial structures.

The NuStar has a mirror with an effective area of 300 square centimeters, but scientists would need a mirror with an effective area of about a meter squared to see the cosmic rays from galaxy clusters.

"With current technology, it is prohibitively expensive to build that," says NASA astrophysicist Maxim Markevitch. But Markevitch hit upon a possible solution, thanks to the aforementioned roll of tape. He thought that they could build a larger mirror more cheaply using tape coated on one side with reflective material -- probably a sandwich of carbon and platinum -- and then wound into a roll.

NASA Astronaut Sally Ride Comes Out after her Death

The late astronaut Sally Ride, the First US Woman in Space, came out of the closet this week with neither a bang nor a whimper, but with a quiet, matter-of-fact phrase released after her death that identified Tam O'Shaughnessy, a former science teacher and science writer, as her partner of 27 years.

Ride's sister, Bear, told the Seattle Times that Sally "never hid her relationship with Tam" but cited the pioneering astronaut's sense of privacy as the reason she never came out with fanfare while she was alive.

But Daily Beast writer Andrew Sullivan criticized the first American woman in space not coming out sooner.

Ride "had a chance to expand people's horizons and young lesbians' hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to," Sullivan wrote on Tuesday.

It is sad that such a high achiever and courageous explorer should be forced to keep her sexuality hidden for so long.

Ride (pictured left) passed away this week at age 61 after a battle with pancreatic cancer and now more is coming out about her accomplished partner Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy (pictured right), a professor emerita at San Diego State University and chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ride’s foundation, Sally Ride Science

Like Ride, O’Shaughnessy was also interested in science from an early age.

She earned bachelors and masters degrees in biology from Georgia State University, taught college biology and eventually earned a doctorate degree in school psychology from the University of California, Riverside.

She has written nine children’s science books and helped found Sally Ride Science “because of her long-standing commitment to science education and her recognition of the importance of supporting girls' interests in science," according to the foundation’s website.

SETI and Three Piatcions: As Seen Through a Telescope

This is an interesting music video for Italian shoegaze band “Thee Piatcions“. Their Wall-Of-Sound, psychedelic music (they must be one of the loudest bands touring Europe) inspired us to create this sort of retro sci-fi comedy about searching for life in space and looking for love on Earth.

The Airpiano 3D: Playing the piano in the air!

Credit to www.airpiano.de

The airpiano is an innovative MIDI and OSC controller. It allows the user to trigger invisible keys and faders in midair.

Touch-Free Interface

The airpiano is the first musical interface to introduce an intuitive and simple touch-free interaction. Most touch-free interfaces require users to stare at a display.

The user’s hand gestures in 3D space control elements on the screen. However, musicians and performers need to be able to play their instruments in a more free and intuitive way.

The airpiano’s keys and faders are therefore not on the screen, but above the airpiano surface. The performer knows the position of each controller in the air, so no display is needed, and the interaction becomes much more natural.

Discrete and Continuous Control

The airpiano is often compared with the Theremin. The Theremin is a wonderful instrument which is quite difficult to play. One reason for this is that it provides only continuous control.

The airpiano has a matrix of 24 discrete keys and 8 faders, which makes it much more simple to use.

Actually, the airpiano software makes the device so versatile that there is no real reason for a comparison.

These are completely different instruments.

Check out the airpiano features. User Experience Some people ask: why not just use a box with lots of buttons and shiny LEDs? What can I do with an airpiano that I can’t do with other controllers?

Well, we love all kinds of musical interfaces, and there are many wonderful and innovative alternative controllers out there.

However, we strongly believe that the airpiano introduces a new user experience, a magical and cool performance tool and an experimental instrument to explore.

The airpiano software allows setting the device in numerous ways and since there are no “rules” of how to play an airpiano, new creative ideas and playing techniques will come to life!

NASA's High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) telescope

 AIA can see structures on the sun's surface with clarity of approximately 675 miles. (NASA)
Shown in green to enhance detail, these Hi-C images reveal detailed tangles of magnetic field. (NASA) 

A telescope launched July 11 aboard a NASA sounding rocket has captured the highest-resolution images ever taken of the sun's million-degree atmosphere called the corona.

Barbara Giles
The clarity of the images can help scientists better understand the behaviour of the solar atmosphere and its impacts on Earth's space environment.

"These revolutionary images of the sun demonstrate the key aspects of NASA's sounding rocket program, namely the training of the next generation of principal investigators, the development of new space technologies, and scientific advancements," said Barbara Giles, director for NASA's Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the 58-foot-tall sounding rocket carried NASA's High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) telescope. Weighing 464 pounds, the 10-foot-long payload took 165 images during its brief 620-second flight. The telescope focused on a large active region on the sun with some images revealing the dynamic structure of the solar atmosphere in fine detail. These images were taken in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength. This higher energy wavelength of light is optimal for viewing the hot solar corona.

"We have an exceptional instrument and launched at the right time," said Jonathan Cirtain, senior heliophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "Because of the intense solar activity we're seeing right now, we were able to clearly focus on a sizeable, active sunspot and achieve our imaging goals."

The telescope acquired data at a rate of roughly one image every 5 seconds. Its resolution is approximately five times more detailed than the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument flying aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). For comparison, AIA can see structures on the sun's surface with the clarity of approximately 675 miles and observes the sun in 10 wavelengths of light. Hi-C can resolve features down to roughly 135 miles, but observed the sun in just one wavelength of light.

The high-resolution images were made possible because of a set of innovations on Hi-C's optics array. Hi-C's mirrors are approximately 9 1/2 inches across, roughly the same size as the SDO instrument's. The telescope includes some of the finest mirrors ever made for space-based instrumentation. The increase in resolution of the images captured by Hi-C is similar to making the transition in television viewing from a cathode ray tube TV to high definition TV.

Initially developed at Marshall, the final mirror configuration was completed with inputs from partners at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Mass., and a new manufacturing technique developed in coordination with L-3Com/Tinsley Laboratories of Richmond, Calif.

The high-quality optics were aligned to determine the spacing between the optics and the tilt of the mirror with extreme accuracy. Scientists and engineers from Marshall, SAO, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville worked to complete alignment of the mirrors, maintaining optic spacing to within a few ten-thousandths of an inch.

JAXA's Aquatic Habitat (AQH) on board the ISS

While aquariums provide a relaxing pastime for humans on Earth, recreation is not the goal behind the new Aquatic Habitat, or AQH, aboard the International Space Station.

Instead, researchers will use this unique facility to look at how microgravity impacts marine life.

Sponsored by the Japanese Space Agency, or JAXA, this habitat is a closed-water circulatory system, which provides a new facility option for station research. Scientists will use the habitat to study small, freshwater fish on orbit.

For the first investigations, they plan to examine the Medaka (Oryzias latipes) fish.

Scientists have multiple studies planned to look at the impacts of radiation, bone degradation, muscle atrophy, and developmental biology.

The investigations could last up to 90 days and provide data that may lead to a better understanding of related human health concerns here on Earth.

"We think studies on bone degradation mechanisms and muscle atrophy mechanisms are applicable to human health problems, especially for the aging society," said Nobuyoshi Fujimoto, associate senior engineer at JAXA's Space Environment Unitization Center.

Medaka fish are ideal specimens for many reasons. They are transparent, making it easy to view the inner workings of their organs. They also breed quickly and easily in microgravity environments, enabling multi-generation studies.

Researchers can take advantage of a variety of genetic modifications to these fish, as well. Finally, scientists already have all of the Medaka genome identified, which makes it easier to recognize any alterations to the fishes’ genes, due to factors like space radiation.

The habitat will reside in the Japanese Experiment Module, or JEM, which is also known as Kibo, or "hope" in Japanese. It will attach to a multi-purpose small payload rack for power and housing.

The AQH launched on July 20, with the third Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV cargo vehicle flight, also called Konotouri.

This facility includes an improved water circulation system that monitors water conditions, removing waste while ensuring proper pressure and oxygen flow rates. The system’s design upgrades are based on lessons learned from previous habitats that flew on space shuttle missions STS-47, STS-65, and STS-90.

"(In order) To keep water quality in good condition for the health of the fish, we had to do many tests on the filtration system, especially the bacteria filter," said Fujimoto. "The special bacteria filter purifies waste materials, such as ammonia, so that we can keep fish for up to 90 days. This capability will make it possible for egg-to-egg breeding aboard station, which means up to three generations may be born in orbit. This would be a first for fish in space."

This habitat will provide automatic feeding for the fish, air-water interface, temperature control, and a specimen sampling mechanism.

There will be two chambers for habitation, each sized at 15 by 7 by 7 cm, holding about 700 cc water and a stabilized area for oxygen that will enable fish to "peck" air.

LED lights will simulate day and night cycles, while two video cameras record images of the fish to downlink to the ground, upon request.

The air-water interface design also makes it possible for the AQH to potentially house amphibians in future studies, though currently planned investigations only use fish.

Small plastic plates at the upper side of each aquarium use a grid structure to trap a small amount of air, injected by the crew at the start of an investigation.

The design, which was tested using parabolic flights, prevents the water from escaping into the microgravity environment.

When researchers are ready for the fish to participate on orbit, they will travel in a special transport container to the station, where the crew will then install them within the habitat for observation.

While the AQH is not specifically an aquarium, hopefully the crew will enjoy a sense of relaxation in viewing the fish as they go about their duties aboard the orbiting laboratory.

NASA Cassini Image: Saturn's Moons - Giant Titan and tiny Tethys

The Cassini spacecraft watches a pair of Saturn's moons, showing the hazy orb of giant Titan beyond smaller Tethys. 

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing sides of Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across) and Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across).

The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 18, 2010. 

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 55 degrees. 

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Tethys and at a Sun-Tethys-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 55 degrees. 

Image scale is 15 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel on Titan and 6 miles (9 kilometers) per pixel on Tethys.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Copenhagen Suborbitals Launches SMARAGD-1 Rocket

Credit: Copenhagen Suborbitals 

The Danish private spaceflight group Copenhagen Suborbitals launched an homemade unmanned rocket Friday (July 27) to test spaceflight systems. 

The SMARAGD-1 rocket launched from the Sputnik launch platform in the Baltic Sea.

KOUNOTORI3 (HTV3) - Third Expedition to Space - YouTube

In this Japanese video the narrator states that the HTV is only means of providing the ISS crews with fuel and supplies, this is of course, untrue. The European (ESA) ATV and the Soyuz Progress module are still in operation. Progress has long been the most reliable vessel for uplifting astronauts and a key support provider of the ISS.

Kounotori, Japan's HTV3 berths with International Space Station

JAXA HTV-3 Kounotori, Docked with ISS.

HTV-3, a Japanese cargo ship carrying 3.5 tons of supplies successfully berthed with the International Space Station yesterday, six and a half days after it was launched.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba swung the orbiting outpost's robotic arm Canadarm2 to grab hold of the HTV3 spacecraft at 12.23 UT when it was flying high over the Indian Ocean.

Nasa Astronaut Joe Acaba
The space freighter, also known as Kounotori, meaning White Stork, was then drawn in to mate with the ISS's Harmony module where 16 bolts were connected and tightened to complete capture by 14.35 UT.

Acaba was assisted by fellow astronaut Akihiko (Aki) Hoshide, of the Japanese space agency JAXA during the HTV's critical approach to the station. They watched from the Cupola viewing room while at Canadarm2's controls.

The unmanned space craft had earlier moved in to wait at two pre-planned points below the ISS as final checks were made. An onboard laser sensor fired beams at reflectors attached to the bottom of the ISS to deliver precise positional information.

Then, with both the ISS and HTV speeding around the Earth at 27,700 km per hour, the bus-sized freighter moved to a distance of 10 metres ready to be grappled by the robotic arm.

As the moment approached, a NASA mission controller told the astronauts: "It looks beautiful from here. We are go for HTV3 capture."

HTV3 arrived carrying fresh food and supplies for the Expedition 32 crew aboard the space station, an aquarium or Aquatic Habitat (AQH) for fish that will follow on the next missions, a JEM-Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD), five CubeSats and the winning science experiments of the YouTube SpaceLab competition.

This Kounotori is the third HTV mission to the ISS. HTV1 demonstrated the craft's autonomous and remotely-controlled rendezvous capabilities in 2009. It was followed by HTV2 in January 2011 which delivered 6.7 tons of supplies to the ISS.

HTV3 will remain berthed to the space station until September when, having been loaded with rubbish, it will burn up in a controlled descent through the atmosphere.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mars Impact Crater and Ejecta - Image

This enhanced-colour image shows an impact crater and its ejecta and scientists claim it shows some of the best exposures of ancient bedrock on Mars. 

The different colours in this image each represent a different type of rock.

NASA ISS and CSA Canadarm over Aurora

This image was taken by Nasa astronaut Joe Acaba the flight engineer on board the International Space Station. 

The photograph, taken from an altitude of approximately 240 miles, shows the ISS Canadarm Two robot arm in the foreground with the Southern Lights in the background.

NASA WISE Image: The Flame Nebula

The Flame Nebula sits on the eastern hip of Orion the Hunter, a constellation most easily visible in the northern hemisphere during winter evenings.

This view of the nebula was taken by WISE, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

This image shows a vast cloud of gas and dust where new stars are being born.

Three familiar nebulae are visible in the central region: the Flame Nebula, the Horsehead Nebula and NGC 2023.

The Flame Nebula is the brightest and largest in the image. It is lit by a star inside it that is 20 times the mass of the sun and would be as bright to our eyes as the other stars in Orion's belt if it weren't for all the surrounding dust, which makes it appear 4 billion times dimmer than it actually is.

Video: Launch of SMARAGD-1 by Copenhagen Suborbitals

Watch live streaming video from csscph at livestream.com

This is it.. The launch of SMARAGD-1 by Copenhagen Suborbitals.
We are on the move to launch areas ESD139 in the Baltic Sea so we hope this long distance live feed will work from 3 AM NYC time.

NASA LandSat: Catastrophic growth of China’s megacities and Pollution levels

In 1973, NASA and United States Geological Survey’s Landsat 3 satellite took the image above of quiet, rural land (plant-covered land is red) along China’s Pearl River Delta. 

Six years later, in 1979, the region began to grow as China set up two economic zones north of Hong Kong. 

Then, 30 years later, in 2003, Landsat 7 satellite took this dramatic shot:


It’s a catastrophic urban shift, happening all over China, with an unsupportable increase in demand for natural resources and the associated suchoking rge in pollution levels.

You can see the booming urban areas in gray, a major contrast to the mostly red image from 1973.

In the image you can see part of Guangzhou, the most populous urban area in the region today with 12,700,000 people; Dongguan, an urban area with more than 8 million people; and Foshan with more than 7 million. As of 2010, the Pearl District Economic Zone had a population of 36 million.

You can see more before and after images from 10 other cities across the globe. Or, at The Atlantic Cities, check out Nate Berg’s slightly jarring animated GIF rendition of the urban shift.

PreDICT TB: Europeans fight Pulmonary Tuberculosis (TB) with innovative technique

A European team of scientists is working on making new tuberculosis treatments a reality by developing better diagnostic imaging technology. 

The study is supported by the PREDICT-TB ('Model-based preclinical development of anti-tuberculosis drug combinations') project, which has clinched almost EUR 14.8 million from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

IMI is a public-private partnership between the EU and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

The PREDICT-TB team is working together with the European pharmaceutical industry; the project's coordinator is the United Kingdom-based GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies.

Results will help the many patients suffering from this airborne infectious disease: almost 9 million people worldwide currently have tuberculosis.

The researchers are developing a set of in vitro and in vivo trials that will give them the information they need to make key decisions about effective treatments. They also plan to optimise the clinical studies of novel combinations of drugs to fight this disease.

'These data will, first, offer us an early evaluation of the efficiency of the combinations of drugs used to treat tuberculosis, and second, they will allow us to optimise the clinical studies with patients,' said Juan José Vaquero from the Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering Department at the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) in Spain, one of the PREDICT-TB partners.

The UC3M group is researching and developing the new preclinical imaging technology, and is working on methods for processing and analysing images for the assessment and follow-up of illness in animal models.

'We are going to develop new in vivo molecular image devices and also work on the synthesis of very specific probes for the biomarkers of this illness that have been identified by other partners in the consortium,' Professor José Vaquero said.

'We are collaborating very closely with GlaxoSmithKline, whose laboratories are going to use our equipment, as well as with specialists from the Infectious Disease and Microbiology Service of Gregorio Marañón University General Hospital in Madrid, who have a great deal of experience working with both the biology and the clinical aspects of tuberculosis. This facilitates the transformation of our results into clinical applications.'

The objective of UC3M, in the short term, is to develop a tomographic X-ray technique that screens quickly yet inexpensively.

This technique will give researchers the opportunity to keep an eye on the evolution of the disease and to determine how effective the treatments are in animal models.

The team's long-term objective team is to perfect this technique and make it more sensitive and specific.

Positron emission tomography (PET) will be included, a nuclear medicine imaging technique that generates a three-dimensional image for pictures of functional processes in the body. Quantitative measurements can be taken with this more sensitive technique.

The group also plans to introduce changes in imaging technology to ensure that better resolution is obtained. 'This way, with just one examination, we will be able to visualise the complete lung of a rat or guinea pig, with enough detail to detect the disease at its earliest possible stage,' Professor José Vaquero explained.

The PREDICT-TB project is pioneering research in tuberculosis by investigating the use of quantitative molecular imaging.

Each year, tuberculosis affects 5 million patients in developing countries. A cure is possible for only 60 % of them, and one of the biggest challenges in fighting tuberculosis is to ensure that patients are treated for 6 to 24 months. Both support and financing for trials are limited. For more information, please visit:

Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI): http://www.imi.europa.eu/

JAXA Space Special: HTV3 Launch - YouTube

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Recycle - A bicycle made of cardboard

If the weight of your bike frame is a chief concern, you can drop many thousands of dollars on a carbon fiber frame. Or you could talk to Izhar Gafni, an Isreali entrepreneur and rather obsessive tinkerer who has built a low-cost, good looking, functional and light road bike from cardboard.

We’ll let the well-produced video below tell the tale of the bike’s origin and development but first, consider the potential here to scale up production of such steeds.

Gafni figures the bike could be produced for about $12 in materials. That means the bike would retail for well under $100 — likely much closer to $50.

Sure, you can walk into a Walmart today and pick up a Huffy cruiser for $90. But that weighs about 45 pounds, compared to the featherweight cardboard bike.

As Inc.com notes, this could be a boon for companies that offer bikes as amenities, such as resorts. I also think it would make for great campus bikes for large corporations or warehouses.

For bike-sharing fleets, however, the cardboard might not be able to withstand the abuse that riders are sure to dish out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Soyuz TMA-05M rocket launch

The Soyuz TMA-05M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan July 15, 2012. 

A trio of Russian, Japanese and U.S. astronauts blasted off aboard a Soyuz spaceship on Sunday for a four-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS).

Credit: NASA/Reuters

NASA Landsat Images: The Longest Continuous View of Earth From Space

NASA and the Interior Department Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the Landsat program, the world’s longest-running Earth-observing satellite program. 

The first Landsat satellite was launched July 23, 1972, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The 40-year Landsat record provides global coverage that shows large-scale human activities such as building cities and farming.

The program is a sustained effort by the United States to provide direct societal benefits across a wide range of human endeavors, including human and environmental health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture.

Landsat images from space are not merely pictures. They contain many layers of data collected at different points along the visible and invisible light spectrum. A single Landsat scene taken from 400 miles above Earth can accurately detail the condition of hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland, agricultural crops or forests.

“Landsat has given us a critical perspective on our planet over the long term and will continue to help us understand the big picture of Earth and its changes from space,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “With this view we are better prepared to take action on the ground and be better stewards of our home.”

In cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a science agency of the Interior Department, NASA launched six of the seven Landsat satellites. The resulting archive of Earth observations forms a comprehensive record of human and natural land changes.

“Over four decades, data from the Landsat series of satellites have become a vital reference worldwide for advancing our understanding of the science of the land,” said Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar.

“The 40-year Landsat archive forms an indelible and objective register of America’s natural heritage and thus it has become part of this department’s legacy to the American people.”

Remote-sensing satellites such as the Landsat series help scientists to observe the world beyond the power of human sight, to monitor changes and to detect critical trends in the conditions of natural resources.

“With its entirely objective, long term records for the entire surface of the globe, the Landsat archive serves as the world’s free press, allowing any person, anywhere, to access vital information without charge,” said Interior’s Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science. “Landsat has been a game changer for agricultural monitoring, climate change research and water management.”

NASA is preparing to launch the next Landsat satellite, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), in February 2013 from Vandeberg. LDCM will be the most technologically advanced satellite in the Landsat series.

LDCM sensors take advantage of evolutionary advances in detector and sensor technologies to improve performance and increase reliability. LDCM will join Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites in Earth orbit to continue the Landsat data record.

“The first 40 years of the Landsat program have delivered the most consistent and reliable record of Earth’s changing landscape,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“We look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence with the even greater capacity and enhanced technologies of LDCM.”

NASA and USGS will highlight the accomplishments of the Landsat program in a televised news briefing 11 a.m. EDT, Monday at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, in Washington.

During the briefing, the agencies will announce the 10 most significant images from the Landsat record; the U.S. regions selected for the “My American Landscape” contest showing local environmental changes; and the top five Landsat “Earth As Art” images selected in an online poll.

The public is encouraged to participate in the briefing’s question-and-answer sessions by using the Twitter hashtag #asknasa.

NASA Television and the NASA website will provide live briefing coverage. For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For more information about the Landsat program, visit: http://landsat.usgs.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/landsat

Mice Return from Long Duration Spaceflight Experiment

Three mice have returned to Earth alive after 91 days in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The mice are being studied for evidence of long duration flight impact on their physiology.

One of the objectives of this experiment was to study the impact of microgravity on the reproductive organs. According to Joseph Tash from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, the reproductive organs are vulnerable to the damaging effects of radiation in space, especially if there is a solar flare event.

“It releases particles that cause a huge amount of radiation damage,” he says. Microgravity and stress may also interfere with sperm production, says Tash.

Maria Masini of the University of Genoa in Italy published in the PLOS Journal that the “sperm cell number was significantly reduced in spaceflight mouse epididymis (approx. −90% vs. laboratory and ground controls), indicating that the space environment may lead to degenerative changes in seminiferous tubules.”

These degenerative effects could be due not just to radiation damage, but to the lack of gravity as well. The natural external location of the testes provides a cooler environment in the presence of gravity and convection.

Without gravity the testes would sit closer to the body and without any air convection they would be at a higher temperature, which could impact sperm production in mammals.

The flight duration, 91 days, for these mice sets the record for the longest spaceflight duration of any non-human living animal to date.

These experimental studies demonstrate the biological consequences of reduced gravity and exposure to space radiation for a long duration spaceflight.

This knowledge will help researchers prepare countermeasures for astronauts on long duration flights as well as improve the treatment for conditions found on earth.

The research published in the PLOS Journal came to five primary findings including studies of space-induced changes of function of thyroid and testis, the effect of microgravity on skeletal muscles and bones, space anaemia, and the ageing process.

The experiment involved 6 mice, 3 of which survived the mission duration.The remaining mice were preserved and returned to Earth for further study.

Statistically speaking there are too few data points in order for the results to be statistically significant; however, early trends can be observed.

Experiments in the space environment with mammals will benefit many people on the ground and are necessary for future longer term space programs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Soyuz Progress (47P) M-15M Cargo Ship Fails to Dock with ISS

The Russian Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft, also known by its US designation of 47P, was set to dock to the International Space Station (ISS) for the second time at 9:57 PM EDT Monday night/1:57 AM GMT Tuesday morning, to test a new antenna for the Kurs automated rendezvous and docking system. However, a failure with the system has postponed the test until the 29th (1am UTC).

On July 22, the Progress M-15M cargo ship undocked from the International Space Station in preparation for a test of its new automated docking system, the Kurs-Na. It was supposed to use Kurs-Na to redock on July 23. It failed.

“The test was proceeding normally until about the time that the new Kurs-NA rendezvous system was to be engaged,” NASA officials said in a statement. “As commands were being issued to activate the Kurs system, a failure was annunciated, triggering a passive abort.”

Roscosmos has not announced the cause of the failure. The vessel has been maneuvered into a position that would allow for another attempt on July 29, after the Japanese HTV-3 resupply vessel is manually docked to the station.

Although Progress M-15M originally docked with ISS using the usual Kurs system when it first arrived in April, that system cannot be used this time. On May 9, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka disconnected Kurs in order to bring Kurs-Na online in preparation for this test.

If Roscosmos is unable to successfully dock the vessel using the Kurs-Na system, the vessel has already been prepared to leave the station. All cargo has been removed and its hold loaded with waste to be burned up in the atmosphere as soon as testing is complete.

The Kurs-Na system requires half as many antennae as the current system and is reported to require less power, has updated electronics, and improves safety. Russia may have another opportunity to test the system since Progress M-16M is scheduled to launch on August 1, just a few weeks away.

Progress M-16M is also known as Progress 48, since it is the 48th such resupply vessel to be launched. That vessel will not be relying on the new technology for its primary mission.

Astronomers' Capture Hercules Star Cluster

The hundreds of thousands of stars that make the mighty Hercules globular cluster shine bright in this astronomers' photo.

Astrophotography team Bob and Janice Fera took this image in May 18 and 20, 2012 from Eagle Ridge Observatory in Foresthill, Calif.

Also known as M13, this cluster has more than 100,000 stars that shine from about 25,000 light-years away. The brightest stars  are packed tightly at the core and sometimes slam into each other creating new stars called “blue stragglers.”

These blue stars shine a bluish-white because their core temperatures are extremely hot. Bright red stars found within the cluster are cooler because they are older stars that have expanded in size. These stars are often called ancient red giants.

The Feras used an Officina Stellare RC-360AST 14" f/8 Ritchey Chretien Cassegrain telescope with two-element field flattener to observe the M13 cluster. An Apogee Alta U16M CCD camera with Astrodon filters was used to capture the image.