Sonntag, 22. Oktober 2017 - 22:00 Uhr

Astronomie - Asteroid 2016 H03 / Erde hat eine Art zweiten Mond – aber fast niemand kann ihn sehen



Die Erde hat einen Mond, einen Begleiter, der konstant um unseren Planeten kreist – oder? Das stimmt nicht ganz, wie Forscher jetzt an einem Beispiel entdeckt haben. 

Schon im vergangenen Jahr beobachteten sie ein Objekt namens 2016 H03. Inzwischen sind sie sicher: Das Objekt ist definitiv kleiner als 100 Meter (und daher so schwer zu beobachten) – und es handelt es sich tatsächlich um eine Art Asteroid und nicht um ein Stück Weltraumschrott.

Die Erde hat also in Wirklichkeit mehr als einen steinigen Begleiter, der um sie kreist – und gleichzeitig um die Sonne. Diese Animation der Nasa zeigt die merkwürdige Bahn. Um genau zu sein, gibt es sogar fünf solcher Quasi-Satelliten. Sie heißen so, weil ihre Umlaufbahn nicht komplett stabil ist, sondern sich mit der Zeit deutlich ändern kann. 2016 HO 3 hat von diesen Objekten die stabilste Umlaufbahn und könnte uns noch Hunderte Jahre begleiten.

Der Asteroid ist von der Erde knapp 400.000 Kilometer entfernt. Der neu entdeckte Brocken kreist zwischen 38 und 100 Mal so weit entfernt um unseren Planeten. Er kommt der Erde also nie näher als rund 15 Millionen Kilometer. In kosmischen Maßstäben ist das aber eine recht kurze Entfernung. Deswegen hat HO 3 Bedeutung über die Astronomie hinaus. Sollte man irgendwann ernsthaft in Erwägung ziehen, auf Asteroiden nach Edelmetallen zu graben – diese Objekte wären möglicherweise ideal zur Erkundung geeignet.






Quelle: Focus

Tags: Astronomie - Asteroid 2016 H03 / Erde hat eine Art zweiten Mond – aber fast niemand kann ihn sehen 


Sonntag, 22. Oktober 2017 - 20:00 Uhr

Luftfahrt - NASA X-56A: Highly Flexible Wings Tested



James Smith and Gary Cosentino prepare the X-56A for flight. Researchers are using the aircraft to investigate if highly-flexible, lightweight wings can be controlled.


The subscale X-56A is scheduled for a series of research flights in November to prove enabling technology for designing aircraft with highly flexible, lightweight wings. The use of less structurally-rigid wings could be critical to future long-range, fuel-efficient airliners. 


A risk reduction flight Aug. 31 from Armstrong demonstrated that past challenges experienced during takeoffs and landings are resolved, said Cheng Moua, X-56A project manager. 


To mitigate the down sides of earlier flights, researchers redesigned the landing gear and braking system to improve performance, Moua explained. The flight controller was revised, extensive analysis completed and ground vibration data collected to update theoretical models to improve predictions on how the aircraft will fly.


Long, lightweight flexible wings similar to the ones on the X-56 are crucial to the design of future long-range aircraft and are especially susceptible to a destructive vibration known as flutter at lower speeds. If those vibrations are not alleviated, they could cause controllability challenges or potentially compromise the aircraft’s structure.


Flutter hasn’t been restrained before on an aircraft like the X-56, Moua said. Flutter suppression could lead to improved ride quality, efficiency, safety and the longevity of flexible aircraft structures, he added. 


The X-56A is scheduled for November flights to further investigate how highly-flexible, lightweight wings function.
Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes

 “We want to show that this kind of wing can be built and the control technology exists to suppress flutter on them,” Moua said.


The flights will build up slowly as each step is meticulously executed. New techniques will be tested to collect data and make sense of it and a methodology will be developed to confirm flutter was suppressed, he said. Armstrong engineers developed a flight control system and advanced sensors to gather the information required to achieve the project’s goals.


Lockheed Martin developed the small, remotely piloted aircraft for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and transferred the aircraft to Armstrong for flight research. The program is funded through NASA’s Advanced Air Transport Technology project and NASA’s Flight Demonstration Capabilities project.

Quelle: NASA



Tags: Luftfahrt - NASA X-56A: Highly Flexible Wings Tested 


Sonntag, 22. Oktober 2017 - 19:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Lockheed Martin startet zweiten Zyklus der Girls Rocketry Challenge in Japan



Lockheed Martin has launched the second cycle of its 'Girls' Rocketry Challenge' program, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative designed to enable female high school students in Japan engage in real-life experiments that will further pique their curiosity and potential interest in STEM and related careers.

In partnership with the Japan Association of Rocketry (JAR), a non-profit organisation that sets the industry standard for model rocketry in Japan, the Girls' Rocketry Challenge seeks to reinforce the basics of physics, mathematics, and other disciplines in a fun and collaborative manner using model rockets. The first cycle saw three schools from the Kanto region of Japan participate in the challenge and enter the national competition of model rocketry at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Space Center in Tsukuba.

The second cycle of the program will enable 15 girls from three schools, all from outside of the Greater Tokyo Area, to obtain their class-4 rocketry licenses, practice model rocketry skills, and present their progress at Science Castle, a schools' science fair, in December 2017. Participants will then join the national competition of model rocketry in May 2018.

On October 15, all three teams and their teachers joined Chuck Jones, Lockheed Martin Japan's Chief Executive, and Makoto Yamada, JAR's President, for an introduction to the program and to each other. On the same day, they attained their class-4 rocketry licenses through their first lecture on model rocketry, a hands-on model rocket development session, and finally, the first test launch of their original model rockets.

"Model rocketry enables students to experience the full scientific process of design, production, testing and improvement, all in a short amount of time. This experience empowers students not only with foundational STEM skills, but also the confidence to tackle complicated challenges and collaborate to solve problems with peers, which is integral to any career.

"Continuous effort is incredibly important in developing technical skills; therefore, we hope that the students from the first cycle carry on working toward their goals. With the support of Lockheed Martin, we look forward to developing model rocket and science education further," Mr. Yamada said.

The Girls' Rocketry Challenge is part of a larger Lockheed Martin commitment to STEM programs. In 2016 the corporation contributed more than $24 million internationally to support education initiatives with a strong emphasis on STEM education. The Girls' Rocketry Challenge is also Lockheed Martin's first STEM education program in Japan, following the success of other STEM education initiatives in the United States as well as in India and Singapore.

"When we launched the GRC in 2016, we wondered what kind of impact it would have. This year, we received three times as many applications as we did the previous year. Particularly impressive was the number of schools outside the Greater Tokyo Area who applied. This is a satisfying result and we are encouraged by the response," said Chuck Jones, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Japan.

He added that "we are delighted to continue working with our partner, the Japan Association of Rocketry, to encourage young people, particularly female students, to explore STEM education and potentially careers in STEM."

Advancing STEM education is a critical focus for Lockheed Martin and a challenge that it shares with the Japanese industry. Lockheed Martin hopes that continuing this program will enable girls to experience STEM activities first-hand and that it will open new doors for the next generation of female innovators, explorers, and inventors.

Quelle: SD

Tags: Raumfahrt - Lockheed Martin startet zweiten Zyklus der 'Girls' Rocketry Challenge 'in Japan 


Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017 - 19:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt-History - 54 years since the first cat in space


In 1963, after a rigorous training programme, Félicette became the first astrocat.



Fifty-four years ago today, the first cat set paw in space.

Félicette was launched from a base in the Sahara desert aboard the rocket Véronique AVI – V47.

After a 12 minute flight, including five minutes of weightlessness she returned to earth, safe and sound not far from the launchpad.

Her history is much less well known than that of Laïka who became the first dog in space in 1957.

Félicette was chosen from a cohort of around a dozen astrocats after a rigorous session of training and tests including a spin in a centrifuge.

Just a few days after the launch an attempt to repeat the experiment ended in tragedy when the lone feline occupant of another rocket died when the craft crashed to earth shortly after takeoff.

No cat has attempted the journey outside the Earth’s atmosphere since.

Nevertheless Félicette was not in fact the first French animal in space. That honour belongs to Hector, a “white rat” whose mission took place on Feb 22, 1961.

The photo above was taken after Félicette returned to Earth and handed to members of the project team. It features the words: “Thank you for your participation in my successful mission of Oct 18, 1963.”

Quelle: euronews

Tags: Raumfahrt-History - 54 years since the first cat in space 


Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017 - 19:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - China, France plan to launch first joint oceanic satellite in 2018


The first satellite jointly developed by the Chinese and French space agencies will be launched from China in the second half of 2018.

The China-French Oceanic Satellite is being tested in a Beijing-based assembly testing center of the China National Space Administration, said the administration Friday.

The 700-kilogram satellite will be primarily used for waves forecast and monitoring, as well as research in floating ice, polar glacier and ocean dynamics.

The satellite will carry a wave-scatterometer spectrometer developed by the French space agency and a wind-measurement scatterometer by Chinese scientists. It will be sent into space by a Chinese Long March carrier rocket.

Quelle: Xinhua

Tags: Raumfahrt - China, France plan to launch first joint oceanic satellite in 2018 


Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017 - 18:20 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Sensor an Progress MS-07 Frachter löst Rätselraten aus


This Strange Sensor Russia Sent to the ISS Is Baffling US Military Experts

"I think the appropriate reaction is 'mild curiosity' rather than 'worry.'"


The Progress MS-07 spacecraft before launch. The mysterious sensor is the black object on the forward edge in the upper-right corner of the photo. Image: RKK Energia

A Russian spacecraft on a routine mission to the International Space Station (ISS) apparently carried a surprise payload: a secretive sensor that experts said could be related to a controversial military initiative.

The spacecraft, which the Russian space agency designated Progress MS-07, blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan on October 12. The main mission of the unmanned Progress rockets is to haul supplies to the ISS.

After unloading the supplies, the station crew tosses its garbage into the now-empty Progress capsule. The craft separates from the station and, after a couple of days, tumbles back to Earth and burns up.

Russia often takes advantage of those extra couple of days to position small satellites or perform brief experiments unrelated to the space station. Progress MS-07, for example, carried a small data-relay satellite and a miniature robot that's part of a Russian company's social media campaign.

But Progress MS-07 also carried a mysterious sensor, one that might have important military implications. Anatoly Zak, an author and space expert, was among the first to notice the sensor in official photos provided by RKK Energia, the Russian company that manufactured the expendable Progress MS-07 spacecraft.

Russian officials told Zak that the sensor was part of a "one-time scientific experiment," but otherwise declined to comment on the device's purpose. The Russian space agency Roscosmos did not immediately respond to an email from Motherboard requesting comment.

The space agency is probably telling the truth about the sensor—just not the whole truth. "The device is mounted on a location used by other scientific sensors in the past," James Oberg, the author of several books about space technology, told me.

But what kind of science did the sensor support? After all, weapons-development is a kind of science. "The fact that they are not discussing it is unusual, and maybe it's a test of some military-related sensor of some kind," said Jonathan McDowell, an independent space expert.

Quelle: Motherboard


Tags: Raumfahrt - Sensor an Progress MS-07 Frachter löst Rätselraten aus 


Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017 - 18:10 Uhr




Popular Science magazine has selected Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft for the 2017 “Best of What’s New” award. This recognition from the world’s largest science and technology magazine celebrates technologies that will “change our world.”

“We're certainly proud to be recognized like this," said Eren Ozmen, SNC's owner and president. "And we're even more excited about the future of Dream Chaser. This is America's spaceplane -- it has the best engineering and technology and represents our national pioneering spirit,” added Ozmen.

The Dream Chaser is a re-usable and versatile spacecraft that will go the International Space Station starting in 2020 to resupply critical items for NASA. The spacecraft has the capability to carry more than 12,000 lbs of food and water, science experiments, supplies, or satellites to low-Earth orbit, and can fulfill a variety of missions for organizations around the world.

Popular Science reviewed thousands of products to find the 100 best tech innovations of the year that show progress or breakthroughs. “The Best of What’s New awards honor the innovations that shape the future, says Joe Brown, Editor-in-Chief, Popular Science. “From life-saving technology to incredible space engineering to gadgets that are just breath-takingly cool, this is the best of what’s new,” Brown added.

The Dream Chaser won in the aerospace category and will be featured in the November/December issue of Popular Science

About Dream Chaser Spacecraft
Owned and operated by SNC, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle. It is capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station resides, and is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing. The Dream Chaser Cargo System was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. All Dream Chaser CRS2 cargo missions are planned to land at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

About Sierra Nevada Corporation
Recognized as one of “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space,” Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) provides customer-focused advanced technology solutions in the areas of space, aviation, electronics and systems integration. SNC’s Space Systems business area based in Louisville, Colorado, designs and manufactures advanced spacecraft, space vehicles, rocket motors and spacecraft subsystems and components for the U.S. Government, commercial customers, as well as for the international market. SNC has more than 25 years of space heritage, participating in more than 450 successful space missions and delivering 4,000+ systems, subsystems and components around the world.

For more information on SNC visit and follow us at and Twitter @SierraNevCorp. Sierra Nevada Corporation and SNC are trademarks of Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Quelle: SNC



Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017 - 18:00 Uhr

Astronomie - A solar flare recorded from Spain in 1886 / Third white-light solar flare in history



Drawing by Valderrama of the solar flare he observed on 10 September 1886 on a sunspot (with the penumbra shown with hashed lines and the umbra in black). It shows the tadpole-shaped flare. The original document is held at the Library of the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute.


Satellites have detected powerful solar flares in the last two months, but this phenomenon has been recorded for over a century. On 10 September 1886, at the age of just 17, a young amateur astronomer using a modest telescope observed from Madrid one of these sudden flashes in a sunspot. He wrote about what he saw, drew a picture of it, and published the data in a French scientific journal. This is what researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and the Universidad de Extremadura have recently found.

"A huge, beautiful sunspot was formed from yesterday to today. It is elongated due to its proximity to the limb ... by looking at it carefully I noticed an extraordinary phenomenon on her, on the penumbra to the west of the nucleus, and almost in contact with it, a very bright object was distinguishable producing a shadow clearly visible on the sunspot penumbra. This object had an almost circular shape, and a light beam came out from its eastern part that crossed the sunspot to the south of the nucleus, producing a shadow on the penumbra that was lost in the large mass of faculae surrounding the eastern extreme of the sunspot".

In these words, Juan Valderrama y Aguilar, a 17-year-old amateur astronomer, described what he saw from Madrid on 10 September 1886 with his small telescope, with an aperture of just 6.6 cm and equipped with a neutral density filter to dim the solar light. The young man wrote down the details of his observations, made a drawing of the bright flash he had seen coming from the sunspot, and sent all the information to the French journal L'Astronomie, which did not hesitate to publish it.

"The case of Valderrama is very unique, as he was the only person in the world more than a century ago to observe a relatively rare phenomenon: a white-light solar flare. And until now no one had realised", explains José Manuel Vaquero, a lecturer at the University of Extremadura and co-author of an article about the event, now being published in the journal Solar Physics, to Sinc.

A flare is a sudden increase in the brightness of a region of the sun's atmosphere. It occurs in the outermost layers (chromosphere and corona) when the configuration of the magnetic field changes and releases energy, which can be detected in several bands of the electromagnetic spectrum as visible or ultraviolet light, although they are most commonly recorded in X-rays.

During the last two months, several of these powerful solar flares have been observed, some with associated coronal mass ejections that, in turn, can produce geomagnetic storms that perturb the communication systems in some regions of the Earth, especially radio broadcasts and GPS systems.

"White-light flares correspond to the most extreme cases of this phenomenon, where so much energy is dumped into the chromosphere and corona that the energy propagates downward to the photosphere, heating it up, and producing the excess brightness that we observe in white light", according to another of the authors, Jorge Sánchez Almeida, of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC).

Scientists studying solar flares employ special satellites and instruments that do not operate with visible light, but a white-light flare can be observed with 'normal' telescopes that use visible light, as Valderrama y Aguilar did in 1886. "It is extraordinary that in the Spain of the 19th century, a 17-year old kid would make such a scientific discovery, and it is even more impresive that he had the courage of submitting it for publication to a foreing scientific journal", points out Sánchez Almeida.

"Furthermore, the white-light flare observed by Valderrama is, chronologically, the third one recorded in the history of solar physics", adds Vaquero. The first solar flare was recorded by British astronomer Richard C. Carrington on 1 September 1859, and the second was described on 13 November 1872 by the Italian Pietro Angelo Secchi. The two flares were widely known in their day, as they sparked a debate on whether or not they could have an impact on the Earth.

Much less is known about the life of Valderrama than about the other two pioneers in solar studies. However, Sánchez Almeida, along with fellow IAC researcher and study co-author Manuel Vázquez, will soon publish the biography of this man, who was born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, spent his adolescence in Madrid and returned to his birth city, where he was the director of the meteorological observatory of the city until his death.

Quelle: AAAS

Tags: Astronomie - A solar flare recorded from Spain in 1886 / Third white-light solar flare in history 


Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017 - 17:20 Uhr

Astronomie - NASA will WFIRST-Teleskop für die Suche nach dunkler Materie verwenden


SXSW: NASA to explore dark energy, exoplanets with new telescope

Speakers from NASA, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) and the Space Telescope Science Institute talked at South by Southwest on Tuesday about the new WFIRST telescope. Specifically, they discussed using the telescope to study how the mysterious force dark energy is causing the universe to expand and to discover new planets and alien life.

The WFIRST telescope, originally used by the United States for spying, was recently donated to NASA by the Department of Homeland Security. The telescope is currently being tweaked by NASA engineers for use in space. Once completed, the telescope will boast a field of vision one hundred times larger than that of the Hubble telescope while maintaining the same image clarity.

Jason Rhodes of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that scientists will use the telescope to study dark matter and dark energy. Dark energy, which makes up 68 percent of the universe, is the name that scientists give to the misunderstood force responsible for the universe expanding limitlessly. Dark energy also acts as a repulsive force for objects in the universe, causing galaxies to move farther from each other. Dark matter, on the other hand, makes up 27 percent of the universe and acts as an attractive force in a push-pull relationship with dark energy. In billions of years, these forces and the accelerated expansion of the universe and may lead to the end of the universe in what scientists call the “Big Rip.”

“Dark energy will eventually result in the Big Rip and as the universe expands faster… the fabric of space time is ripped apart,” Rhodes said.

Before that happens, researchers will use WFIRST to study dark matter and dark energy in three ways: they will measure the shapes and growths of galaxies to map dark matter, they will find the positions of galaxies to construct a “cosmic standard ruler” with which to study the universe’s expansion and they will discover supernovae to estimate the distance between galaxies.

Researchers will also use the telescope to search for exoplanets, or planets residing outside of our solar system, and other life forms. Margaret Turnbull of the SETI Institute said they will start by looking at the brightest and closest exoplanets.

“We may be one of a billion in habitable worlds in the galaxy and the universe, but everything we look at is unique,” Turnbull said. “No two stars are the same, no two planets are the same.”

Rhodes said that he hopes the WFIRST telescope will help astrophysicists gain a better understanding of the universe.

“We’re look at one of the most important and perplexing questions in all of science,” Rhodes said. “That is, what is the universe made of? How will the universe evolve in the future, and how will the universe end?”

Quelle: The Daily Texan


Update: 21.10.2017


NASA Receives Findings from WFIRST Independent Review Team


NASA has received the report from an independent, external review of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project. The review was commissioned by NASA to help ensure that the mission is well understood in terms of scope and required resources, and is executable.

In response to the report’s findings, NASA is studying modifications to the WFIRST project. The results of the external review and the modifications being considered are summarized in a memorandum, available here: 


National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Washington, DC 20546-0001

Reply to Attn of:


Science Mission Directorate

Director, Goddard Space Flight Center
Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate Next Steps for WFIRST Program

I thank you, the entire WFIRST team, and everyone at GSFC who has worked on this mission. WFIRST is the top priority ofthe National Academy ofSciences' 2010 Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics. It is designed to conduct groundbreaking investigations in dark energy and exoplanet research. NASA initiated the project in 2016 with a mission design that would be as sensitive as the Hubble Space Telescope, but have 100 times its field ofview. The National Academy's 2016 Midterm Assessment Report affirmed WFIRST's scientific promise, and cautioned N A S A against allowing the cost o f the mission to affect the balance o f projects and research investigations across NASA's astrophysics portfolio. Accordingly, the Midterm Assessment Report recommended that ''NASA should commission an independent technical, management, and cost assessment" ofthe project.

In response to this recommendation from the National Academies, I established the WFIRST Independent External Technical/Management/Cost Review (WIETR) in April 2017, near the end ofWFIRST's Phase A. The motivation behind the independent review was to validate that the requirements for the mission are aligned with the resources available and are executable. I commend the WFIRST team for proactively supporting the independent review and providing them with the information needed to complete their work.

I have been briefed on the results ofthe independent review. The key findings ofthe independent review team include that the WFIRST surveys program and system design offer groundbreaking and unprecedented survey capabilities for dark energy, exoplanet, and general astrophysicsscience. TheindependentreviewalsofoundthattheWFIRSTteamisvery experienced and has done a considerable amount o f work for a project that has yet to enter Phase B,particularlyinareasthatminimizedevelopmentriskandcostrisk. Keyprocessesforproject execution and control are in place, and the science and mission system concepts are mature. They also noted that the WFIRST Project has been methodical, thorough, and inclusive in the analysis and derivation ofthe science requirements and corresponding technical and data requirements.

The independent review also found that a series of decisions by NASA set boundary conditions for the Project for an approach and mission system design that is more complicated than originally anticipated in terms of scope, complexity, and the concomitant risks of implementation. Forexample,theynotedthatthecoronagraphinstrumentteamhasmade remarkable progress toward advancing technology, but they also concluded that accommodation o f the coronagraph instrument has been one o f the mission system design and programmatic drivers, and that it is certain to present risks to the primary mission well into the verification and validation program.

The independent review found that the management agreement signed at the beginning ofPhase A for the WFIRST life-cycle cost and the budget profile provided as guidance to the Project are inconsistent with the provided funding profile, added scope and requirements, and the appropriateriskclassificationforthemission. TheWFIRSTproject'slatestlifecyclecost estimate for the mission of$3.6B (as compared to the earlier of$3.2B) was validated by the independent review team.

The independent review team also noted that NASA should consider adding engineering development hardware, spare hardware and additional analysis to provide a more robust program thanthestandardClassBriskclassificationfortheWFIRSTmission. Theconcernisthata standard Class B mission is not consistent with the uniform application ofNASA policy for strategically important missions with comparable levels ofinvestment and risks, most ofwhich are Class A missions. In light oftheir findings, the independent review team felt that NASA should conduct a top-to-bottom cost-benefit assessment to balance scope, complexity, and the available resources, and that this should be done in advance ofthe Systems Requirements Review/Mission Design Review (SRRIMDR) which serve as the gateway to Phase B. They suggested that NASA should relook at the Headquarters-to-Program governance structure to establish clarity in roles, accountability, and authority.

I have reviewed the findings ofthe independent review team and have accepted them. As a result, I believe reductions in scope and complexity are needed.

I am directing the Goddard Space Flight Center to study modifying the current WFIRST design, the design that was reviewed by the WIETR, to reduce cost and complexity sufficient to have a cost estimate consistent with the $3.2B cost target set at the beginning ofPhase A.

The following constraints and changes are directed to begin this design modification study:

  • The basic architecture ofthe mission, including the use ofthe existing 2.4m telescope, a widefield instrument, and a coronagraph instrument, shall be retained.

  • The implementation o f the mission risk classification shall be consistent with the findings ofthe WIETR report.

  • Reductions shall be taken in the widefield instrument.

  • The coronagraph instrument shall be treated as a technology demonstration instrument,

    consistent with the fmdings ofthe WIETR report; in addition, reductions shall be taken in

    the coronagraph instrument.

  • The cost o f science investigations shall be reduced.

  • The additional use ofcommercial subsystems and components shall be considered for the

    spacecraft; however, serviceability for both the spacecraft and the payload will be retained.

The modified WFIRST design being studied will still be capable ofmeeting and exceeding the science priorities set for WFIRST by the 2010 Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The WFIRST project and GSFC Center management should plan to report the results ofthis study at the SRRIMDR in February 2018, in time to support a Key Decision Point-B (KDP-B) Directorate Program Management Council in March or April2018. In advance ofKDP-B, an independent cost assessment will be conducted to validate the estimated cost as being consistent with the $3.2B cost target.

I am directing Dr. Paul Hertz, the Director ofthe Astrophysics Division, to work with you to establish a WFIRST management process consistent with the findings ofthe WIETR report, that will result in a more interactive relationship, shortening the time to make decisions and reduce cost. In addition, we will be providing a revised budget profile for the WFIRST Project.

Ifthe result ofthis study is the conclusion that WFIRST cannot be developed using the current 2.4m telescope architecture within the $3.2B cost target, I will direct a follow-on study ofa WFIRST mission consistent with the architecture described by the Decadal Survey.

WFIRST remains NASA's highest priority for a large astrophysics mission following the James Webb Space Telescope. Making these adjustments to WFIRST in response to the fmdings in the WIETR report will ensure its success while preserving a balanced Astrophysics program.


“NASA thanks this prestigious and highly-experienced team for their work; this report is as thorough and thoughtful as we hoped,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters, Washington. “We are taking the report’s findings and recommendations very seriously as we think about the future of this exciting mission.”

WFIRST is the top priority of the National Academy of Sciences’ 2010 Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics.  It is designed to conduct groundbreaking investigations in dark energy and exoplanet research. NASA initiated the project in 2016 with a mission design that would be as sensitive as the Hubble Space Telescope, but have 100 times its field of view. The National Academy's 2016 Midterm Assessment Report affirmed WFIRST's scientific promise, and cautioned NASA against allowing the cost of the mission to affect the balance of projects and research investigations across NASA’s astrophysics portfolio. Accordingly, the Midterm Assessment Report recommended that “NASA should commission an independent technical, management, and cost assessment” of the project.

The review was initiated in April 2017, with an independent team consisting of senior engineers, scientists, and project managers external to the WFIRST project. After their first meeting in July, the team members conducted several site visits and scrutinized NASA's approach to WFIRST in great detail, before presenting NASA with their report. 

Key conclusions of the report will be presented to the Space Studies Board’s Committee on Astronomy & Astrophysics (CAA) on 10/25/17.

Quelle: NASA



Tags: Astronomie - NASA will WFIRST-Teleskop für die Suche nach dunkler Materie verwenden WFIRST-Teleskop 


Samstag, 21. Oktober 2017 - 17:10 Uhr

Astronomie - New NASA Study Improves Search for Habitable Worlds


New NASA research is helping to refine our understanding of candidate planets beyond our solar system that might support life.

“Using a model that more realistically simulates atmospheric conditions, we discovered a new process that controls the habitability of exoplanets and will guide us in identifying candidates for further study,” said Yuka Fujii of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York, New York and the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, lead author of a paper on the researchpublished in the Astrophysical Journal Oct. 17.


This illustration shows a star's light illuminating the atmosphere of a planet.
Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Previous models simulated atmospheric conditions along one dimension, the vertical. Like some other recent habitability studies, the new research used a model that calculates conditions in all three dimensions, allowing the team to simulate the circulation of the atmosphere and the special features of that circulation, which one-dimensional models cannot do. The new work will help astronomers allocate scarce observing time to the most promising candidates for habitability.

Liquid water is necessary for life as we know it, so the surface of an alien world (e.g. an exoplanet) is considered potentially habitable if its temperature allows liquid water to be present for sufficient time (billions of years) to allow life to thrive. If the exoplanet is too far from its parent star, it will be too cold, and its oceans will freeze. If the exoplanet is too close, light from the star will be too intense, and its oceans will eventually evaporate and be lost to space. This happens when water vapor rises to a layer in the upper atmosphere called the stratosphere and gets broken into its elemental components (hydrogen and oxygen) by ultraviolet light from the star. The extremely light hydrogen atoms can then escape to space. Planets in the process of losing their oceans this way are said to have entered a “moist greenhouse” state because of their humid stratospheres.

In order for water vapor to rise to the stratosphere, previous models predicted that long-term surface temperatures had to be greater than anything experienced on Earth – over 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees Celsius). These temperatures would power intense convective storms; however, it turns out that these storms aren’t the reason water reaches the stratosphere for slowly rotating planets entering a moist greenhouse state.

“We found an important role for the type of radiation a star emits and the effect it has on the atmospheric circulation of an exoplanet in making the moist greenhouse state,” said Fujii. For exoplanets orbiting close to their parent stars, a star’s gravity will be strong enough to slow a planet’s rotation. This may cause it to become tidally locked, with one side always facing the star – giving it eternal day – and one side always facing away –giving it eternal night.

When this happens, thick clouds form on the dayside of the planet and act like a sun umbrella to shield the surface from much of the starlight. While this could keep the planet cool and prevent water vapor from rising, the team found that the amount of near-Infrared radiation (NIR) from a star could provide the heat needed to cause a planet to enter the moist greenhouse state. NIR is a type of light invisible to the human eye. Water as vapor in air and water droplets or ice crystals in clouds strongly absorbs NIR light, warming the air. As the air warms, it rises, carrying the water up into the stratosphere where it creates the moist greenhouse.

This process is especially relevant for planets around low-mass stars that are cooler and much dimmer than the Sun. To be habitable, planets must be much closer to these stars than our Earth is to the Sun. At such close range, these planets likely experience strong tides from their star, making them rotate slowly. Also, the cooler a star is, the more NIR it emits. The new model demonstrated that since these stars emit the bulk of their light at NIR wavelengths, a moist greenhouse state will result even in conditions comparable to or somewhat warmer than Earth's tropics. For exoplanets closer to their stars, the team found that the NIR-driven process increased moisture in the stratosphere gradually. So, it’s possible, contrary to old model predictions, that an exoplanet closer to its parent star could remain habitable.

This is an important observation for astronomers searching for habitable worlds, since low-mass stars are the most common in the galaxy. Their sheer numbers increase the odds that a habitable world may be found among them, and their small size increases the chance to detect planetary signals.

The new work will help astronomers screen the most promising candidates in the search for planets that could support life. “As long as we know the temperature of the star, we can estimate whether planets close to their stars have the potential to be in the moist greenhouse state,” said Anthony Del Genio of GISS, a co-author of the paper. “Current technology will be pushed to the limit to detect small amounts of water vapor in an exoplanet’s atmosphere. If there is enough water to be detected, it probably means that planet is in the moist greenhouse state.”

In this study, researchers assumed a planet with an atmosphere like Earth, but entirely covered by oceans. These assumptions allowed the team to clearly see how changing the orbital distance and type of stellar radiation affected the amount of water vapor in the stratosphere. In the future, the team plans to vary planetary characteristics such as gravity, size, atmospheric composition, and surface pressure to see how they affect water vapor circulation and habitability.


This is a plot of what the sea ice distribution could look like on a synchronously rotating ocean world. The star is off to the right, blue is where there is open ocean, and white is where there is sea ice.
Credits: Anthony Del Genio/GISS/NASA

The research was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Program through the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science; the NASA Postdoctoral Program, administered by Oak Ridge Affiliated Universities, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, Maryland; and a Grant-in-Aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo, Japan (No.15K17605).

Quelle: NASA



Tags: Astronomie - New NASA Study Improves Search for Habitable Worlds 


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