NASA’s Chris Cassidy gives space station ‘key’ to Russia’s Sergey Ryzhikov

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy gave the “key” to the International Space Station to cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov in a command handover ceremony aboard the orbital outpost on Oct. 20, 2020.
Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will return to Earth on Oct. 21. [Watch the landing on – Live coverage begins at 9:30pm EDT](

Credit: NASA

Here It Is: The Spectacular Footage of NASA Touching Down on an Asteroid

Want a little reminder of how amazingly clever we humans can be? Yesterday, from a distance of more than 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) away, NASA scientists piloted a spacecraft to gently touch down on a spinning asteroid, collecting a sample of surface rubble to bring back home to Earth.

At 6:08 PM EDT, the signal from spacecraft OSIRIS-REx reached Earth to let us know that it had successfully touched down at the Nightingale collection site on asteroid Bennu, within a metre (three feet) of its target, and safely bounced back up again after just 6 seconds of contact.

During this time, the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm hopefully collected a sizeable sample of dust and rock from the asteroid for further comprehensive study.

Yesterday, NASA’s live feed of the event showed a CG animation of the touchdown, since OSIRIS-REx’s data transfer rate is just 40 bits per second – way too low for a live video feed. But the spacecraft was photographing the process, and now those images have arrived home to be compiled into a spectacular timelapse.

The SamCam imager took a photo every 1.25 seconds, which will allow scientists back here on Earth to study the spacecraft’s performance. The above video is made up of 82 photos, covering a five-minute period from an altitude of about 25 metres (82 feet), through the touchdown, then as the spacecraft fires its thrusters to bounce away to an altitude of 13 metres (43 feet)….

main article image

Will the messages we sent to the stars be understood?

The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft famously contain messages to anyone who might someday find them. Both Pioneers carry a plaque, while the Voyagers carry a phonograph record. An enormous amount of effort went into creating these objects, but could an alien observer truly understand the messages we have sent to the stars?

While we cannot take anything for granted when it comes to how these messages might or might not be interpreted, let’s assume that the beings who might find the spacecraft can at least see or hear with eyes or ears similar to our own. Each message was designed with not only the information it was to carry in mind, but also the means to establish understanding through common denominators found throughout the universe.


Pluto’s Ice Caps Made of Methane, Turns Earth’s Process Upside Down

The mountains discovered on Pluto during the New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby of the dwarf planet in 2015 are covered by a blanket of methane ice, creating bright deposits strikingly like the snow-capped mountain chains found on Earth.

Image above: Pluto as seen from data taken by New Horizon’s flyby in 2015 of the dwarf planet, with a close-up view of the Pigafetta Montes mountain range. The colorization on the right indicates the concentrations of methane ice, with the highest concentrations at higher elevations in red, decreasing downslope to the lowest concentrations in blue. Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI and Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter.

New research conducted by an international team of scientists, including researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, analyzed New Horizons data from Pluto’s atmosphere and surface, using numerical simulations of Pluto’s climate to reveal that these ice caps are created through an entirely different process than they are on Earth.

“It is particularly remarkable to see that two very similar landscapes on Earth and Pluto can be created by two very dissimilar processes,” said Tanguy Bertrand, a postdoctoral researcher at Ames and lead author on the paper detailing these results, which was published in Nature Communications. “Though theoretically objects like Neptune’s moon Triton could have a similar process, nowhere else in our solar system has ice-capped mountains like this besides Earth.”

On our planet, atmospheric temperatures decrease with altitude, mostly because of the cooling induced by the expansion of the air in upward motions. The cool atmosphere in turn cools temperatures at the surface. When a moist wind approaches a mountain on Earth, its water vapor cools and condenses, forming clouds and then the snow seen on mountain tops. But on Pluto, the opposite occurs. The dwarf planet’s atmosphere actually gets warmer as altitude increases because the methane gas that’s more concentrated higher up absorbs solar radiation. However, the atmosphere is too thin to impact the surface temperatures, which remain constant. And unlike Earth’s upward winds, on Pluto, winds that travel down mountain slopes dominate.

Nobel Prize in Physics 2020: Discoveries about black holes — Scents of Science

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 with one half to Roger Penrose, University of Oxford, UK, «for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity» and the other half jointly to Reinhard Genzel, Max Planck Institute for […]

Nobel Prize in Physics 2020: Discoveries about black holes — Scents of Science

Descending Toward Asteroid Bennu

Explanation: What would it be like to land on an asteroid? Although no human has yet done it, NASA‘s robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to attempt to touch the surface of asteroid 101955 Bennu next week. The goal is to collect a sample from the nearby minor planet for return to Earth for a detailed analysis in 2023. The featured video shows what it looks like to descend toward the 500-meter diamond-shaped asteroid, based on a digital map of Bennu‘s rocky surface constructed from image and surface data taken by OSIRIS-REx over the past 1.5 years. The video begins by showing a rapidly spinning Bennu — much faster than its real rotation period of 4.3 hours. After the rotation stops, the virtual camera drops you down to just above the rugged surface and circles a house-sized rock outcrop named Simurgh, with the flatter outcrop Roc visible behind it. If the return sample reaches Earth successfully, it will be scrutinized for organic compounds that might have seeded a young Earth, rare or unusual elements and minerals, and clues about the early history of our Solar System.

Mars, Pleiades, and Andromeda over Stone Lions

Explanation: Three very different — and very famous — objects were all captured in a single frame last month. On the upper left is the bright blue Pleiades, perhaps the most famous cluster of stars on the night sky. The Pleiades (M45) is about 450 light years away and easily found a few degrees from Orion. On the upper right is the expansive Andromeda Galaxy, perhaps the most famous galaxy — external to our own — on the night sky. Andromeda (M31) is one of few objects visible to the unaided eye where you can see light that is millions of years old. In the middle is bright red Mars, perhaps the most famous planet on the night sky. Today Mars is at opposition, meaning that it is opposite the Sun, with the result that it is visible all night long. In the foreground is an ancient tomb in the Phygrian Valley in Turkey. The tomb, featuring two stone lions, is an impressive remnant of a powerful civilization that lived thousands of years ago. Mars, currently near its brightest, can be easily found toward the east just after sunset.

See Explanation.
Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an annotated version.
Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution version

Key nose cells identified as likely COVID-19 virus entry points

Scents of Science

Two specific cell types in the nose have been identified as likely initial infection points for COVID-19 coronavirus. Scientists discovered that goblet and ciliated cells in the nose have high levels of the entry proteins that the COVID-19 virus uses to get into our cells. The identification of these cells by researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, University Medical Centre Groningen, University Cote d’Azur and CNRS, Nice and their collaborators, as part of the Human Cell Atlas Lung Biological Network, could help explain the high transmission rate of COVID-19.

Reported in Nature Medicine, this first publication with the Lung Biological Network is part of an ongoing international effort to use Human Cell Atlas data to understand infection and disease. It further shows that cells in the eye and some other organs also contain the viral-entry proteins. The study also predicts how a key entry protein is regulated with other…

View original post 771 more words

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

Create your website with
Get started