Author: Exploring Space

Mystery of Black Hole Coronae Deepens

Saitami, Japan (SPX) Dec 18, 2018

Researchers from RIKEN and JAXA have used observations from the ALMA radio observatory located in northern Chile and managed by an international consortium including the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) to measure, for the first time, the strength of magnetic fields near two supermassive black holes at the centers of an important type of active galaxies.

Surprisingly, the
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Falcon 9 Launch

Falcon 9 Launch

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of Dece…

ISS – Expedition 57 Mission patch.

Dec. 17, 2018

Crew members aboard the International Space Station had a busy week of science and spacewalks as they prepared for the departure of veteran station residents Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev conducted a seven-hour, 45-minute spacewalk to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship docked to the station. The duo took detailed photos and captured video of some of the sealant on the outer hull of the Habitation Module used in the repair of a hole discovered inside the vehicle in August.

Image above: The three Expedition 57 crew members are gathered inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” for a portrait wearing t-shirts displaying their home in space. From left are Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency). The space station was orbiting nearly 253 miles above the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Here’s a look at some of the science conducted last week aboard the orbiting lab:

Crew tracks sleeping habits

In addition to studying alternative lighting options to improve sleeping habits in space, researchers are also examining changes in in circadian rhythms in humans during long-term spaceflight. The Circadian Rhythms investigation provides important insight into adaptations of the human autonomic nervous system in space over time, helps to improve physical exercise plans, rest- and work shifts and fosters adequate workplace illumination during future spaceflight.

This week, a crewmember donned the wearable hardware and initiated the data collection. The hardware is to be worn for three days. Learn more about how we study sleep in space here:

Investigation studies muscle loss in space

In space, the human body loses muscle mass. Although living in microgravity requires no heavy lifting, this loss of muscle reduces physical performance. Decreased muscle mass could also prove particularly problematic on future missions to destinations such as the Moon or Mars. Molecular Muscle aims to understand how this loss occurs so scientists will know more about how to keep astronauts strong.

Image above: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst inserts sample cartridges for the Molecular Muscle investigation into the Kubik centrifuge facility. Image Credit: NASA.

This investigation examines the mechanisms behind muscle loss at the molecular level, and the potential for developing countermeasures targeting those mechanisms. It looks specifically at the activity of genes involved in insulin signaling and cell attachment. Previous research shows that spaceflight affects this activity, leading to muscular and metabolic abnormalities in a variety of organisms.

This week, crew members inserted samples into the Kubik facility, photographed the samples and conducted a status check of the experiment run.

Stems cells tested against microgravity environment

Understanding stem cell growth in microgravity is an important concept of space-based biophysiology, as microgravity has been show to affect all such systems. The STaARS BioScience-4 investigation examines how oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) react to microgravity, specifically the rate at which the cells proliferate and differentiate in the microgravity environment. OPCs are precursors to a type of central nervous system cells and results may help to improve neural stem cell studies, including those on tissue regrowth and organ farming.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain activated NanoRacks Module-74, Hydrogel Formation and Drug Release in Microgravity Conditions. Animation Credit: NASA.

This week, crew members processed samples in the STaARS facility, then removed and stowed them in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory for ISS (MELFI).

Crew studies plants response to microgravity

Plants are likely to make up a large part of future bio-regenerative life support systems, used to sustain crew survival during future long-duration spaceflight. The molecular mechanisms behind spaceflight-induced stress responses in plants remains poorly defined.

When grown in the microgravity environment of the space station, plants do not seem to get enough air and as a result, exhibit a stress response in their genes and proteins. The Spaceflight-induced Hypoxic/ROS Signaling (APEX-05) experiment grows different wild and mutant varieties of Arabidopsis thaliana, in order to understand how their genetic and molecular stress response systems work in space.

This week, the APEX-05 petri plates were inserted into the Veggie Facility.

Image above: Petri plates for the APEX-05 investigation were inserted into the Veggie plant growth facility this week. Image Credit: NASA.

Other work was done on these investigations:

– The MVP facility is used to conduct research with a wide variety of sample types, such as fruit flies, flatworms, plants, fish, cells, protein crystals and many others. It includes internal carousels that simultaneously can produce up to 2 g of artificial gravity.  MVP Cell-05 investigates the complex process of cement solidification at gravity levels of interest:

– Behavioral Core Measures examines an integrated, standardized suite of measurements for its ability to rapidly and reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders during long-duration spaceflight:

– Rodent Research-8 (RR-8) examines the physiology of aging and the effect of age on disease progression using groups of young and old mice flown in space and kept on Earth. This week, crew members prepared for the arrival of the mice by installing two habitats and stowing habitats used in previous investigations:

– Hydrogels are often used for tissue regeneration purposes due to their high water content and how easily they can be customized.  Hydrogel Formation and Drug Release in Microgravity Conditions takes advantage of reduced fluid motion in microgravity to more precisely study behavior of the gel and its potential as a wound-healing patch:

– The Made In Space Fiber Optics-2 investigation demonstrates the merits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in microgravity. The fiber optic material chosen for this demonstration is ZBLAN:

– On Earth, oil floats above water due to the liquids’ different densities. NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Oil Bubbles explores whether microgravity affects this mixing phenomenon in space:

Space to Ground: A Second Chance: 12/14/2018

Related links:

Expedition 57:

Soyuz MS-09:

Circadian Rhythms:

Molecular Muscle:

STaARS BioScience-4:



Veggie Facility:

MVP Cell-05:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 57/58.

Best regards,
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NASA Sends CubeSats to Space on First Dedicate…

Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand (SPX) Dec 16, 2018

A series of new CubeSats now are in space, conducting a variety of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, following launch Sunday of Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract.

An Electron rocket lifted off at 1:33 a.m. EST (7:33 p.m. NZDT) from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, marking the f
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Efence – Spaceflight

Efence – Spaceflight

NASA Research Reveals Saturn is Losing Its Rin…

Greenbelt MD (SPX) Dec 18, 2018

New NASA research confirms that Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 and 2 observations made decades ago. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field.

“We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming p
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People viewing the Falcon 9 Launch

People viewing the Falcon 9 Launch

Las Cumbres builds new instrument to study Dec…

Goleta CA (SPX) Dec 17, 2018

A special visitor is crossing the sky this December: Comet 46P/Wirtanen, sighted with telescopes and binoculars in recent weeks, is on the way to its closest approach to Earth this weekend, when it might become visible to the naked eye.

“Comet 46P/Wirtanen has been a popular proposed target comet for several spacecraft missions. This has resulted in intensive observation campaigns from the
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Hubble Goes Deep

NASA – Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 17, 2018

This image from the Hubble Deep UV (HDUV) Legacy Survey encompasses 12,000 star-forming galaxies in a part of the constellation Fornax known as the GOODS-South field. With the addition of ultraviolet light imagery, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured the largest panoramic view of the fire and fury of star birth in the distant universe.

Hubble’s ultraviolet vision opens up a new window on the evolving universe, tracking the birth of stars over the last 11 billion years up to the busiest star-forming period in the cosmos, which happened about three billion years after the big bang.

So far, ultraviolet light has been the missing piece of the cosmic puzzle. Now, combined with data in infrared and visible light from Hubble and other space- and ground-based telescopes, astronomers have assembled the most comprehensive portrait yet of the universe’s evolutionary history. The image straddles the gap between the very distant galaxies, which can only be viewed in infrared light, and closer galaxies, which can be seen across different wavelengths. The light from distant star-forming regions in remote galaxies started out as ultraviolet, but the expansion of the universe has shifted the light into infrared wavelengths. By comparing images of star formation in the distant and nearby universe, astronomers can get a better understanding of how nearby galaxies grew from small clumps of hot, young stars long ago.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

The observation program harnessed the ultraviolet vision of Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. This study extends and builds on the previous Hubble multi-wavelength data in the CANDELS-Deep (Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey) fields within the central part of the GOODS (Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey) fields. This mosaic is 14 times the area of the Hubble Ultraviolet Ultra Deep Field released in 2014.

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Karl Hille.

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Narrowing the universe in the search for life

Columbus OH (SPX) Dec 18, 2018

Humankind’s exploration of space has for years pondered one central question: Is there another world somewhere in the universe where human beings could survive?

And as astrophysicists and astronomers have searched for the answer, they’ve traditionally looked for a world that has water.

But Wendy Panero, professor of earth sciences at The Ohio State University, has developed a new way
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