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  • richardmitnick 8:47 pm on December 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Epsilon-2, JAXA, ,   

    From NASA SpaceFlight: “Epsilon-2 rocket set to launch Japanese ERG mission” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    NASA Spaceflight

    December 19, 2016
    William Graham

    Japan’s Epsilon rocket will make its second flight Tuesday, tasked with orbiting JAXA’s ERG satellite to study Earth’s radiation belts. Liftoff from the Uchinoura Space Centre is scheduled for 20:00 local time (11:00 UTC), the opening of an hour-long launch window.

    Epsilon-2 Mission:

    The Exploration of Energisation and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) mission will be operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), studying Earth’s magnetosphere.


    Also known as SPRINT-B, ERG is a 365-kilogram (805 lb) satellite based on JAXA’s SPRINT bus, which was demonstrated by 2013’s Hisaki – or SPRINT-A – mission. The spacecraft measures 1.5 by 1.5 by 2.7 meters (4.9 x 4.9 x 8.9 feet) in its launch configuration.

    Once in orbit, ERG will deploy its instrument booms and solar arrays. With a span of 6.0 meters (19.7 feet) along the satellite’s x-axis and 5.2 m (17.1 ft) meters along its y-axis, the solar panels will generate over 700 watts of power for the spacecraft’s systems and instruments.

    Following initial operation and testing, ERG is expected to operate for at least a year.

    The ERG satellite carries instruments dedicated to the study of plasma, particles, waves and fields in Earth’s radiation belts.

    Earth’s radiation belts were discovered by James Van Allen’s experiments aboard the first US satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958 although their existence had previously been theorized by other scientists.


    As a result, the belts are known as the Van Allen belts.

    Earth has two permanent radiation belts, the inner and outer Van Allen belts, although NASA’s Van Allen Probes, or Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), which were launched in August 2012, showed that a third belt can form and dissipate.

    RBSP. http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/missions-projects/quick-facts-rbsp/

    ERG will join NASA’s two Van Allen Probes and three earlier Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions During Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft in making in-situ observations of the Van Allen belts. These will be joined by the UA Air Force Research Laboratory’s DSX satellite, currently scheduled for launch aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket next year.

    ERG’s Plasma and Particle Experiment (PPE) instrument suite consists of electron and ion mass analyzers. The Low Energy Particle Experiments – Electron Analyser (LEP-e), Medium Energy Particle Experiments – Electron Analyser (MEP-e), High Energy Electron Experiments (HEP) and Extremely High Energy Electron Experiments (XEP) instruments will study electrons at increasing energies between 10 electronvolts and 20 megaelectronvolts.

    Low Energy Particle Experiments – Ion Mass Analyser (LEP-i) and Medium Energy Particle Experiments – Ion Mass Analyser (MEP-i) are mass spectrometers which will be used to study the different types of ions present in ERG’s environment.

    The Plasma Wave Experiment (PWE) will measure the Earth’s electric and magnetic fields as the satellite passes through them, up to frequencies of 10 megahertz and 100 kilohertz respectively.

    This will be complimented by the Software-Type Wave Particle Interaction Analyser (S-WPIA), software aboard ERG’s computer systems, will attempt to quantify energy transferred between waves and electrons through the spacecraft’s observations of plasma waves and particles.

    ERG will launch atop JAXA’s solid-fuelled Epsilon rocket, which made its first flight in September 2013 and has not flown since.

    A replacement for the earlier M-V rocket, which retired in September 2006, Epsilon is designed to provide a ride to orbit for Japan’s smaller satellites. Epsilon uses an SRB-A3 motor – used as a strap-on booster on the larger H-IIA and H-IIB rockets – as its first stage with upper stages derived from the M-V.

    Epsilon launches from the Uchinoura – formerly Kagoshima – Space Centre, using the same launch pad from which the M-V flew.

    Also used by earlier members of the Mu family of rockets – of which the M-V was the final member – the complex was originally constructed in the 1960s.

    It consists of an assembly tower with the rocket mounted upon a movable launcher platform which is rotated into position ahead of launch. This was originally built as a rail launcher for the Mu series, however a pedestal has been added for Epsilon with the former support structure for the rail serving as an umbilical tower.

    Tuesday’s launch will be the first flight of the operational or “Enhanced Epsilon” configuration, introducing improvements to the upper stages over those used on the maiden flight.

    The vehicle has been described as “Epsilon-2”, however it is presently unclear whether this name refers to the enhanced configuration, or to Tuesday’s launch being Epsilon’s second flight.

    Epsilon’s launch will begin with first stage ignition and liftoff, when the countdown reaches zero. The rocket will fly in a south-easterly direction, along an azimuth of 100 degrees. Its first stage will burn for 109 seconds, accelerating the vehicle to a velocity of 2.5 kilometers per second (5,600 mph). At burnout, Epsilon will be at an altitude of 71 kilometers (44 miles, 38 nautical miles) and 75 kilometers (47 miles, 40 nautical miles) downrange.

    After the end of the first stage burn, Epsilon will enter a coast phase as it ascends into space. Around 41 seconds after burnout, at an altitude of 115 kilometers (71.5 miles, 62.1 nautical miles), the payload fairing will separate from the nose of the rocket. Eleven seconds later the spent first stage will be jettisoned.

    Epsilon-2 has an M-35 second stage, in place of the M-34c used on the maiden flight. The new stage is larger than its predecessor and has a fixed nozzle instead of the extendible nozzle used on the M-34c. The M-35 generates 445 kilonewtons of thrust, an increase from the 327 kilonewtons generated by the M-34c, and burns for fifteen seconds longer.

    The second stage will ignite four seconds after first stage separation, burning for two minutes and eight seconds.

    A second coast phase will take place between second stage burnout and third stage ignition. One minute and forty-five seconds after burning out, the second stage will separation, with the third stage igniting four seconds later. During the coast phase the third stage will be spun-up; spin-stabilisation is used to help it maintain attitude during its burn.

    For Tuesday’s launch the third stage has also been upgraded, with Epsilon-2 using a KM-V2c instead of the KM-V2b that flew on the 2013 launch. This uses a fixed nozzle instead of an extendible one, but has no significant difference in performance. The third stage will burn for about 89 seconds.

    Epsilon can fly with a liquid-fuelled fourth stage, the Compact Liquid Propulsion System (CLPS), which was used on its first launch. This is not required for Tuesday’s launch, so instead the rocket is flying in its all-solid three-stage configuration for the first time.

    Spacecraft separation is scheduled for thirteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds after liftoff; five minutes and sixteen seconds after third stage burnout.

    Tuesday’s launch is targeting an elliptical orbit with a perigee – the point closest to Earth – of 219 kilometers (136 miles, 118 nautical miles) and an apogee – or highest point – of 33,200 kilometers (20,600 miles, 17,900 nautical miles).

    The orbit will have inclination of 31.4 degrees to the equator, with the satellite taking about 580 minutes – or 9.7 hours – to complete one revolution.

    Tuesday’s launch is Japan’s fourth and last of 2016, following H-IIA missions in February and November which deployed the Hitomi observatory and the Himawari 9 weather satellite – and an H-IIB launch earlier this month with the Kounotori 6 spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station.

    Japan’s next launch, currently scheduled for 11 January, will be an experimental flight which aims to use a modified SS-520 sounding rocket to orbit a single three-unit CubeSat. An H-IIA launch carrying the DSN-2 communications satellite is also scheduled for January.

    The next Epsilon launch will carry the ASNARO-2 experimental radar imaging satellite. This is expected to occur during Japan’s 2017 financial year, which begins on 1 April.

    ASNARO-1 Satellite. http://spaceflight101.com/spacecraft/asnaro-1/

    (Images via JAXA)

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:46 am on August 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A quest for redemption, , , JAXA, What is the future?   

    From Nature: “Troubled Japanese space agency seeks fresh start” 

    Nature Mag

    29 July 2016
    Alexandra Witze

    JAXA/Hitomi telescope
    JAXA/Hitomi telescope. The Hitomi X-ray astronomy satellite launched in February, but broke up in space after a month. Asahi Shimbun/Getty

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is on a quest for redemption. In March, a software error caused the agency’s Hitomi X-ray astronomy satellite to break up in space, cutting short a planned three-year mission after only one month.

    Now JAXA is considering whether to rebuild and relaunch a copy of the spacecraft’s key instrument — a US-built X-ray spectrometer — with help from NASA. On 5 August, representatives of the two space agencies will meet to discuss the possibility of resurrecting the instrument that was the heart of Hitomi’s science. But whether JAXA can regain the confidence of the Japanese nation, and of its international partners, remains to be seen.

    Space experts note that JAXA has pulled off stunning recoveries before. It coaxed its crippled Hayabusa spacecraft to bring back dust from an asteroid, and nudged its Akatsuki probe into orbit around Venus 5 years after an engine failure seemed to render the spacecraft useless.

    JAXA/Hayabusa 2
    JAXA/Hayabusa 2


    “It’s important to note how resourceful JAXA has been at recovering from failures that typically would be catastrophic,” says Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and co-author of the book Space System Failures (Praxis, 2005).

    Hitomi broke apart because an erroneous software command prompted the spacecraft to spin faster and faster, until its solar panels flew off into space. A JAXA investigation blamed faulty project-management techniques for not catching the error.

    The failure has reverberated at every level of JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) in Sagamihara, which managed Hitomi. JAXA president Naoki Okumura was one of three leading officials who took a 10% pay cut for four months “to express our regret and caution ourselves”, he said in a June press conference. He has also ordered a systems review of the institute’s next big project: a mission to study Earth’s radiation belts that is slated to launch in the coming months.

    Before Hitomi, JAXA’s lowest point was perhaps the loss of its Nozomi mission to Mars, which sailed past the red planet in 2003 without entering orbit as it was supposed to. The same year, a new JAXA rocket design failed during a test launch, prompting a review of all agency projects.


    Try, try again

    Some have questioned whether JAXA is trying to do too much with too little. It often assigns one person to cover a number of tasks that NASA would spread among multiple project engineers, says Lorenz, who collaborates on the Akatsuki Venus probe.

    Okumura has acknowledged as much, saying that ISAS will generally develop a mission using a small in-house team, along with the spacecraft manufacturer. By contrast, Hitomi involved a larger number of complex systems. There were simply not enough safeguards built into the process to catch the software error. “The previously conventional ISAS methods were not necessarily suited for the production of modern satellites and spacecraft,” Okumura said.

    JAXA has released an extraordinary level of technical detail about the failure. Agency officials have said that because Hitomi was meant as a community mission to serve X-ray astronomers across the globe, they feel obligated to explain what happened so that nobody makes the same mistake.

    Because of this determination and openness, “I think Hitomi’s successor is in safe hands with JAXA,” says Elizabeth Tasker, an astrophysicist at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

    But such projects may be a hard sell to politicians. “High-profile setbacks like Nozomi and Hitomi make it difficult for JAXA to justify big-ticket science missions in today’s political atmosphere,” says Saadia Pekkanen, an expert in Japanese space policy at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    JAXA has not yet decided whether a Hitomi successor would fly or which instruments it would carry, says ISAS spokeswoman Chisato Ikuta. But Hitomi’s premier scientific instrument was the spectrometer provided by NASA; data that it collected before the spacecraft died revealed secrets about gas flows in the Perseus galaxy cluster.

    The spectrometer seems to be thrice cursed; two earlier versions on different satellites were lost to a launch failure and a coolant leakage. Even so, a NASA advisory group reported on 5 July that launching a copy of the instrument no later than 2023 “would fulfill the immense scientific promise of the Hitomi” spectrometer. The cost to rebuild would be roughly US$70 million to $90 million.

    Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics director, will meet with JAXA representatives to discuss the options. “Certainly we would not be overseeing JAXA,” he told a NASA advisory committee on 20 July. “We can discuss practices that NASA implements to prevent us from making avoidable mistakes.”

    Other international missions in the works from JAXA include a magnetospheric orbiter, which is scheduled to launch next year on the European Space Agency’s BepiColumbo mission to Mercury.

    “The Olympics of engineering is when things go wrong,” says Lorenz. “Maybe the best time to fly is right after a failure.”

    See the full article here .

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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

  • richardmitnick 11:35 am on February 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , JAXA   

    From DLR: “DLR and JAXA strengthen cooperation” 

    DLR Bloc

    German Aerospace Center

    25 February 2016
    Andreas Schütz
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Head, Media Relations Section
    Tel.: +49 2203 601-2474
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249

    On 25 February 2016, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) signed an ‘Inter Agency Arrangement for Strategic Partnership’ at the German Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. With this arrangement, both partners intend to jointly undertake the new role of space agencies and significantly contribute to the advancement of the world’s space development.

    The German Ambassador to Japan, Hans Carl von Werther, welcomed the arrangement: “Germany and Japan are highly technological nations that cooperate closely in research and science. The strategic partnership between DLR and JAXA agreed upon today will strengthen both countries.”

    The arrangement was signed by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, and Naoki Okumura, President of JAXA. “The scientific and technical cooperation between Germany and Japan is characterised by high levels of excellence and expertise in tackling common global challenges,” says Ehrenfreund, adding: “Japan is among DLR’s most important partner countries. With this new cooperation arrangement, we want to further strengthen our strategic partnership with JAXA by intensifying not only the current scientific and technical cooperation, but also the cultural exchange between our two research institutions.”

    “Recently, the space development environment has changed significantly with, for example, the rise of the private sector and increasing space development and utilisation by emerging countries. With this arrangement, JAXA aims to build a new role for national space agencies with DLR, with whom we have enjoyed working together as leaders in the space sector. I am confident that we will be able to provide better and more effective value for society through a strategic partnership between both space agencies, which pursue high technology solutions and have excellent human resources. This can be achieved by complementing each other sharing and exploiting synergies,” says Okumura

    At present, various DLR institutes are collaborating with 18 scientific institutions and universities in Japan as part of of more than 30 aerospace projects. These are in the areas of, for example, Earth observation and planetary science, space robotics, aircraft design and atmospheric research. In addition, services in support of government and industry are provided.

    The main goals of the arrangement are:

    the development and utilisation of aerospace technologies to provide solutions to global societal challenges
    the development of substantial joint work on research and development projects and missions
    the development of synergies in German-Japanese cooperation, thereby strengthening the competitiveness of both countries

    In this context, DLR and JAXA intend to collaborate in the area of Space Utilisation and R&D with for example, L- and X-band radar technologies for Earth observation, work together in disaster management, and conduct research into reusable launchers. Another important area is the exploration of the Solar System; at present, the DLR MASCOT lander is on board the JAXA Hayabusa 2 spacecraft, en route to asteroid Ryugu previously 1999 JU3), where it will land after 2018 and explore its surface. Germany and Japan also utilise the International Space Station (ISS) intensively to answer questions in the fields of medicine, materials science and fundamental research.

    DLR MASCOT Lander for JAXA
    DLR/MASCOT Lander

    NAOJ Hayabusa 2
    JAXA/Hayabusa 2 spacecraft

    Germany and Japan also utilise the International Space Station (ISS) intensively to answer questions in the fields of medicine, materials science and fundamental research.

    Industrial cooperation between the two countries will also be intensified.

    See the full article here .

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    DLR Center

    DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

    DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.

  • richardmitnick 3:56 pm on January 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From Symmetry: “A speed trap for dark matter” 


    Manuel Gnida

    Analyzing the motion of X-ray sources could help researchers identify dark matter signals.

    Temp 1
    ASTRO-H, an X-ray satellite of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

    Dark matter or not dark matter? That is the question when it comes to the origin of intriguing X-ray signals scientists have found coming from space.

    In a theory paper published today in Physical Review Letters, scientists have suggested a surprisingly simple way of finding the answer: by setting up a speed trap for the enigmatic particles.

    Eighty-five percent of all matter in the universe is dark: It doesn’t emit light, nor does it interact much with regular matter other than through gravity.

    The nature of dark matter remains one of the biggest mysteries of modern physics. Most researchers believe that the invisible substance is made of fundamental particles, but so far they’ve evaded detection. One way scientists hope to prove their particle assumption is by searching the sky for energetic light that would emerge when dark matter particles decayed or annihilated each other in space.

    Over the past couple of years, several groups analyzing data from two X-ray satellites—the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra X-ray space observatories—reported the detection of faint X-rays with a well-defined energy of 3500 electronvolts (3.5 keV).

    ESA XMM Newton

    NASA Chandra Telescope

    The signal emanated from the center of the Milky Way; its nearest neighbor galaxy, Andromeda; and a number of galaxy clusters.

    Andromeda Galaxy. Adam Evans

    Some scientists believe it might be a telltale sign of decaying dark matter particles called sterile neutrinos—hypothetical heavier siblings of the known neutrinos produced in fusion reactions in the sun, radioactive decays and other nuclear processes. However, other researchers argue that there could be more mundane astrophysical origins such as hot gases.

    There might be a straightforward way of distinguishing between the two possibilities, suggest researchers from Ohio State University and the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology [KIPAC], a joint institute of Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    It involves taking a closer look at the Doppler shifts of the X-ray signal. The Doppler effect is the shift of a signal to higher or lower frequencies depending on the relative velocity between the signal source and its observer. It’s used, for instance, in roadside speed traps by the police, but it could also help astrophysicists “catch” dark matter particles.

    “On average, dark matter moves differently than gas,” says study co-author Ranjan Laha from KIPAC. “Dark matter has random motion, whereas gas rotates with the galaxies to which it is confined. By measuring the Doppler shifts in different directions, we can in principle tell whether a signal—X-rays or any other frequency—stems from decaying dark matter particles or not.”

    Researchers would even know if the signal were caused by the observation instrument itself because then the Doppler shift would be zero for all directions

    Although a promising approach, it can’t just yet be applied to the 3.5-keV X-rays because the associated Doppler shifts are very small. Current instruments either don’t have enough energy resolution for the analysis or they don’t operate in the right energy range.

    However, this situation may change very soon with ASTRO-H, an X-ray satellite of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, whose launch is planned for early this year. As the researchers show in their paper, it will have just the right specifications to return a verdict on the mystery X-ray line. Dark matter had better watch its speed.

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 2:43 pm on September 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Astronomy: “NASA satellites help explain coronal heating” 

    Astronomy magazine

    Astronomy Magazine

    August 26, 2015

    Scientists have directly observed an essential part of the process for how magnetic waves in the Sun heat the solar plasma.

    This image taken October 19, 2013, shows a filament on the Sun — a giant ribbon of relatively cool solar material threading through the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. The individual threads that make up the filament are clearly discernible in this photo. This image was captured by the Solar Optical Telescope onboard JAXA/NASA’s Hinode solar observatory. Researchers studied this filament to learn more about how material gets heated in the corona. JAXA/NASA/Hinode

    Modern telescopes and satellites have helped us measure the blazing hot temperatures of the Sun from afar. Mostly, the temperatures follow a clear pattern: The Sun produces energy by fusing hydrogen in its core, so the layers surrounding the core generally get cooler as you move outwards — with one exception. Two NASA missions have just made a significant step toward understanding why the corona — the outermost wispy layer of the Sun’s atmosphere — is hundreds of times hotter than the lower photosphere, which is the Sun’s visible surface.

    Researchers led by Joten Okamoto of Nagoya University in Japan and Patrick Antolin of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan observed a long-hypothesized mechanism for coronal heating in which magnetic waves are converted into heat energy. Past studies have suggested that magnetic waves in the Sun — Alfvénic waves — have enough energy to heat up the corona. The question has been how that energy is converted to heat.

    “For over 30 years, scientists hypothesized a mechanism for how these waves heat the plasma,” said Antolin. “An essential part of this process is called resonant absorption, and we have now directly observed resonant absorption for the first time.”

    Resonant absorption is a complicated wave process in which repeated waves add energy to the solar material, a charged gas known as plasma, the same way that a perfectly timed repeated push on a swing can make it go higher. Resonant absorption has signatures that can be seen in material moving side to side and front to back.

    To see the full range of motions, the team used observations from NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/NASA’s Hinode solar observatory to successfully identify signatures of the process. The researchers then correlated the signatures to material being heated to nearly corona-level temperatures. These observations told researchers that a certain type of plasma wave was being converted into a more turbulent type of motion, leading to lots of friction and electric currents, heating the solar material.

    NASA IRIS spacecraft

    JAXA HINODE spacecraft
    JAXA Hinode

    The researchers focused on a solar feature called a filament. Filaments are huge tubes of relatively cool plasma held high up in the corona by magnetic fields. Researchers developed a computer model of how the material inside filament tubes moves, and then looked for signatures of these motions with Sun-observing satellites.

    A filament stretches across the lower half of the Sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on February 10, 2015. Filaments are huge tubes of relatively cool solar material held high up in the corona by magnetic fields. Researchers simulated how the material moves in filament threads to explore how a particular type of motion could contribute to the extremely hot temperatures in the Sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona. NASA/SDO

    “Through numerical simulations, we show that the observed characteristic motion matches well what is expected from resonant absorption,” said Antolin.

    The signatures of these motions appear in 3-D, making them difficult to observe without the teamwork of several missions. Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope was used to make measurements of motions that appear, from our perspective, to be up and down or side to side, a perspective that scientists call “plane of sky.” The resonant absorption model relies on the fact that the plasma contained in a filament tube moves in a specific wave motion called an Alfvénic kink wave, caused by magnetic fields. Alfvénic kink waves in filaments can cause motions in the plane of sky, so evidence of these waves came from observations by Hinode’s extremely high-resolution optical telescope.

    NASA Solar Optical Telescope
    NASA Solar Optical Telescope on Hinode

    More complicated were the line-of-sight observations — line of sight means motions in the third dimension, toward and away from us. The resonant absorption process can convert the Alfvénic kink wave into another Alfvénic wave motion. To see this conversion process, scientists need to simultaneously observe motions in the plane of sky and the line-of-sight direction. This is where IRIS comes in. IRIS takes a special type of data called spectra. For each image taken by IRIS’s ultraviolet telescope, it also creates a spectrum, which breaks down the light from the image into different wavelengths.

    Analyzing separate wavelengths can provide scientists with additional details such as whether the material is moving toward or away from the viewer. Much like a siren moving toward you sounds different from one moving away, light waves can become stretched or compressed if their source is moving toward or away from an observer. This slight change in wavelength is known as the Doppler effect. Scientists combined their knowledge of the Doppler effect with the expected emissions from a stationary filament to deduce how the filaments were moving in the line of sight.

    “It’s the combination of high-resolution observations in all three regimes — time, spatial, and spectral — that enabled us to see these previously unresolved phenomena,” said Adrian Daw from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    Using both the plane-of-sky observations from Hinode and line-of-sight observations from IRIS, researchers discovered the characteristic wave motions consistent with their model of this possible coronal heating mechanism. What’s more, they also observed material heating up in conjunction with the wave motions, further confirming that this process is related to heating in the solar atmosphere.
    “We would see the filament thread disappear from the filter that is sensitive to cool plasma and reappear in a filter for hotter plasma,” said Bart De Pontieu from Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab in Palo Alto, California.

    In addition, comparison of the two wave motions showed a time delay known as a phase difference. The researchers’ model predicted this phase difference, thus providing some of the strongest evidence that the team was correctly understanding their observations.

    Though resonant absorption plays a key role in the complete process, it does not directly cause heating. The researchers’ simulation showed that the transformed wave motions lead to turbulence around the edges of the filament tubes, which heats the surrounding plasma.

    It seems that resonant absorption is an excellent candidate for the role of an energy transport mechanism, although these observations were taken in the transition region rather than the corona. Researchers believe that this mechanism could be common in the corona as well.

    “Now the work starts to study if this mechanism also plays a role in heating plasma to coronal temperatures,” said De Pontieu.

    With the launch of over a dozen missions in the past 20 years, astronomers’ understanding of the Sun and how it interacts with Earth and the solar system is better than at any time in human history. Heliophysics System Observatory missions are working together to unravel the coronal heating problem and the Sun’s other remaining mysteries.


    This is a simulation of a cross-section of a thread of solar material called a filament hovering in the Sun’s atmosphere. The yellow area is the thread itself, where the material is denser, and the black area is the surrounding, less dense material. The characteristic wave motion leads to complex turbulence around the edges of the yellow thread, which heats the surrounding black material. This model was created with the Aterui supercomputer at the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. // NAOJ/Patrick Antolin

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  • richardmitnick 12:44 pm on July 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , JAXA   

    From ESA: “The Argo’s hidden cargo” 

    European Space Agency

    No Writer Credit


    The constellation of the great ship Argo Navis used to bob along the watery southern horizon of the Mediterranean during times of antiquity.

    Said to represent the ship used by Jason and the Argonauts in the quest for the Golden Fleece, it was included by Greek astronomer Ptolemy in his 2nd century AD list of the constellations.

    French star-mapper Nicolas Louis de Lacaille split the giant constellation into three pieces in 1752 and this image shows Carina, the keel of the ship. Taken by Japan’s Akari space observatory, it shows a hidden cargo: star-forming dust.

    JAXA AKARI spacecraft

    This dust is part of the interstellar medium, which also contains gas. The bright knots reveal dense cores, just a few tenths of a light-year across. These dusty cocoons are where gravity is incubating new stars. They are invisible at optical wavelengths because the dust blocks the light from escaping.

    However, the dust’s low temperature means it gives off far-infrared radiation, making it visible to the special detectors on Akari.

    This false-colour image, spanning 20×15°, is constructed from three far-infrared bands: blue represents 65 micrometres, green shows 90 micrometres and red codes the 140 micrometre wavelength. The image is part of Akari’s recently released all-sky survey.

    This is the first far-infrared all-sky survey since the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) was launched by the US, the UK and the Netherlands in 1983. IRAS’s final release of image data was made in 1993 and astronomers have been using it ever since.

    NASA IRAS spacecraft

    Akari’s all-sky survey is both higher resolution and contains longer wavelengths than the IRAS survey.

    Akari observed more than 99% of the sky over a period of 16 months. The all-sky images have a resolution of 1–1.5 arcminutes (0.017–0.025º), in four wavelengths: 65, 90, 140 and 160 micrometres.

    Akari was the second space mission for infrared astronomy from the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the JAXA Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, this time with ESA’s participation.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 1:07 pm on April 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , JAXA   

    From ESA: “Tracking Japan’s asteroid impact mission” 

    European Space Agency

    29 April 2015
    No Writer Credit

    Hayabusa-2 dispatches European Mascot lander

    ESA is set to support Japan’s ‘touch-and-go’ Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, now en route to a little-known asteroid, helping to boost the scientific return from this audacious mission.

    A flawless launch last December marked the start of a six-year round-trip for Japan’s Hayabusa-2, which is on course to arrive at the carbon-rich asteroid 1999 JU3 in June 2018.

    Once there, it will study the surface in detail in preparation for dispatching three diminutive landing drones. It will also deliver the Mascot lander, developed by the DLR German Aerospace Center in cooperation with France’s CNES space agency and equipped with a ‘hopper’ mechanism to enable it to explore the tiny world from multiple locations.


    Hayabusa will also use explosives to fire a copper impactor into the 980 m-diameter asteroid, then scoop up the debris fragments in a complex touch-and-go manoeuvre. The fragments will be returned to Earth in 2020.

    In the first such support provided to a Japanese deep-space mission, ESA’s 35 m-diameter dish at Malargüe, Argentina, will provide up to 400 hours of tracking, establishing radio contact as the asteroid arcs through the Solar System between 135 million to 210 million km from the Sun.

    Malargüe station

    Telecommands from mission controllers at the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be fed to the station via ESOC, ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, Germany.

    The sophisticated technology and location of ESA’s station will enable Hayabusa-2 to deliver significantly more science data and provide coverage when Japanese stations are out of visibility.

    In the past, ESOC has supported JAXA’s Earth and astronomy missions, including Oicets and Astro-F.

    “This is the first time we’ve supported a Japanese deep-space mission, so we’ve been working closely with JAXA in the past months to establish technical links between the ground station and the Hayabusa mission systems,” said Maite Arza, ESA’s Service Manager for Hayabusa at ESOC.

    Together with similar stations in Spain and Australia, the Malargüe site comprises the deep-space tracking capability of ESA’s Estrack network.

    Tracking network control room

    Estrack’s global system of ground stations provides links between spacecraft in orbit and control teams on Earth. The network is controlled from ESOC, and provides tracking support to ESA and partner agency missions 24 hours/day, 365 days/year. The network will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.

    “On 22 April, we completed a live, inflight compatibility test, linking Malargüe with the Japanese spacecraft, demonstrating that we’re ready to provide tracking for the incredible Hayabusa-2 mission,” says Maite.

    “We look forward to helping our Japanese colleagues explore asteroid 1999 JU3, demonstrate advanced technology and achieve some excellent scientific results.”

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 4:05 pm on December 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From CfA: “Magnetic Fields on Solar-Type Stars” 

    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

    Friday, December 12, 2014
    No Writer Credit

    The Sun rotates slowly, about once every 24 days at its equator although the hot gas at every latitude rotates at a slightly different rate. Rotation helps to drive the mechanisms that power stellar magnetic fields, and in slowly rotating solar-type stars also helps to explain the solar activity cycle. In the case of solar-type stars that rotate much faster than does the modern-day Sun, the dynamo appears to be generated by fundamentally different mechanisms that, along with many details of solar magnetic field generation, are not well understood. Astronomers trying to understand dynamos across a range of solar-type stars (and how they evolve) have been observing a variety of active stars, both slow and fast rotators, to probe how various physical parameters of stars enhance or inhibit dynamo processes.

    Vivid orange streamers of super-hot, electrically charged gas (plasma) arc from the surface of the Sun reveal the structure of the solar magnetic field rising vertically from a sunspot. Astronomers are now studying the magnetic fields on solar-type stars using techniques of polarimetry.
    Hinode, JAXA/NASA

    Most techniques used to observe stellar magnetism rely on indirect proxies of the field, for example on characteristics of the radiation emitted by atoms. Surveys using these proxies have found clear dependencies between rotation and the stellar dynamo and the star’s magnetic cycles, among other things. Recent advances in instrumentation that can sense the polarization of the light extend these methods and have made it possible to directly measure solar-strength magnetic fields on other stars.

    CfA astronomer Jose-Dias do Nascimento is a member of a team of astronomers that has just completed the most extensive polarization survey of stars to date. They detected magnetic fields on sixty-seven stars, twenty-one of them classified as solar-type, about four times as many solar-type stars as had been previously classified. The scientists found that the average field increases with the stellar rotation rate and decreases with stellar age, and that its strength correlates with emission from the stars’ hot outer layers, their chromospheres. Not only does this paper represent the most extensive survey to date of its kind, it demonstrates the power of the polarization technique. It signals that it is possible to greatly expand the study of magnetic fields in solar-type stars, which efforts will continue to improve our understanding of the surface fields in the Sun.

    See the full article here.

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    About CfA

    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy. The long relationship between the two organizations, which began when the SAO moved its headquarters to Cambridge in 1955, was formalized by the establishment of a joint center in 1973. The CfA’s history of accomplishments in astronomy and astrophysics is reflected in a wide range of awards and prizes received by individual CfA scientists.

    Today, some 300 Smithsonian and Harvard scientists cooperate in broad programs of astrophysical research supported by Federal appropriations and University funds as well as contracts and grants from government agencies. These scientific investigations, touching on almost all major topics in astronomy, are organized into the following divisions, scientific departments and service groups.

  • richardmitnick 5:19 am on December 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA: “Japan Launches Asteroid Mission” 



    Dec. 4, 2014

    On Dec. 3, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its Hayabusa2 mission to rendezvous with an asteroid, land a small probe plus three mini rovers on its surface, and then return samples to Earth. NASA and JAXA are cooperating on the science of the mission and NASA will receive a portion of the Hayabusa2 sample in exchange for providing Deep Space Network communications and navigation support for the mission.

    JAXA Hayabasu spacecraft
    JAXA Hayabasu schematic

    Hayabusa2 builds on lessons learned from JAXA’s initial Hayabusa mission, which collected samples from a small asteroid named Itokawa and returned them to Earth in June 2010. Hayabusa2’s target is a 750 meter-wide asteroid named 1999 JU3, because of the year when it was discovered by the NASA-sponsored Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research project, Lexington, Massachusetts. This is a C-type asteroid which are thought to contain more organic material than other asteroids. Scientists hope to better understand how the solar system evolved by studying samples from these asteroids.

    1999 JU3

    “We think of C-type asteroids as being less altered than others,” says Lucy McFadden, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Bringing that material back and being able to look at it in the lab — I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
    Auroras Underfoot (signup)

    On Nov. 17, NASA and JAXA signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the Hayabusa2 mission and NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission to mutually maximize their missions’ results. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch in 2016. It will be the first U.S. asteroid sample return mission. OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with the 500-meter-sized asteroid Bennu in 2019 for detailed reconnaissance and a return of samples to Earth in 2023.

    NASA Osiris-REx


    Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx will further strengthen the two space agencies’ relationship in asteroid exploration.

    The missions will also help NASA choose its target for the first-ever mission to capture and redirect an asteroid. NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) in the 2020s will help NASA test new technologies needed for future human missions for the Journey to Mars.

    Comets and asteroids contain material that formed in a disk surrounding our infant sun. The hundreds of thousands of known asteroids are leftovers from material that didn’t coalesce into a planet or moon in the inner solar system. The thousands of known comets likely formed in the outer solar system, far from the sun’s heat, where water exists as ice.

    Larger objects like dwarf planets Pluto and Ceres also formed in the outer solar system, where water ice is stable. Pluto and Ceres will soon be explored by NASA missions New Horizons and Dawn, respectively. Asteroids and comets are of unique interest to scientists, though, because they could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    NASA/New Horizons

    NASA Dawn Spacescraft

    These missions have greatly increased scientific knowledge on Earth about our solar system and the history of our planet. Many scientists suspect we could find organic material in asteroids and comets, like amino acids—critical building blocks for life, which could help answer questions about the origins of life on Earth. These questions drive us to continue exploring the intriguing asteroids and comets of our solar system.

    Multiple missions that are operating in space or in development by NASA and international partners could bring us much closer to answering that question in our lifetimes and also help identify Near-Earth Objects that might pose a risk of Earth impact, and further help inform developing options for planetary defense.

    Follow the latest missions and discoveries at: http://www.nasa.gov/asteroid-and-comet-watch/

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    NASA/New Horizons

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    NASA Chandra Telescope

    NASA Spitzer Telescope

  • richardmitnick 1:38 pm on November 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , JAXA,   

    From SEN: “Japan’s Hayabusa 2 mission to an asteroid is set to launch” 


    27 November 2014
    Paul Sutherland

    As the world celebrates the success of Europe’s Rosetta, Japanese space scientists are preparing to launch the latest mission to explore one of the minor bodies of the Solar System.

    Hayabasu spacecraft
    Hayabusa 2

    Their Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is due to blast off at 1:24:48 p.m. Japanese time (04:24:48 UTC) on Sunday 30 November from the Tanegashima Space Center.

    Its mission will be to rendezvous with an asteroid, land a small probe on its surface, and then return samples to Earth. It follows an earlier Japanese Hayabusa mission to an asteroid named Itokawa.


    Asteroids generally differ from comets, such as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. which Rosetta is circling, because they don’t fizz with gas and dust. They seem to be chunks of material from the formation of the Solar System which never collected together to form planets.


    ESA Rosetta spacecraft

    Hayabusa 2’s target is a 1km-wide asteroid labelled 1999 JU3, after the year when it was discovered. It is a C-type asteroid, thought to contain more organic material than other asteroids, and so might again help scientists understand how the Solar System evolved.

    The Japanese space agency JAXA intend for Hayabusa 2 to catch up with asteroid 1999 JU3 in 2018. It will land a small cube-shaped probe called MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) developed by the German Space Agency (DLR) together with French space partners the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).

    The lander is able to move its centre of gravity so that it can tip itself over in order to move across the asteroid’s surface.

    Hayabusa 2 will also carry an impactor to blast a 2-metre-wide crater in the asteroid’s surface, which will allow the spacecraft to collect fragments and bring them home for study in the laboratory.

    Germany’s MASCOT lander is fitted to the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft. Image credit: DLR

    The first Hayabusa kept space enthusiasts and scientists on the edge of their seats with its performance. Launched in May 2003, it reached the 500-metre long Itokawa in September 2005, then twice brushed its surface, allowing some surface grains to lodge in its collector. But a bid to blast out samples from the asteroid and to land a mini-probe called Minerva both failed.

    Then fuel and power failures led scientists to fear that they had lost Hayabusa. But amazingly, they managed to regain control over the following months, and against all the odds, the probe was able to fire its capsule of precious asteroid dirt to a safe landing in the Australian Outback in June 2010.

    Hayabusa 2 is the size of a small van, measuring 1.0 metres x 1.6 metres x 1.2 metres, and has two solar panels to provide power. In space it will be driven by an ion engine using xenon propellant

    The asteroid selected by JAXA is a “perfect specimen” according to Professor Humberto Campins, an international expert on asteroids and comets, at the University of Central Florida. He has said: “Based on our analysis, it should be rich in primitive materials, specifically organic molecules and hydrated minerals from the early days of our Solar System. If successful it could give us clues about the birth of water and life in our world.”

    Scientists believe that learning more about objects such as 1999 JU3 will also help develop methods to deal with any cosmic debris, such as Near Earth Asteroids, that might be found on course to impact the Earth.

    A number of other spacecraft have visited asteroids, including Rosetta which flew past 2867 Steins in 2008 and 21 Lutetia in 2010, en route to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and NASA’s Dawn mission which is currently heading for Ceres after orbiting Vesta for a year.

    A video shows how the MASCOT lander will hit the asteroid and explore its surface. Credit: DLR

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The vision of Sen—space exploration network—is to create a global space content network. Sen provides space news and information on the science, economics and government of space and in so doing aims to:
    —promote interest in space;
    —raise awareness of the reality of humankind and Earth in the Universe, providing a different perspective to life on this planet;
    —educate and encourage consideration of the physics, economics and government of space;
    —create a community in which people can learn, debate and share information about space;
    —further the exploration of space;
    —film the universe forever building an electronic version of the universe, a never ending work of art, creating Sen Universe – a computerised to scale 3D universe, starting with the Solar System. Sen Universe will replace computer imagery with real film and imagery as our exploration of the universe continues, forever building an electronic version of the universe, a never ending work of art and science.
    —Ultimately, in achieving the above, Sen aims to be a business without boundary in space and time.

    Space is everything, it affects everything – it defines our environment, the government of mankind, relations, the future. By promoting interest and awareness of space a different perspective of our conduct and government of life on the planet can be obtained in the hope of creating a united planet.

    Sen will aim to be an enterprise that represents the best human effort at creating an enterprise without boundary in space and time.

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