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Europe Pushes Forward Large Astroparticle Physics Projects

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

European funding agencies welcomed today the priorities for the future of astroparticle physics defined by the scientific community , and accepted the recommendations included in the newly published update of the European roadmap for astroparticle physics.

This update comes after the first ever European roadmap for astroparticle physics published in 2008 whose main goal was to define the research infrastructures necessary for the development of the field: « the Magnificent Seven » of astroparticle physics. Astroparticle physics aims to investigate on fundamental questions such as the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the study the high-energy Universe through new messenger astronomy (high-energy gamma, neutrinos, cosmic rays and gravitational waves) and the behaviour of interactions at the highest energies as revealed by the search of proton decay and the determination of neutrino properties.

“The update of the roadmap provides a better picture of what will come first on the menu” said Christian Spiering, chairman of the ASPERA and ApPEC* Scientific Advisory Committee that produced the roadmap. Funding for each project is still subject to national decision-making processes, and the roadmap recognises that not all funding agencies will necessarily support each project.

Full Story: http://www.aspera-eu.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=10&Itemid=193

Space Station Trio Lands Safely in Kazakhstan

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Three International Space Station crew members safely returned to Earth on Monday, wrapping up nearly six months in space during which NASA and its international partners celebrated the 11th anniversary of continuous residence and work aboard the station.

Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum, Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sergei Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz spacecraft in frigid conditions on the central steppe of Kazakhstan at 8:26 p.m. CST Nov. 21 (8:26 a.m. Kazakhstan time, Nov. 22). The trio arrived at the station on June 9. They spent 167 days in space and 165 days on the complex. Volkov, a two-time station crew member, now has accumulated 366 days in space.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/nov/HQ_11-394_Expedition_29_Landing.html

Measuring the Radiation Environment on Mars

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will launch the Mars Science Laboratory on Nov. 26, 2011, to assess the past and present habitability of the Red Planet’s surface. The mission will land Curiosity, a rover equipped with 10 instruments designed to search for evidence of elements needed to support life – namely, water and carbon-based materials – and to characterize life-limiting factors, such as the planet’s radiation environment.

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) led the development of the Radiation Assessment Detector, which will measure, for the first time, the radiation environment on the surface of Mars, measuring all the relevant energetic particle species originating from galactic cosmic rays, the Sun and other sources. Positioned in the left front corner of the rover, RAD is about the size of a coffee can and weighs about three pounds, but has capabilities of an Earth-bound instrument nearly 10 times its size. Its wide-angle telescope detects charged particles arriving from space, and the instrument also measures neutrons and gamma rays coming from Mars’ atmosphere above, or the surface material below, the rover.

Full Story: http://swri.org/9what/releases/2011/rad.htm

NASA’s Airborne Observatory Views Starbirth Region W40

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA / FORCAST

Credit: NASA / FORCAST

A new image from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, provides the highest resolution mid-infrared image taken to date of the massive star formation region in our galaxy known as W40.

The W40 image was taken by the Faint Object infraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) instrument mounted in the airborne observatory – a highly modified 747SP airliner carrying a reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 100 inches (2.5 meters). The image of W40 is a composite of data captured by the FORCAST camera at infrared wavelengths of 5.4, 24.2, and 34.8 microns, all of which are partially or completely blocked by water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere and inaccessible to observatories even on high mountain tops.

W40 is difficult to view with optical telescopes because it lies on the far side of a very dense cloud of gas and dust. Infrared observations of the region peer through the dust to reveal a bright nebula and dozens of young stars with at least six massive stars, six to 20 times the mass of the sun, forming at the center.

At least 50 percent of the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy formed in massive clusters of thousands of stars similar to W40. Evidence suggests that the solar system developed in such a cluster almost 5 billion years ago. Because stars are relatively dim at the wavelengths measured by FORCAST, the observed emission in the images is due to dust surrounding the stars that is heated to a few hundred degrees.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/SOFIA/11-36.html