Category: Space



Full Moon (desktop/laptop)Click the image to …

Full Moon (desktop/laptop)

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In the Heart of the Heart Nebula : What&rsquo…

In the Heart of the Heart Nebula : What’s that inside the Heart Nebula? First, the large emission nebula dubbed IC 1805 looks, in whole, like a human heart. It’s shape perhaps fitting of the Valentine’s Day, this heart glows brightly in red light emitted by its most prominent element: hydrogen. The red glow and the larger shape are all created by a small group of stars near the nebula’s center. In the heart of the Heart Nebula are young stars from the open star cluster Melotte 15 that are eroding away several picturesque dust pillars with their energetic light and winds. The open cluster of stars contains a few bright stars nearly 50 times the mass of our Sun, many dim stars only a fraction of the mass of our Sun, and an absent microquasar that was expelled millions of years ago. The Heart Nebula is located about 7,500 light years away toward the constellation of the mythological Queen of Aethiopia (Cassiopeia). via NASA

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of Augu…

ISS – Expedition 56 Mission patch.

Aug. 11, 2018

The crew members aboard the International Space Station spent this week conducting science, helping out with student robotic competitions, and preparing for next week’s Russian spacewalk when cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the station’s Russian segment for about six hours of science and maintenance tasks.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Read more details about scientific work last week aboard your orbiting laboratory:

SPHERES investigations soar through the station

Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), three free-flying, bowling-ball sized spherical satellites used inside the space station to test a set of well-defined instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers, are used for a variety of investigations aboard the orbiting lab.

The SPHERES-Zero-Robotics investigation provides an opportunity for high school students to conduct research aboard the station. As part of a competition, students write algorithms for the satellites to accomplish tasks relevant to potential future missions. The most promising designs are selected to operate the SPHERES satellites aboard the station as a part of the competition.

Animation above: Two of the free-flying spherical robots used by the SPHERES investigations. SPHERES-Zero-Robotics gives students the chance to develop software
to guide robots through a virtual obstacle course aboard the space station. Animation Credit: NASA.

This week, the crew members conducted dry runs in preparation for the final competition, which occurred Friday.

The SPHERES Tether Slosh investigation combines fluid dynamics equipment with robotic capabilities aboard the station. In space, the fuels used by spacecraft can slosh around in unpredictable ways making space maneuvers difficult. This investigation uses two SPHERES robots tethered to a fluid-filled container covered in sensors to test strategies for safely steering spacecraft such as dead satellites that might still have fuel in the tank.

This week, crew members set up the hardware and cameras before executing an experiment run.

Crew members use sextant to identify stars for use in future navigation

A tool that has helped guide sailors across oceans for centuries is now being tested aboard the station as a potential emergency navigation tool for guiding future spacecraft across the cosmos. The Sextant Navigation investigation tests use of a hand-held sextant aboard the space station.

Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sextants have been used by sailors for centuries, and NASA’s Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. Designers built a sextant into Apollo vehicles as a navigation backup in the event the crew lost communications from their spacecraft, and Jim Lovell demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home. Astronauts conducted additional sextant experiments on Skylab.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor conducting a star identification session as a part of the Sextant Navigation investigation. Animation Credit: NASA.

This week, the crew calibrated the sextant and performed the second star identification and sighting session of the investigation with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. This session placed an emphasis on position stabilization and sighting.

For more information about the investigation, click here:

Investigation studies how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with electrical conductor; sample exchanges begin

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) MagVector investigation studies how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with an electrical conductor. Using extremely sensitive magnetic sensors placed around and above a conductor, researchers gain insight into ways that the magnetic field influences how conductors work. This research not only helps improve future experiments aboard the station and other electrical experiments, but it could offer insights into how magnetic fields influence electrical conductors in general, the backbone of our technology on Earth.

This week, crew members performed the last set of planned sample exchanges.

Replacements completed in preparation for CLD Flames

The Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME) investigation is a set of five independent studies of gaseous flames to be conducted in the Combustion Integration Rack (CIR), one of which being Coflow Laminar Diffusion Flame (CLD Flame). ACME’s goals are to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth and to improve spacecraft fire prevention through innovative research focused on materials flammability.

Image above: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst working within the CIR on the ACME CLD Flame investigation. Image Credit: NASA.

This week, the crew replaced the CIR manifold bottles and an ACME controller in support of the second part of CLD Flames.

Space to Ground: A Star to Steer By: 08/10/2018

Other work was done on these investigations: CEO, Story Time From Space, Food Acceptability, SPHERES, Fluid Shifts, ACME CLD-Flame, Angiex Cancer Therapy, Microbial Tracking-2, Barrios PCG, Chemical Gardens, MSG, SABL, Manufacturing Device, Cold Atom Lab, CASIS PCG-13, BEST, and BCAT-CS.

Related links:

European Space Agency (ESA):

Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES):


SPHERES Tether Slosh:

Sextant Navigation:


Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME):

Combustion Integration Rack (CIR):

Coflow Laminar Diffusion Flame (CLD Flame):


Story Time From Space:

Food Acceptability:

Fluid Shifts:

Angiex Cancer Therapy:

Microbial Tracking-2:

Barrios PCG:

Chemical Gardens:



Manufacturing Device:

Cold Atom Lab:




Spot the Station:

Expedition 56:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Yuri Guinart-Ramirez, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 55 & 56.

Best regards,
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Monoceros Constellation (desktop/laptop)Click…

Monoceros Constellation (desktop/laptop)

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NASA postpones for 24 hours launch of historic…

Tampa (AFP) Aug 11, 2018

NASA postponed until Sunday the launch of the first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the Sun on a mission to plunge into our star’s sizzling atmosphere and unlock its mysteries.

The reason for the delay was not immediately clear, but was called for after a gaseous helium alarm was sounded in the last moments before liftoff, officials said.

Engineers are taking utmost caution with t
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NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy o…

NASA – ICESat-2 Mission patch.

August 10, 2018

A single season of drought in the Amazon rainforest can reduce the forest’s carbon dioxide absorption for years after the rains return, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. This is the first study to quantify the long-term legacy of an Amazon drought.

A research team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and other institutions used satellite lidar data to map tree damage and mortality caused by a severe drought in 2005. In years of normal weather, the undisturbed forest can be a natural carbon “sink,” absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it puts back into it. But starting with the drought year of 2005 and running through 2008 – the last year of available lidar data – the Amazon basin lost an average of 0.27 petagrams of carbon (270 million metric tons) per year, with no sign of regaining its function as a carbon sink.

Image above: This image, taken during a September 2010 drought, shows a line of dead and damaged trees after a surface fire in the Amazon rainforest in western Brazil. When dryer-than-normal conditions exist, fires from the open edges encroach on the forests and burn dry and stressed trees. Under normal conditions, when the rainforests are wetter, this is far less common. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

At about 2.3 million square miles (600 million hectares), the Amazon is the largest tropical forest on Earth. Scientists estimate that it absorbs as much as one-tenth of human fossil fuel emissions during photosynthesis. “The old paradigm was that whatever carbon dioxide we put up in [human-caused] emissions, the Amazon would help absorb a major part of it,” said Sassan Saatchi of NASA’s JPL, who led the study.

But serious episodes of drought in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are causing researchers to rethink that idea. “The ecosystem has become so vulnerable to these warming and episodic drought events that it can switch from sink to source depending on the severity and the extent,” Saatchi said. “This is our new paradigm.”

Drought from the Ground

For scientists on the ground in the Amazon, “The first thing we see during a drought is that the trees may lose their leaves,” Saatchi said. “These are rainforests; the trees almost always have leaves. So the loss of leaves is a strong indication the forest is stressed.” Even if trees eventually survive defoliation, this damages their capacity to absorb carbon while under stress.

Observers on the ground also notice that droughts tend to disproportionately kill tall trees first. Without adequate rainfall, these giants can’t pump water more than 100 feet up from their roots to their leaves. They die from dehydration and eventually fall to the ground, leaving gaps in the forest canopy far overhead.

Image above: This image, taken during a September 2010 drought, shows a dead tree in the Amazon rainforest in western Brazil. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

But any observer on the ground can monitor only a tiny part of the forest. There are only about hundred plots used for research and a few tower sites for long-term monitoring of the Amazon forests. “The detailed measurements in these sites are extremely important for understanding forest function, but we can never use them to say what this giant ecosystem is doing in a timely fashion,” Saatchi said. To do that, he and his colleagues turned to satellite data.

Drought from Space

The research team used high-resolution lidar maps derived from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System aboard the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). These data reveal changes in canopy structure, including leaf damage and gaps. The researchers developed a new method of analysis to convert these structural changes into changes in aboveground biomass and carbon. They eliminated pixels showing burned or deforested areas to calculate the carbon impact of drought on intact forests alone.

They found that following drought, fallen trees, defoliation and canopy damage produced a significant loss in canopy height, with the most severely impacted region declining an average of about 35 inches (0.88 meters) in the year after the drought. Less severely affected regions of the forest declined less, but all continued to decline steadily throughout the remaining years of the data record.

Image above: This image, based on measurements taken by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), shows the areas of the Amazon basin that were affected by the severe 2005 drought. Areas in yellow, orange, and red experienced light, moderate, and severe drought, respectively. Green areas did not experience drought. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Google.

Saatchi noted that half of the forest’s rainfall is made by the forest itself – water that transpires and evaporates from the vegetation and ground, rises into the atmosphere, and condenses and rains out during the dry season and the transition to the wet season. A drought that kills forest trees thus not only increases carbon emissions, it reduces rainfall and extends dry-season length. Those changes increase the likelihood of future drought.

If droughts continue to occur with the frequency and severity of the last three events in 2005, 2010 and 2015, Saatchi said, the Amazon could eventually change from a rainforest to a dry tropical forest. That would reduce the forest’s carbon absorption capacity and its biological diversity.

Image above: NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat): Image Credits: NASA/JLP-Caltech.

The paper in Nature is titled “Post-drought Decline of the Amazon Carbon Sink.” Co-authors are affiliated with UCLA, Boston University, Oregon State University in Corvallis, and the U.S. Forest Service’s International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

Related link:

Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Esprit Smith/NASA’s Earth Science News Team, written by Carol Rasmussen.

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