Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 16:45 Uhr

Raumfahrt - GhanaSat-1 trio urge govt to give attention to space science



Mr Benjamin Bonsu (standing), leader of the GhanaSat-1 trio, briefing the Daily Graphic editorial board at the meeting. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY

Student engineers behind the successful launch of Ghana’s first satellite into orbit have appealed to the government to set up a multi-stakeholder committee to come up with an act, the Ghana outer space act, a key requirement that would enable the country to ratify and sign the United Nations Outer Space Treaty.

They said if the country signed and ratified the treaty, it would give investors the signal and confidence that the country was ready for them to come and establish space science facilities.

“There are a lot of commercial space actors who want to come and invest in facilities such as those for space environment testing, launch opportunities and assembly integration and functional testing of satellite, which will all boost the development of Ghana’s space science activities," they stated.


In an interaction with the editorial board of the Daily Graphic in Accra last Tuesday, the leader of the team, Mr Benjamin Bonsu, said: “We stand to gain a lot if Ghana could allow these investors to come in, by coming out with regulations that govern its space science activities, because this is a new channel for us to tap into.”

The team, including Mr Joseph Quansah and Ernest Teye Matey, had met with the editorial board in Accra to give members an insight into the progress of the GhanaSat-1 projects and the various opportunities the country could tap from in the space science world.

They also highlighted the long-term development plans of the All Nations University College (ANUC), the sponsors of the project, towards the development of GhanaSat-2 after the end of the GhanaSat-1 in two years’ time.


On July 7, 2017, GhanaSat-1 was launched into orbit by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), from the International Space Station (ISS), a move that focused international attention on Ghana.

The trio, graduates of ANUC, were part of the Birds Project implemented by the Graduate School of Engineering of the Kyushu Institute of Technology (KYUTEC) for five nations aspiring to be space-faring.

Opportunities to explore

Mr Bonsu stated that the launch of GhanaSat-1 had opened enormous opportunities which the country should explore to boost the development of its space science and technology.

He said the satellite had also offered them, as young engineers, wider knowledge about ratification of outer space treaties because the United Nations Officer for Outer Space had been “ringing our bells as to when Ghana will be able to register space object launch.

“They have made us understand that Ghana is now part of the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNCOPUS) but we have not ratified all the five outer space treaties,” he stated.

Mr Bonsu expressed optimism that the GhanaSat-1 project would help the country with another opportunity to join and be part of all the international cooperation in using space science for the benefit of Ghanaians.

“Presently, the European Space Agency, JAXA, NASA and other international space agencies want to go to the moon and mine various minerals.

“In the outer space treaties are the moon agreements and all member states that can ratify and sign the treaties stand to benefit from such space mining and this is a great opportunity for Ghana,” he added.

Time to act

According to Mr Bonsu, Nigeria was currently benefiting from various international space science activities because it had agreed to have space objects in orbit that gave it huge opportunities.

“Because Nigeria has a space agency and ratified the UN Outer Space treaty, all the UN space centres and other opportunities go to Nigeria,” he said.

He stressed that Ghana could also enjoy such opportunities if the government, through the Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Council of State, collaborated to ratify and sign the UN treaties and register GhanaSat-1.

Mr Bonsu expressed worry that Ghana, as a member of the UN COPUS since 2013, had attended only one meeting of the agency, making her an inactive member.

“But we now have GhanaSat-1 in orbit and we can use this satellite to get the various opportunities that other member states attending the UNCOPUS scientific technical sub-committee and legal subcommittee have been getting, such as being helped to develop their space science activities as developing nations.”

Quelle: Graphig Online


Update: 5.11.2017

Ghana’s Satellite Programme – The Space Race is On!


Countries all over the African continent are emerging as potential space nations. Nigeria is already established in space. Ethiopia is set to build and launch a satellite and develop its own launch vehicle in the next five years. Sudan, Kenya, and Angola are all eager to set out their stalls in space too. But there is one nation in particular that catches the eye, and that is achieving some impressive – and very much indigenous – feats. That country is Ghana. SpaceWatch Middle East’sEditor-in-Chief Helen Jameson investigates.

All Nations University

In May this year, three graduates from Ghana’s All Nations University saw the launch of the cubesat that they built. GhanaSat-1 was launched by Nanoracks from the International Space Station’s (ISS) Japanese Kibo module. The thing that really stood out about this for me was the fact that this was not some multi-million dollar project undertaken by the national space agency. This was a satellite that was built in its entirety by Ghanaian graduates as part of a university project. I think this is an incredible story and that’s why I wanted to look a little more closely at it. Before we talk more about this incredible achievement, we should look at Ghana itself and its stance on the technology sector.

Ghana’s Tech Background

For Ghana, the information communications technology (ICT) sector is very important and is seen as an integral part of the country’s economy. In fact it is viewed as a means to advance the entire nation on a socio-economic level. The correlation between technology and development is one that has long been picked up on by the Ghanaian government and this very much includes space. The government has introduced its ‘Vision 2020’ plan which aims to make Ghana a well-developed country between 2020 and 2029. It is an emerging digital economy and the government is committed to transforming all sectors, using digital means, including healthcare, education, and the justice system. Ghana has already founded the Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre to explore the field of space.

Does Africa Need Space Programmes?


This willingness to push the space agenda is a source of criticism. Why does Ghana focus on space when there are many more pressing problems to address such as clean water, sanitation, and health? This is a debate that we hear time and time again and there are definitely solid arguments for and against. The facts are undeniable. In the latest United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report, issued in March 2017, Sub- Saharan Africa “remains burdened by the World’s most uneven distribution of development gains with women, girls, people in rural areas, migrants, refugees and those in conflict-affected areas systematically left behind.” It cites deep-rooted barriers to development with a lack of high-quality education which perpetuates poverty and a lack of Internet access which creates a barrier to education, livelihoods and political participation. Health standards are also in dire need of improvement with malnutrition widespread and preventable diseases prevalent.

Ghana itself has been ranked 139 out of 188 countries and territories in the report. Though it fares better than many other Sub-Saharan African countries, there are problems that are glaringly obvious, and therefore it is easy to see why there are many dissenting voices on the initiation of a Ghanaian space programme.

The other burning question is whether African countries receiving foreign aid should develop space programmes at all. Ghana is one of these countries, as is Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, and others that are looking to move seriously into space. Should countries that cannot support themselves and their people financially (and where there is evidence of corruption) have their space programmes subsidised by foreign aid?

Ghana’s initial foray into space was CanSat, which we will shortly explore. This project had U.S.$50,000 investment from All Nations University – money that critics said should have been spent elsewhere. At the launch of CanSat, Samuel H. Donkor, President of All Nations University, was quoted by Associated Press: “They [the skeptics] think it is a pipedream, a waste of money.”

Also quoted on the CanSat launch by Associated Press, Prosper Kofi Ashilevi, director of the Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre, said: “Some wonder why we couldn’t concentrate on our problems of water, sanitation, health, all those things. I categorically disagree,” he said. “Space will help African countries who are very serious with it to leapfrog their development because it cuts across all sectors of the economy.”

GhanaSat Team

The uneasiness and scepticism can be understood.  After all, space and space technology, though fascinating to many, is not completely understood. Many people would not be able to tell you how a satellite can help with improvement in water quality, sanitation, healthcare, education, border protection, and a host of other critical applications. There is simply not the understanding out there of satellite technology and perhaps this is a crucial area to address so that the message can be pushed out about how satellites are key to actually solving these challenges and breaking down barriers to development.

CanSat to GhanaSat-1 – A Big Leap in Little Time

They say mighty oaks from little acorns grow. This is a phrase that could definitely be applied to Ghanasat-1. That’s because the journey began with a tiny satellite otherwise known as a deployable CanSat. A team of six students from All Nations University developed the CanSat, capable of taking imagery and other data. It was sent up into the air by a large balloon and reached the height of 165 metres. The original goal had been to reach 200 metres, but this height was enough to validate the technology. Once it reached its optimum height, the CanSat was brought back down to Earth with the aid of a parachute. It had been hoped that a small rocket would be used to launch the CanSat but, the team was not permitted to use one.

The group of six students that spent six months making the project happen were thrilled with the results. Inspired by the success of the CanSat project, three of those students; Benjamin Bonsu, Joseph Quansah, and Ernest Teye Matey, decided to take this achievement to another level. The project had caught the imagination of people across the entire country and the CanSat experiment was followed eagerly by Ghanaians and others across the world. This was a sign that Ghana was truly serious about making headway in space – and more importantly, it had the talent in-country to achieve it. For a small country, this was big news. And it was about to become much bigger.


In 2015, the opportunity arose for the three students to participate in the Joint Multi-National Birds Satellite Project which is a cross-border interdisciplinary satellite project for non-spacefaring countries supported by Japan and the Kyushu Institute of Technology (KIT). The project ran over two years and students designed, developed, and tested their CubeSat projects. The result of the Birds project was GhanaSat-1, which was completed in December 2016. This was a triumph for the team and for Ghana, especially as experts had speculated at the time of the CanSat project, that Ghana was, “at least 5 years from developing a functioning satellite.” [Source: The Telegraph].

GhanaSat-1 weighs 1kg and is the first ever Ghanaian satellite. It is equipped with high and low resolution cameras and sensors that will enable it to monitor Ghana’s coastline. The satellite will also investigate the effect that radiation and the space environment has on microprocessors. There is also another fundamental purpose to the GhanaSat-1 programme, and that is to inspire STEM education in high schools across the country where GhanaSat-1 will be used to integrate satellite and space technology into the high school curriculum.

For a small country, Ghana is making very big progress. It has become a space faring nation in its own right and yet has achieved this through its own, indigenous ingenuity with collaboration from KIT and the Birds project. For Ghanaians, what has been achieved by three young graduates from All Nations University is a source of immense national pride. It has truly struck a chord, especially with young people. Yes, Ghana faces its own very real challenges, but at the same time, though costly, space is a critical part of the solution to these challenges and is an area that is truly worth investing in.

Ghana is a forward-thinking country and this is reflected in the commitment it has shown to development of its infrastructure to enable better connectivity across the country. The move to integrate space technology into the school curriculum will ignite interest in space in the next generation of Ghanaian engineers and scientists. Ghanasat-2 is already on the drawing board, and following the huge success of the GhanaSat-1 mission, the government has agreed to subsidise the next satellite programme.

It is easy to criticise African nations that are developing space programmes, but the important point to note is that space will help to address these challenges. A sustainable space programme will actually enable a country to address its challenges. We are not talking about deep space missions to explore new planets but a small satellite programme that will deliver useful, tangible benefits.  This fact is misunderstood by many. The impact of space is not restricted to just one sector of the country or economy – it embraces everything and it can facilitate great change for Ghana.

From CanSat very swiftly to GhanaSat-1, the potential for Ghana in space is enormous and the country will serve as an inspiration for other African nations wishing to make space a destination for themselves.

Quelle: Spacewatch

Tags: Raumfahrt - GhanaSat-1 trio urge govt to give attention to space science 


Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 16:30 Uhr

Astronomie - Eine riesige, außergewöhnliche Maschine wird bald die Suche nach dem Neutrino, Geisterpartikel des Universums beginnen


In search of the neutrino, ghost particle of the universe

A huge, extraordinary machine will soon begin to study an elusive particle in a bid to reveal some of the deep secrets of the cosmos
The main spectrometer of Katrin on its way to Karlsruhe in 2006. The project is set to get under way in June 2018 Photograph: Michael Latz/AFP/Getty Images

On the outskirts of Karlsruhe, in south-west Germany, engineers have buried a giant, stainless steel device, bigger than a blue whale, inside the town’s institute of technology. The machine looks for all the world like a grounded zeppelin or a buried blimp.

In fact, the apparatus is one of the world’s biggest vacuum chambers. Air pressure inside it is lower than that on the surface of the moon and it has been installed to help solve a single, intricate problem: finding the mass of the universe’s most insignificant entity, the neutrino.

Every second, billions of neutrinos pass through our bodies. The sun sends trillions streaming across space every minute. Uncountable numbers have been left over from the Big Bang birth of the cosmos 13.8 billion years ago.

In fact, there are more neutrinos in the universe than any other type of particle of matter, though hardly anything can stop these cosmological lightweights in their paths. And this inability to interact with other matter has made them a source of considerable frustration for scientists who believe neutrinos could bring new understandings to major cosmological problems, including the nature of dark matter and the fate of our expanding universe. Unfortunately, the unbearable lightness of their being makes them very difficult to study.

Hence the decision to build the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment, or Katrin. It is designed to measure the behaviour of neutrinos and electrons that are emitted by the hydrogen isotope, tritium, in order to uncover slight variations in their paths as they fly through the experiment’s vacuum chamber. These variations should reveal precise details about the neutrino’s physical properties, in particular its mass.

“We have pushed technology to the limit in building Katrin,” says the project’s leader, Guido Drexlin. “Apart from creating a near perfect vacuum inside its huge chamber, we also have to keep the temperature of the tritium, which is the machine’s source of neutrinos, inside the device to a constant 30C above absolute zero. We have also had to take incredible care about the magnetic fields inside the machines. Essentially, we have had to demagnetise the whole building.”


It has taken more than a decade of planning and construction to put Katrin together. Its price tag, just over €60m, has been met by the German taxpayer via the country’s state-funded Helmholtz Association, with a further €6m chipped in by US, Russian, Czech and Spanish scientists who will have a minor involvement with the project.

Final trials are now being completed and full operations are set to begin in June, though it will take a further five years of gathering data before scientists can expect to have enough information to make an accurate assessment of the neutrino’s mass.

“Even then, we may have to go to a second phase of operations to get our answer,” says Drexlin. “We are moving into unknown territory here.”

The neutrino was first postulated in 1930, by the Nobel physics laureate Wolfgang Pauli, to explain the behaviour of other subatomic particles during radioactive decay. It took a further 26 years of search before neutrinos were first pinpointed in detectors and they remain maddeningly elusive.

An illustration of their insubstantial nature is provided by Canada’s Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, where a 1,000-tonne tank of heavy water is used to stop some of the 10 million million neutrinos that pass through it each second. Of these, only about 30 are actually detected in an average day.

Three different forms of the particle are now known to exist: the electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino and until relatively recently it was thought that none of them had any mass at all. They were the ultimate in ephemeral ghostliness, a bizarre situation that was celebrated by John Updike in his poem, Cosmic Gall.

Neutrinos, they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall

However, in the late 20th and early 21st century, scientists started to uncover evidence that suggested Updike was not entirely correct in his claims about the neutrino and that it did have some mass after all. This work culminated in experiments, carried out separately by Takaaki Kajita, from Japan, and Arthur McDonald, from Canada, which showed that neutrinos switch form as they travel across space. For example, some of the electron neutrinos emitted by the sun are transformed into muon and tau neutrinos as they hurtle towards the Earth. The process is known as neutrino oscillation.

“The discovery was crucial,” Drexlin insists. “There is a straightforward constraint in cosmological theory that states that only objects with mass can oscillate between different forms in this way. Massless particles could not change in this way. So the inference is clear: neutrinos must have mass.”

Drexlin recalls attending the physics conference where the results of these first experiments were unveiled. “It was like a rock concert. People were cheering and stamping their feet – for a good reason. We knew the universe would never be the same again.” For revealing the neutrino’s massive secret, Kajita and McDonald were awarded the Nobel prize in physics in 2015.

Inside Katrin



There is no way to directly measure the 

During the decay of a tritium nucleus 

mass of the neutrino but it can be deduced 

into a helium-3 nucleus, a neutrino 

by studying the energy distribution of the 

and an electron are ejected

electrons that are emitted at the same time


Inside Katrin’s vacuum chamber, electrons 



are channelled to flow very nearly in the 

same direction by a powerful magnetic 


field. This is how it works ...










1. Rear section

Responsible for monitoring and

calibrating equipment

2. Tritium source

Tritium is placed in a device known as a 

windowless gaseous tritium source

3. Transport

Superconducting magnets surrounding the pipe generate a field 

70,000 times as strong as Earth’s magnetic field

4. Pre-spectrometer

Further limits the number of electrons that might scatter on residual 

gas molecules in the vacuum chamber

5. Inside the spectrometer tank


Inside the huge vacuum chamber, electrons spread out. Only those 

with the highest energy make it past the electric force set up inside - 

roughly one in 100bn reach the detector


6. The detector

By counting the number of electrons that make it to the detector, 

physicists can precisely measure the endpoint of their spectrum and 

from that deduce the mass of the neutrino


Since then, measurements, carried out in Mainz, Germany and Troitsk in Russia, have pushed this figure further and further downwards with the result that the upper limit for the neutrino mass is now put at around a mere 2 ev, about two billionth the mass of the lightest atom. It will be the task of Katrin finally to nail down a precise figure.


This work will be carried out using a small supply of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that has two neutrons and a proton in its nucleus. (Normal water has no neutrons in its nucleus.) Tritium is made in nuclear reactors and is extraordinarily expensive. “A gram costs about €10,000 so you do want to be careful with stuff, particularly as it is also highly radioactive,” says Drexlin.

It is this last feature – tritium’s radioactivity – that makes it crucial to Katrin. Tritium decays into an isotope known as helium-3 by emitting an electron and a neutrino. By precisely measuring the energy (and therefore the mass) of the electron as it flies away from its tritium source it should be possible to deduce the energy (and mass) of the neutrino that is emitted with it.

Superconducting magnets will generate a field 70,000 times more powerful than Earth’s and channel the electrons into Katrin’s great vacuum chamber towards a powerful electric field. Only those electrons that have the most energy will be able to get past that field and be counted. These will be the electrons that have taken almost all of the energy from their decay from a tritium atom while the neutrino will get none. About one in every 5 trillion electrons created by the tritium will have this feature.

“These electrons will take up all the kinetic energy of that aspect of the decay of the tritium nucleus,” says Drexlin. “The neutrinos that are emitted will get none. All that will be left in the equation will be the mass of the neutrino that was emitted with the electron. By taking very careful measurements, it should then be possible to calculate what is that exact mass.

“It will take at least five years before we can hope to get a realistic figure and even then we might still not get a result. We have various ideas about what to do then so in the end we are pretty sure we will find out what is the neutrino’s mass. It is going to be an intriguing voyage, nevertheless.”


The 200-tonne giant spectrometer is transported through Leopoldshafen in Germany Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo



Modern odyssey: how Katrin took the long way home


The voyage that brought Katrin’s main component – its giant, 23-metre-long, 10-metre-wide vacuum chamber – to Karlsruhe remains one of modern engineering’s strangest odysseys. Built in nearby Deggendorf, 150km north-east of Munich, the 200-tonne, zeppelin-like chamber was too large to be taken on the 400km westward journey directly to Karlsruhe, either by air or road. So engineers were forced to take to the water, which in turn obliged them to head east down the Danube before sailing into the Black Sea and then the Mediterranean, across the Bay of Biscay and the Channel to Rotterdam. Finally, it was taken down the Rhine to bring it close to Karlsruhe. The 8,800-km trip took two months. “It was dubbed Europe’s biggest detour and you can see why,” says Drexlin.

It was also an eventful excursion. In September 2006, not long after the ship carrying the vacuum chamber had set off, it was found its cargo was actually too light to keep the boat low enough in the water and so allow it to pass under the bridge that crosses the Danube at Jochenstein. “We had to buy 1,000 tonnes of rock and gravel to weigh it down so we could get under the bridge,” Drexlin recalls.

On 27 October, the chamber reached the Black Sea. A few days later, as it crossed the Sea of Marmara en route to the Mediterranean, the ship was struck by a storm. “The protective covers that covered the chamber on deck were blown away and its stainless steel coat was exposed, raising the risk of salt water corrosion,” adds Drexlin. “However, we decided to proceed.”

Eventually the chamber reached Rotterdam and was then taken up the Rhine, which was by now at its lowest level for decades. “We only scraped over the river bottom by centimetres this time,” says Drexlin.

Eventually, at Leopoldshafen, outside Karlsruhe, the chamber was lifted on to dry land, using one of the world’s most powerful cranes, and placed on to a giant trailer. “I was asked how many people might come to watch the chamber being brought to its final resting place,” says Drexlin. “I said I thought about 300 would turn up. On the day, 30,000 came. The town ran out of food within an hour and we had to ferry in 10,000 sausages to feed everyone.”

This final stage of the chamber’s journey also proved to be the most nerve-racking. “At some points, there was a clearance of only 3cm between the chamber and the town’s buildings,” adds Drexlin. The sight of the great machine scraping its way through the town is extraordinary: a spectacle eerily reminiscent of a Hollywood alien invasion film.

Eventually, the chamber reached its resting place at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. “It was filthy by now,” says Drexlin. “So the first thing we did when we got it on site was to clean it. We are Germans, after all.” RM

Quelle: theguardian


Tags: Astronomie - Eine riesige, außergewöhnliche Maschine wird bald die Suche nach dem Neutrino, Geisterpartikel des Universums beginnen 


Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 16:15 Uhr



A giant planet – the existence of which was previously thought extremely unlikely – has been discovered by an international collaboration of astronomers, including Queen’s University Belfast researchers.

Dr Christopher Watson led the group from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s, which teamed up with researchers across the globe including the Universities of Warwick, Cambridge, and Leicester, along with the Geneva Observatory, the German Aerospace Centre and the Universidad de Chile. This led to the discovery of the unusual planet NGTS-1b - the largest planet compared to the size of its companion star ever discovered in the universe.

NGTS-1b isa gas giant six hundred light years away, the size of Jupiter, and orbits a small star with a radius and mass half that of our sun.


Its existence challenges theories of planet formation that a planet of this size could not be formed by such a small star.  According to these theories, small stars can readily form rocky planets but do not gather enough material together to form Jupiter-sized planets.

The planet is a hot Jupiter, at least as large as the Jupiter in our solar system, but with around 20% less mass. It is very close to its star – just 3% of the distance between Earth and the Sun – and orbits the star every 2.6 days, meaning a year on NGTS-1b lasts two and a half days.

The temperature on the gassy planet is approximately 530°C, or 800 Kelvin.

Dr Christopher Watson from Queen’s University Belfast explained: “Queen's has played a pivotal role in the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) – the instrument that found the planet and after which the planet is named. Sat in the harsh environment of the Atacama Desert it has been scouring the sky looking for alien worlds, and the very first one it has found has challenged our preconceptions of where planets can exist.”

Dr Daniel Bayliss, who is from the University of Warwick and the lead author of the research, commented: "The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us - such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars.  This is the first exoplanet we have found with our new NGTS facility and we are already challenging the received wisdom of how planets form. 

“Our challenge is to now find out how common these types of planets are in the Galaxy, and with the new NGTS facility we are well-placed to do just that.”

Bright stars

The researchers spotted the planet using the state-of-the-art Next-Generation Transit Survey  - a wide-field observing facility made of a compact ensemble of telescopes, designed to search for transiting planets on bright stars.

The planet orbits a red M-dwarf – the most common type of star in the universe, leading to the possibility that there could be more of these planets waiting to be found by the NGTS survey.

Dr Katja Poppenhaeger from Queen’s University Belfast also worked on the project. She commented: “M-dwarfs are the most numerous stars in the universe, so we really need to understand what the planets around them look like. NGTS-1b is an important piece of the puzzle."

NGTS-1b is the first planet outside our solar system to have been discovered by the NGTS facility, which is situated at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Northern Chile.


The researchers made their discovery by monitoring patches of the night sky over many months, and detecting red light from the star with innovative red-sensitive cameras. They noticed dips in the light from the star every 2.6 days, implying that a planet was orbiting and periodically blocking starlight.

Using these data, they then tracked the planet’s orbit around its star and calculated the size, position and mass of NGTS-1b by measuring the radial velocity of the star – finding out how much the star ‘wobbles’ during orbit, due to the gravitational tug from the planet, which changes depending on the planet’s size.

The research, ‘NGTS-1b: a hot Jupiter transiting an M-dwarf’, is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Quelle: Queen's University Belfast 




Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 16:00 Uhr

Astronomie - Video: Team set to study evaporating atmospheres of hot Jupiters




A team led by CU Boulder has been selected to build a tiny orbiting satellite to study the evaporating atmospheres of gigantic “hot Jupiters”—distant gaseous planets orbiting scorchingly close to their parent stars.

To date, more than 100 gas giants have been discovered orbiting very close to their parent stars, said CU Boulder Assistant Professor Kevin France of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), lead scientist on the four-year, $3.3 million effort funded by NASA. France and his colleagues believe the new study of hot Jupiters—some of which are so close to parent stars they orbit them in a matter of days—will help planetary scientists better understand the evolution of our own solar system.

“Hot Jupiters are a natural lab for us to look at atmospheric processes that may have been important in our solar system’s evolution,” France said.


The team is building a CubeSat satellite called Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE), which is about the size of a shoebox and which will carry an ultraviolet telescope. The UV region of the spectrum was chosen for study because it is a “sweet spot” both for star brightness and for finding heavy elements, France said.

The researchers plan to measure the rates and compositions of escaping gases from hot Jupiter atmospheres as the planets transit across the face of their bright parent stars and will look for evidence of magnetic fields on the gas giants.

Some hot Jupiters are losing mass so fast they have tails similar to comets that face away from their parent stars, in large part because stellar winds can blow off stars at more than a million miles per hour. “The atmospheres are pulled along by the stellar wind, which blows them backward and gives them a comet-like appearance,” he said.

In the planetary atmospheres of our solar system, the heaviest elements sink, said France. On Earth, elements like iron and silicon have sunk into the rock mantle, while lighter elements like nitrogen and oxygen remain in the planet’s atmosphere.

“What we expect to find on these hot Jupiters is that the mass loss is happening so fast that heavy elements are being pulled from inside the planets and spit into the escaping atmosphere,” said France, a faculty member in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS). “We anticipate seeing the signatures of heavy elements like magnesium and iron getting tossed out of the planets as they evaporate.”

France says the team hopes to study between 12 and 20 hot Jupiters during the primary mission, expected to launch in early 2020 and last eight months to a year. Hot Jupiters orbit their parent stars up to 10 times closer than Mercury, Earth’s innermost planet, which takes 88 days to orbit the sun.


The CUTE team also includes instrument design leader and APS Research Professor Brian Fleming, CUTE Project Manager Rick Kohnert of LASP, a team of LASP engineers and several graduate students. In addition, The CUTE team includes researchers from the University of Arizona; the Space Research Institute of the American Academy of Science in Graz, Austria; Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland; the University of Toulouse, France; and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

France’s team also is collaborating with Blue Canyon Technologies of Boulder, which is building the platform that will house the CUTE payload. The platform will provide the mission’s power, command, data handling, attitude control and communications.

“This is a really great opportunity to have students get involved in all phases of a NASA mission as they move into their careers,” said France. “CU Boulder has a long history of training NASA’s future leaders in the space sciences, and the CUTE program will extend that heritage to a new generation of scientists with access to small satellite opportunities.”

Quelle: University of Colorado

Tags: Astronomie - Video: Team set to study evaporating atmospheres of 'hot Jupiters' 


Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 10:00 Uhr

Astronomie - Strahlungsgürtel des Saturn: Wo der Sonnenwind nicht weht


Die Population hochenergetischer Protonen in der Umgebung des Saturns entwickelt sich unabhängig vom Sonnenwind – und somit deutlich anders als auf der Erde. 


Die Strahlungsgürtel von Erde und Saturn unterscheiden sich stärker als bisher angenommen. In diesen „Gürteln“ bewegen sich hochenergetische Teilchen wie etwa Elektronen und Protonen mit hohen Geschwindigkeiten um den Planeten herum – eingefangen von seinem Magnetfeld. Im Fall der Erde bestimmt in erster Linie der Sonnenwind, ein Strom geladener Teilchen von der Sonne, der mal stärker, mal schwächer ausfällt, auf direktem und indirektem Wege die Intensität der Strahlungsgürtel. Die Strahlungsgürtel des Saturns hingegen entwickeln sich völlig unabhängig vom Sonnenwind, werden jedoch maßgeblich von den Monden des Gasriesen beeinflusst. Zu diesem Ergebnis kommt eine Gruppe von Forschern unter führender Beteiligung des Max-Planck-Instituts für Sonnensystemforschung (MPS) in der bisher umfassendsten Studie zum Thema, die heute im Fachmagazin Nature Astronomyerscheint. Schlüssel zu den neuen Erkenntnissen sind Messungen des Instruments MIMI-LEMMS an Bord der NASA-Raumsonde Cassini, die vor ihrem Sturzflug in den Saturn am 15. September dieses Jahres mehr als 13 Jahre lang das Saturnsystem erforschte. 
MPS, Bild des Saturns: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Die Aktivität der Sonne – und mit ihr die Stärke des Sonnenwindes – folgt einem etwa elfjährigen Zyklus. Um den langfristigen Einfluss des Sonnenwindes auf die Strahlungsgürtel eines Planeten zu untersuchen, braucht man somit einen langen Atem. „Hätte Cassini tatsächlich – wie zunächst vorgesehen – nur vier Jahre im Saturnsystem verbracht, wären wir nie zu den aktuellen Ergebnissen gelangt“, erklärt Dr. Elias Roussos vom MPS. Zum Glück wurde die Mission mehrfach verlängert. So konnte der Teilchendetektor MIMI-LEMMS (Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument – Low Energy Magnetospheric Measurement System) an Bord von Cassini die Verteilung geladener Teilchen in der Umgebung des Saturns über einen Zeitraum aufzeichnen, der einen kompletten Sonnenzyklus umfasst. „Solch umfangreiche in-situ-Daten zum Strahlungsgürtel eines Planeten gibt es ansonsten nur von der Erde“, so MPS-Forscher Dr. Norbert Krupp, der das MIMI-LEMMS-Team leitet.

Wie die Cassini-Daten zeigen, sind die Ausmaße der Protonen-Strahlungsgürtel des Gasriesen  gigantisch: Sie reichen vom innersten Ring des Planeten bis zur Umlaufbahn des Mondes Tethys – und damit mehr als 285.000 Kilometer ins Weltall. Ein entscheidender Unterschied zur Erde: Während unser Mond weit außerhalb der irdischen Magnetosphäre und der irdischen Strahlungsgürtel seine Bahnen zieht, enthalten die des Saturns mehrere seiner Trabanten – etwa die großen Monde Janus, Mimas und Enceladus. „Die Saturnmonde prägen den Strahlungsgürtel entscheidend“, so Krupp. Auf die hochenergetischen Teilchen, besonders auf die Protonen, wirken sie wie eine Art Grenzwall: Jegliche Protonen, die von ihrem Entstehungsort weiter nach innen diffundieren, werden beim Zusammentreffen mit einem Mond absorbiert und somit aufgehalten. „Auf diese Weise entstehen Bereiche im Strahlungsgürtel, die fast völlig von einander isoliert sind“, so Roussos. Bei der Erde hingegen speisen vor allem Teilchen, die weiter außen entstehen und dann nach Innen wandern, den inneren Teil des Strahlungsgürtels.

Im Fall der Erde haben die hochenergetischen Teilchen, welche die Strahlungsgürtel bilden, zweierlei Ursprünge. Einige werden direkt vom Sonnenwind eingetragen. Andere lassen sich auf den Einfall kosmischer Strahlung zurückführen. Trifft diese Strahlung auf die Atmosphäre des Planeten, setzt dies eine Kette von Reaktionen in Gang, an deren Ende hochenergetische Elektronen und Protonen entstehen. Da der Sonnenwind die kosmische Strahlung teilweise abschirmt und so moduliert, spielt die Aktivität der Sonne auch bei diesem Prozess eine entscheidende Rolle.

Im Saturnsystem ist dies anders. „Zwar konnten wir bereits in den ersten Jahren der Cassini-Mission beobachten, dass der Sonnenwind dramatische Veränderungen in der Magnetosphäre des Saturns bewirkt konnte“, so Roussos. „Doch dieser direkte Einfluss endet abrupt an der Umlaufbahn des Mondes Tethys.“

Dennoch deutete zunächst alles darauf hin, dass der Sonnenwind auch die Strahlungsgürtel mitgestaltet – wenn auch nur indirekt: Die ersten Jahre der Cassini-Mission fielen mit einem Abfall der Sonnenaktivität zusammen; die Intensität der Strahlungsgürtel stieg wie erwartet an. In der Zeit von 2010 bis 2012 zeigte sich jedoch ein deutlicher Abfall der Intensität. Dieser lässt sich nicht auf den deutlich langsamer veränderlichen Sonnenwind zurückführen. Und auch Sonnenstürme, heftige Teilchen- und Strahlungsausbrüche von der Sonne, können nicht verantwortlich sein. Solche Stürme sorgen zwar auf der Erde immer wieder für einen schlagartigen Intensitätseinbruch. Wie umfangreiche Simulationen der Forscher zeigen, können sie den beobachteten, jahrelangen Abfall jedoch nicht erklären.

Die Wissenschaftler machen vielmehr energiereiche ultraviolette Strahlung, sogenannte EUV-Strahlung, von der Sonne für den Effekt verantwortlich. Diese Strahlung kann die Atmosphäre eines Planeten lokal aufheizen. Die so entstehenden turbulenten Winde übertragen diese Information in die Ionosphäre, die ihrerseits durch das Magnetfeld des Planeten die Magnetosphäre beeinflusst. Im Ergebnis verteilen sich die Protonen in den Strahlungsgürteln deutlich effizienter als sonst um. Beim Saturn treffen sie auf ihrem Weg nach Innen jedoch auf Monde, die sie sozusagen „absaugen“: Die Intensität der Strahlungsgürtel nimmt dadurch deutlich ab. „Wir beobachten, dass der Intensitätsabfall in den Protonen-Strahlungsgürteln des Saturn exakt mit starken Änderungen in der EUV-Strahlung von der Sonne zusammenfällt“, beschreibt Roussos die jüngsten Ergebnisse. Es ist also möglich, dass die Sonne dem Strahlungsgürtel des Gasriesen durchaus ihren Stempel aufdrückt – wenn auch nicht durch den Sonnenwind.

„Unsere Analysen erinnern uns zudem, wie stark die Eigenschaften der Strahlungsgürtel vom Aufbau des jeweiligen Planetensystems, also im Fall des Saturns von der Lage und Anzahl der Monde, abhängen“, so Roussos. Diese Erkenntnis könnte auch für einen Blick über den Rand des Sonnensystems hinaus hilfreich sein: Falls sich in Zukunft die Strahlungsgürtel eines Exoplaneten aufspüren lassen, könnten diese Daten indirekt auch Informationen über den Aufbau des Systems enthalten.


Saturn's Radiation Belts: A Stranger to the Solar Wind

The high energy proton population in the environment of Saturn develops independently of the solar wind - and thus in a considerably different way from the one on Earth.


The radiation belts of Earth and Saturn differ more strongly than previously assumed. In these belts, very energetic particles, such as electrons and protons, move around the planet at high velocities - captured by its magnetic field. In the case of the Earth, the solar wind, a current of charged particles from the Sun varying in strength, controls the intensity of the radiation belts both directly and indirectly. The radiation belts of Saturn, however, develop completely independently of the solar wind and are instead decisively influenced by the gas giant’s moons. These results are published today in the journal Nature Astronomy by a group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany co-leading the most comprehensive study on the subject to date. Key to the new findings are measurements of the MIMI-LEMMS instrument aboard NASA’s Cassini space probe, which explored the Saturn system for more than 13 years before its dive into the planet on the 15th of September this year.

The activity of the Sun – and with it the strength of the solar wind – follows an eleven-year cycle. Investigating the long term influence of the solar wind on a planet’s radiation belts therefore requires patience – and space missions of a considerable length. "If Cassini’s mission to the Saturn system had ended after four years, as initially planned, we would never have been able to achieve these results," explains Dr. Elias Roussos of the MPS. Fortunately, the mission was extended several times. The Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI) with its high energy particle detector (LEMMS) on board Cassini was therefore able to record the distribution of charged particles in the vicinity of Saturn over a period of time that includes a complete solar cycle. "Such extensive in-situ data on the radiation belts of a planet are otherwise only available for Earth," says MPS researcher Dr. Norbert Krupp, who heads the MIMI-LEMMS team.

As data from Cassini show, Saturn’s proton radiation belts are gigantic: they reach from the planet’s innermost ring to the orbit of the moon Tethys – and thus more than 285,000 kilometers into space. A decisive difference to Earth: while our moon is located far beyond the limits of the magnetosphere and the radiation belts, Saturn’s radiation belts contain several of its satellites, such as the large moons Janus, Mimas, and Enceladus. "Saturn’s moons influence the radiation belts decisively," says Krupp. They act as a kind of boundary wall on very energetic particles, particularly protons. Any protons diffusing further inwards from their place of origin are absorbed and thus stopped when they interact with a moon. "This creates areas in the radiation belt which are completely isolated from one another," says Roussos. Unlike Saturn, particles arising outside Earth’s radiation belts may travel inward and replenish its content.

On Earth, the high-energy particles that form the radiation belts have two origins. Some are provided directly by the solar wind. Others result from incident protons of extreme energy originating from our Galaxy, called Galactic Cosmic Rays. When Galactic Cosmic Rays reach the planet’s atmosphere, it sets in motion a chain of reactions, at the end of which high-energy electrons and protons are created. Since the solar wind partially shields and thus modulates this cosmic radiation, the Sun’s activity also plays a decisive role in this process.

In the Saturnian system this is different. "In the first years of the Cassini mission, we observed that the solar wind could cause dramatic changes in Saturn’s magnetosphere," says Roussos. "However, this direct influence stopped abruptly at the orbit of the moon Tethys."

Nevertheless, at first everything indicated that the solar wind still helps to shape the radiation belts – if only indirectly: the first years of the Cassini mission coincided with a decline in the Sun's activity; the intensity of the radiation belts increased as expected. In the period from 2010 to 2012, however, there was a rapid intensity drop that could not be attributed to the solar wind modulation of Galactic Cosmic Rays, which changes on much longer timescales. And also solar storms, violent eruptions of particles and radiation from the Sun, could not have been responsible. While time and again on Earth such events cause a sudden decline of intensity, extensive simulations performed by the researchers show, that this effect can also not explain the year-long decrease witnessed by Cassini.

Rather, the scientists suspect that extreme ultraviolet radiation from the Sun may be responsible. This radiation can locally heat the atmosphere of a planet. The resulting turbulent winds transmit this information to the ionosphere which is “anchored” to the magnetosphere through the planet’s magnetic field. As a result, the protons in the radiation belts spread out much more efficiently than usual. On their way, they encounter Saturn’s moons and are absorbed: the intensity of the radiation belts thereby decreases significantly. "We observe that the intensity drop in the proton radiation belts of Saturn coincides exactly with strong changes in the EUV radiation from the Sun," Roussos describes the new results. It is therefore possible that while the solar wind has no impact on the radiation belts, the Sun still may.

"Our analyses also remind us how strongly the properties of the radiation belts depend on the structure of the particular planet system, that is, the position and number of moons for the case of Saturn", says Roussos. This knowledge could also be helpful for a glance beyond the edge of the solar system: if in the future the radiation belts of an exoplanet could be detected, these data could also indirectly contain information about the system’s properties and structure.


Tags: Astronomie - Strahlungsgürtel des Saturn: Wo der Sonnenwind nicht weht Saturn's Radiation Belts: A Stranger to the Solar Wind 


Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 09:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Aufbau einer multi-planetarischen Zivilisation


We should move energy-intensive processes into SPACE to save Earth and help us become a 'multi-planetary civilisation', says Professor Brian Cox

  • Professor Cox was speaking during an interview as part of his Australian tour
  • He said moving high energy processes would leave Earth as 'purely residential'
  • Instead of reducing energy usage, this would allow us to increase usage
  • This would be the first step to making us a 'multi-planetary civilisation' 

He's known for his controversial suggestions, and Professor Brian Cox's latest proposals are some of his wackiest yet.

In a new interview, Cox has suggested that energy and resource intensive systems should be moved onto other planets, leaving Earth as a 'purely residential' world.

Cox says the move would be a step towards building a 'multi-planetary civilisation' before Earth runs out of precious resources.


In a new interview, Professor Brian Cox has suggested that energy and resource intensive systems should be moved onto other planets, leaving Earth as a 'purely residential' world


Professor Cox suggests that we should move energy and resource-intensive processes onto other planets. 

He said: We've already industrialised space, if you think about it. 

'But the next step is to really begin to build heavy industry up there, start going getting the resources that are available beyond Earth and converting them into things...And I think it's an extremely exciting time. 

'There's a bit of a tension at the moment because in expanding our capabilities and our civilisation we're at the stage now where we are damaging this world that we rely on. So we can't carry on doing that. So how do you resolve that tension?

'The tension can be resolved by doing less, which is not a future that I want. I want to do more but I want to protect the planet at the same time. 

'Well the answer is, you do more off the planet.'


Cox was speaking during an interview with, as part of his Australian tour.

He said: 'There's enough metal, metals, in the asteroid belt to build a skyscraper 8,000 stories tall and cover the Earth in it.

'Imagine that. Essentially, an unlimited amount of resources sat there in the asteroids.

'We've been to the asteroids already. There are companies now, particularly on the west coast of America, but also in Luxembourg in Europe, that are focused on mining those asteroids.

'So we're right on the edge of flipping our civilisation to a thing that just exists on the surface of a single planet to a thing that exists in a solar system, and that's the first step to building a multi-planetary civilisation.'

Cox pointed to Amazon's Jeff Bezos' move into the world of space travel, in the form of his firm, Blue Origin.

He said: 'The reason that (Bezos) is putting his money and his time and his energy into building rockets is that he thinks that the way to save our planet, the way to protect and grow our civilisation is to move off the planet, or move certain things off the planet.

'He said to me that he would like to see, in his lifetime, the Earth zoned if you imagine a planet that's zoned residential and all the energy intensive stuff and resource intensive stuff that currently we do here on the Earth, which damages it, is moved off.

'We do more of it than we do now — but we do it off the planet.'

Ultimately, our goal should be to use more energy, not less, according to Cox, who said this would allow us to 'expand civilisation.'


Professor Cox said: 'There's enough metal, metals, in the asteroid belt to build a skyscraper 8,000 stories tall and cover the earth in it. Imagine that. Essentially, an unlimited amount of resources sat there in the asteroids.' Pictured is a concept of a satellite attaching to an asteroid

He added: 'We've already industrialised space, if you think about it.

'We all use communication satellites all the time, we're used to seeing television pictures beamed around the world, we use satellite navigation systems, our weather forecasting comes primarily now from satellites.

'But the next step is to really begin to build heavy industry up there, start going getting the resources that are available beyond Earth and converting them into things...And I think it's an extremely exciting time.

'What sort of world do we want to live in? We want to live in a world I think where the future is more interesting than the past. Where we're doing things that are more interesting than we used to do.

'There's a bit of a tension at the moment because in expanding our capabilities and our civilisation we're at the stage now where we are damaging this world that we rely on. So we can't carry on doing that. So how do you resolve that tension?

'The tension can be resolved by doing less, which is not a future that I want. I want to do more but I want to protect the planet at the same time. 

'Well the answer is, you do more off the planet.'

Quelle:  DailyMail

Tags: Raumfahrt - Aufbau einer multi-planetarischen Zivilisation 


Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 09:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Mars-Simulation AMADEE-18



Austrian Space Forum and Sultanate sign Memorandum of Understanding for Mars-Simulation AMADEE-18

On Oct 30 2017 representatives of the Sultanate of Oman and the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) signed their agreement to conduct the OeWF’s next Mars-Analog-Mission in the desert of Oman. His Excellency the Austrian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman and Republic of Yemen, Gregor W. Kössler as well as 200 guests attended the ceremony in Mascat, Oman.

Dr. Gernot Grömer and Mag. Alexander Soucek, Board Members of the Austrian Space Forum and His Excellency Prof. Al Khattab Al Hinai, Chairperson of the National Steering Commitee and Oman Astronomical Society aswell as Dr. Saleh Al-Shidhani, President of the National Steering Commitee and Oman Astronomical Society signed their agreement to conduct the Austrian Space Forum’s 12. Mars-Analog Mission AMADEE-18 in the desert of Oman.

Dr. Gernot Grömer: „In the Sultanate of Oman we have gained a strong and reliable partner for our next mission. Today’s signing of our Memorandum of Understanding marks a major milestone in the preparations for our 4-week in the Omani desert. Together with the Oman National Steering Committee we have recently identified the exact site for our simulation and are now stepping into a very intense phase of training and preparations. Already by the end of December our equipment will be shipped to Oman.”

Also the AMADEE-18 Mission Patch was presented.
The AMADEE-18 mission is organized by the Austrian Space Forum in partnership with institutions from more than 20 nations.

The Patch symbolizes a typical Arabic ornamental pattern. The nodal points of the black lines stand for the multidisciplinarity of the experiments, whilst the orange hues are a symbol of a desert sunset. Under the motto “Two worlds. One sun.”, the AMADEE-18 mission patch also stands for the sun as a common feature explorers will see on both Earth and Mars.

To prepare for future crewed missions on Mars, the Austrian Space Forum organizes Mars simulations on Earth. In 2015, the Austrian Space Forum and international partners conducted its 11thanalogue mission AMADEE-15- a two-week Mars simulation mission on a rock glacier in the Kaunertal, Austria that resembles Martian terrain. Communication between the Mission Support Center and the field crew was time-delayed to emulate the conditions of a Mars expedition. The Analog-Astronauts performed crucial experiments in the fields of geology, astrobiology and engineering, thus gathering valuable data for future missions on Mars. Dr. Gernot Grömer, President of the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), emphasizes the importance of Mars Analogue Missions:

“Through testing equipment, software, procedures and workflows that will be implemented in future human missions to Mars we try to find out what is not yet working, what needs to be redesigned, rethought. After all, it’s better to find the flaw in Mars-equipment here on Earth rather than on Mars where spare parts are a 6-months-journey away at best.”
The Austrian Space Forum’s missions draw considerable media and social media attention across the globe. More than one million people followed the last mission and got a closer look at the cutting edge of research in Austria.

To perform the experiments, the OeWF’s Analog-Astronauts wear the 45kg prototype spacesuit “Aouda” with an incorporated interface to assist the astronaut. The spacesuit is designed to deliver the astronaut’s vital data and mimic the restrictions of a spacesuit that will be worn by astronauts on Mars. Aouda provides movement restrictions, limited sensory input as well as the weight and an uncomfortably high centre of gravity typical of a pressure suit worn in space. Thus it enables the Austrian Space Forum’s Analog-Astronauts to test equipment, workflows and experiments meant for the Red Planet under Mars-like conditions. By developing the spacesuit simulator the Austrian Space Forum also aims to optimize interactions with other (robotic) components – such as a rover – and minimize the risk of human contamination.

Quelle: Spacewatch


Tags: Raumfahrt - Mars-Simulation AMADEE-18 


Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 09:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Mars-Lander InSight - Update-3


NASA's Next Mission to Mars Will Probe the Red Planet's Deep Interior in 2018

InSight will do a deep dive into the Martian underground, pushing two instruments below the surface that will ferry information back from the depths. 




Tags: Raumfahrt - Mars-Lander InSight - Update-3 


Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 08:45 Uhr

Mars-Chroniken - Your Bedroom on Mars Will Look a Lot Different



The second place entry in the NASA 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition.Team Gamma / NASA


Forget about your big bed — and that comfy recliner.

Before you sign up for any mission to Mars, be prepared to say goodbye to the concept of the bedroom as you know it.

On Mars, as in outer space generally, it would be an unimaginable luxury to have a big bed with a thick mattress and a heavy comforter. Given the exorbitant cost of sending things to Mars and the constraints of the cramped habitats we're likely to build there, we’ll need a whole new set of design principles for furniture and interior spaces on the red planet.


With this challenge in mind, a team of designers from IKEA gathered recently in the Utah desert to spend three days in a mock Mars habitat thinking about designing furniture for a space mission (or a “tiny home” here on Earth).


An IKEA team spent three days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. IKEA


Inside the two-story, 33-foot-wide cylinder, one the designers, Robert Janson, said he and his teammates “quickly realized the necessity of privacy.” They also realized that the furniture we’re all familiar with tends to be bigger than necessary. “We had these bunk beds that were taking up lots of space the whole day, and the only time we really used them was for sleeping,” Janson explained.

“Every object has to have multiple functions — otherwise we just can’t afford it,” said Constance Adams, a Houston-based space architect who served as an advisor to the team. So Janson and the others started to think about how to incorporate beds into the walls like pull-down cots, for example, and how they could use smaller features, like virtual windows showing lifelike video views, to break up the monotony of the environment.


IKEA isn’t alone in imagining what Martian design could look like. Inspired in part by estimates that sending cargo to Mars will cost more than $2,600 a pound, Renens, Switzerland-based designer Thomas Missé came up with super-thin, stackable, carbon-fiber “Mars chairs.”


The Mars Chair by designer Thomas Miss?. Thomas Misse


Another designer, London-based Christine Lew, created a collection of products like a spacesuit you can shower in and a vacuum-suction bathrobe. These weren’t intended to be commercial products but rather “speculative” objects to get people to think about overlooked comforts of everyday life during long-term space exploration, Lew told the architecture and design magazine Dezeen.

For its part, NASA has asked architecture firms to think about what buildings could look like on Mars. Some of the ideas — submitted to the space agency as part of its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge — look like luxury cabins. The first-place winner in the design phase of the challenge, the Mars Ice House, was an four-story igloo-like habitat with a spiral staircase, a mix of private and communal spaces, and rooms with curved walls to create an illusion of more space.

Of course, these concepts won’t come to fruition unless the tools and materials required for their construction meet the strict engineering requirements for space travel.

“It starts and ends with the rocket science,” Adams said. “It has to be light enough and strong enough to be transported off Earth.”

What’re more, most of the tools and furnishing you pack will need to be useful under the conditions of both zero-gravity in space and Martian gravity (which is about one-third of Earth’s gravity). The spaceship itself might need to be convertible into habitat walls, tables, chairs, and so on. And each of those items would likely also serve multiple functions.


If function is one key to designing furniture and habitats on Mars, materials are another. The plastics and synthetic materials found in furniture and other products here on Earth sometimes give off gases that could be dangerous in closed environments, Adams said. She thinks natural materials like wool, wood, and leather might be the best materials for interior furnishings.

To promote positive feelings on Mars, designers will look for ways to help astronauts feel an emotional bond with the furniture and décor inside their habitat. Philipp Süssman, another member of the IKEA team, said people tend to feel more connected to objects they build or assemble themselves.

Good design could also help ease the interpersonal conflict that might arise on Mars.

“King Arthur’s roundtable is a very smart piece of furniture for a group of knights,” Adams said. “You have to design the common spaces so there’s an equality of positions.” And, she added, given the high sound levels that might exist in a Mars habitat filed with whirring fans and other machinery, facing one another at meals and other gatherings might make things easier by facilitating lip-reading.

Ultimately, Mars-focused designs could go a long way toward making daily life more comfortable in the harsh Martian environment. And the same design ideas that would work on Mars might also help us create better living spaces here on Earth — especially as we face our own ever-growing environmental challenges.

As Adams contemplated this avenue of research, she was reminded of the words of Bill Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut who took the famous Earthrise photo: “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”


Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts-Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders-held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth." They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.

Quelle: MACH



Sonntag, 5. November 2017 - 08:30 Uhr

Astronomie - Astronomers Complete First International Asteroid Tracking Exercise



Asteroid 2012 TC4 glides across a field of background stars in this animation taken on Oct. 11, 2017, by the 3.3-foot (1.0-meter) Kiso Schmidt telescope in Nagano, Japan. Image Credit: Kiso Observatory, University of Tokyo



Asteroid 2012 TC4 appears as a dot at the center of this composite of 37 individual 50-second exposures obtained on Aug. 6, 2017 by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope located in the Atacama Desert region of Chile. The asteroid is marked with a circle for a better identification. The individual images have been shifted to compensate for the motion of the asteroid, so that the background stars and galaxies appear as bright trails. 


2012 TC4's heliocentric orbit has changed due to the 2012 and 2017 close encounters with Earth. The cyan color shows the trajectory before the 2012 flyby, the magenta shows the trajectory after the 2012 flyby, and yellow shows the trajectory after the 2017 flyby. The orbital changes were primarily in semi-major axis and eccentricity, although there were also slight changes in the inclination. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


The Terksol Observatory is located in the Northern Caucasus Mountains and operated jointly by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine. The 2-meter telescope provided follow-up astrometry of asteroid 2012 TC4. Image credit: INASAN


The 2.4-meter telescope facility at Magdalena Ridge Observatory provided astrometric and photometric observations for two months during the 2012 TC4 campaign. Image credit: Magdalena Ridge Observatory, New Mexico Tech


An international team of astronomers led by NASA scientists successfully completed the first global exercise using a real asteroid to test global response capabilities. 

Planning for the so-called "TC4 Observation Campaign" started in April, under the sponsorship of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office. The exercise commenced in earnest in late July, when the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope recovered the asteroid. The finale was a close approach to Earth in mid-October. The goal: to recover, track and characterize a real asteroid as a potential impactor -- and to test the International Asteroid Warning Network for hazardous asteroid observations, modeling, prediction and communication. 

The target of the exercise was asteroid 2012 TC4 -- a small asteroid originally estimated to be between 30 and 100 feet (10 and 30 meters) in size, which was known to be on a very close approach to Earth. On Oct. 12, TC4 safely passed Earth at a distance of only about 27,200 miles (43,780 kilometers) above Earth's surface. In the months leading up to the flyby, astronomers from the U.S., Canada, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia and South Africa all tracked TC4 from ground- and space-based telescopes to study its orbit, shape, rotation and composition. 

"This campaign was an excellent test of a real threat case. I learned that in many cases we are already well-prepared; communication and the openness of the community was fantastic," said Detlef Koschny, co-manager of the near-Earth object (NEO) segment in the European Space Agency (ESA)'s Space Situational Awareness program. "I personally was not prepared enough for the high response from the public and media -- I was positively surprised by that! It shows that what we are doing is relevant." 

"The 2012 TC4 campaign was a superb opportunity for researchers to demonstrate willingness and readiness to participate in serious international cooperation in addressing the potential hazard to Earth posed by NEOs," said Boris Shustov, science director for the Institute of Astronomy at the Russian Academy of Sciences. "I am pleased to see how scientists from different countries effectively and enthusiastically worked together toward a common goal, and that the Russian-Ukrainian observatory in Terskol was able to contribute to the effort." Shustov added, "In the future I am confident that such international observing campaigns will become common practice."

Using the observations collected during the campaign, scientists at NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California were able to precisely calculate TC4's orbit, predict its flyby distance on Oct. 12, and look for any possibility of a future impact. "The high-quality observations from optical and radar telescopes have enabled us to rule out any future impacts between the Earth and 2012 TC4," said Davide Farnocchia from CNEOS, who led the orbit determination effort. "These observations also help us understand subtle effects such as solar radiation pressure that can gently nudge the orbit of small asteroids."

A network of optical telescopes also worked together to study how fast TC4 rotates. Given that TC4 is small, astronomers expected it to be rotating fast, but were surprised when they found that TC4 was not only spinning once every 12 minutes, it was also tumbling. "The rotational campaign was a true international effort. We had astronomers from several countries working together as one team to study TC4's tumbling behavior," said Eileen Ryan, director of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory. Her team tracked TC4 for about 2 months using the 7.9-foot (2.4-meter) telescope in Socorro, New Mexico. 

The observations that revealed the shape and confirmed the composition of the asteroid came from astronomers using NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Network antenna in California and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's 330-foot (100-meter) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. "TC4 is a very elongated asteroid that's about 50 feet (15 meters) long and roughly 25 feet (8 meters) wide," said Marina Brozovic, a member of the asteroid radar team at JPL.

Finding out what TC4 is made of turned out to be more challenging. Due to adverse weather conditions, traditional NASA assets studying asteroid composition -- such as the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii -- were unable to narrow down what TC4 was made of: either dark, carbon-rich or bright igneous material. 

"Radar has the ability to identify asteroids with surfaces made of highly reflective rocky or metallic materials," said Lance Benner, who led the radar observations at JPL. "We were able to show that radar scattering properties are consistent with a bright rocky surface, similar to a particular class of meteorites that reflect as much as 50 percent of the light falling on them." 

In addition to the observation campaign, NASA used this exercise to test communications between the many observers and also to test internal U.S. government messaging and communications up through the executive branch and across government agencies, as it would during an actual predicted impact emergency.

"We demonstrated that we could organize a large, worldwide observing campaign on a short timeline, and communicate results efficiently," said Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, who led the observation campaign. Michael Kelley, TC4 exercise lead at NASA Headquarters in Washington added, "We are much better prepared today to deal with the threat of a potentially hazardous asteroid than we were before the TC4 campaign." 

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office administers the Near-Earth Object Observations Program and is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting coordination of U.S. government response planning, should there be an actual impact threat.

Quelle: NASA

Tags: Astronomie - Astronomers Complete First International Asteroid Tracking Exercise 


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