Above: NASA Infrared Telescope Facility
NASA employs the use of cryogenics for a variety of reasons, and researchers are constantly exploring new methods and applications in the hopes of continuously improving the technology. Here are just a few examples of how NASA utilizes cryogenics:

Infrared Sensors: infrared rays, also called “heat rays” are given off by all warm objects. Infrared telescopes must be cold so that their own radiation doesn’t swamp the weak infrared signals from faraway astronomical objects. There will be infrared telescopes on the airborne infrared observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.


Electronics: all sensors require electronics. Cooling electronics reduces the noise in the circuits and thus allows them to study weaker signals.


X-rays: the sensors for XRS, the X-Ray Spectrometer measure temperature changes induced by incoming x-rays. When the sensors are colder, the induced temperature changes are larger and easier to measure.

Above: NASA Infrared Telescope Facility


NASA employs the use of cryogenics for a variety of reasons, and researchers are constantly exploring new methods and applications in the hopes of continuously improving the technology. Here are just a few examples of how NASA utilizes cryogenics:

  • Infrared Sensors: infrared rays, also called “heat rays” are given off by all warm objects. Infrared telescopes must be cold so that their own radiation doesn’t swamp the weak infrared signals from faraway astronomical objects. There will be infrared telescopes on the airborne infrared observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

  • Electronics: all sensors require electronics. Cooling electronics reduces the noise in the circuits and thus allows them to study weaker signals.

  • X-rays: the sensors for XRS, the X-Ray Spectrometer measure temperature changes induced by incoming x-rays. When the sensors are colder, the induced temperature changes are larger and easier to measure.

we-are-star-stuff
we-are-star-stuff:

Astronomers searching for the building blocks of life in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have concluded that it would taste vaguely of raspberries.
The unanticipated discovery follows years of work by astronomers who trained their 30m radio telescope on the enormous ball of dust and gas in the hope of spotting complex molecules that are vital for life.
Finding amino acids in interstellar space is a Holy Grail for astrobiologists, as this would raise the possibility of life emerging on other planets after being seeded with the molecules.
In the latest survey, astronomers sifted through thousands of signals from Sagittarius B2, a vast dust cloud at the centre of our galaxy. While they failed to find evidence for amino acids, they did find a substance called ethyl formate, the chemical responsible for the flavour of raspberries.
“It does happen to give raspberries their flavour, but there are many other molecules that are needed to make space raspberries,” Arnaud Belloche, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, told the Guardian.
Curiously, ethyl formate has another distinguishing characteristic: it also smells of rum.
The astronomers used the IRAM telescope in Spain to analyse electromagnetic radiation emitted by a hot and dense region of Sagittarius B2 that surrounds a newborn star.
Radiation from the star is absorbed by molecules floating around in the gas cloud, which is then re-emitted at different energies depending on the type of molecule.
While scouring their data, the team also found evidence for the lethal chemical propyl cyanide in the same cloud. The two molecules are the largest yet discovered in deep space.
Dr Belloche and his colleague Robin Garrod at Cornell University in New York have collected nearly 4,000 distinct signals from the cloud but have only analysed around half of these.
“So far we have identified around 50 molecules in our survey, and two of those had not been seen before,” said Belloche.
Last year, the team came tantalisingly close to finding amino acids in space with the discovery of a molecule that can be used to make them, called amino acetonitrile.
The latest discoveries have boosted the researchers’ morale because the molecules are as large as the simplest amino acid, glycine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are widely seen as being critical for complex life to exist anywhere in the universe.
“The difficulty in searching for complex molecules is that the best astronomical sources contain so many different molecules that their ‘fingerprints’ overlap and are difficult to disentangle,” Belloche said.
The molecules are thought to form when chemicals that already exist on some dust grains, such as ethanol, link together to make more complex chains.
“There is no apparent limit to the size of molecules that can be formed by this process, so there’s good reason to expect even more complex organic molecules to be there,” said Garrod.

we-are-star-stuff:

Astronomers searching for the building blocks of life in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have concluded that it would taste vaguely of raspberries.

The unanticipated discovery follows years of work by astronomers who trained their 30m radio telescope on the enormous ball of dust and gas in the hope of spotting complex molecules that are vital for life.

Finding amino acids in interstellar space is a Holy Grail for astrobiologists, as this would raise the possibility of life emerging on other planets after being seeded with the molecules.

In the latest survey, astronomers sifted through thousands of signals from Sagittarius B2, a vast dust cloud at the centre of our galaxy. While they failed to find evidence for amino acids, they did find a substance called ethyl formate, the chemical responsible for the flavour of raspberries.

“It does happen to give raspberries their flavour, but there are many other molecules that are needed to make space raspberries,” Arnaud Belloche, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, told the Guardian.

Curiously, ethyl formate has another distinguishing characteristic: it also smells of rum.

The astronomers used the IRAM telescope in Spain to analyse electromagnetic radiation emitted by a hot and dense region of Sagittarius B2 that surrounds a newborn star.

Radiation from the star is absorbed by molecules floating around in the gas cloud, which is then re-emitted at different energies depending on the type of molecule.

While scouring their data, the team also found evidence for the lethal chemical propyl cyanide in the same cloud. The two molecules are the largest yet discovered in deep space.

Dr Belloche and his colleague Robin Garrod at Cornell University in New York have collected nearly 4,000 distinct signals from the cloud but have only analysed around half of these.

“So far we have identified around 50 molecules in our survey, and two of those had not been seen before,” said Belloche.

Last year, the team came tantalisingly close to finding amino acids in space with the discovery of a molecule that can be used to make them, called amino acetonitrile.

The latest discoveries have boosted the researchers’ morale because the molecules are as large as the simplest amino acid, glycine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are widely seen as being critical for complex life to exist anywhere in the universe.

“The difficulty in searching for complex molecules is that the best astronomical sources contain so many different molecules that their ‘fingerprints’ overlap and are difficult to disentangle,” Belloche said.

The molecules are thought to form when chemicals that already exist on some dust grains, such as ethanol, link together to make more complex chains.

“There is no apparent limit to the size of molecules that can be formed by this process, so there’s good reason to expect even more complex organic molecules to be there,” said Garrod.

spaceplasma

spaceplasma:

thescienceofreality:

NASA’s Galex Reveals the Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy

The second image shows computer simulations of the collision between NGC 6872 and IC 4970 reproduce the basic features of the galaxies as we see them today. They indicate that IC 4970’s closest encounter occurred 130 million years ago and that the smaller galaxy followed a path (dashed curve) close to the plane of the spiral’s disk and in the same direction it rotates. Image credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS, C. Horellou (Onsala Space Observatory) and B. Koribalski (ATNF)

The spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 has ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades. Now a team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Brazil has crowned it the largest known spiral, based on archival data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission, which has since been loaned to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 

Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy. 

“Without GALEX’s ability to detect the ultraviolet light of the youngest, hottest stars, we would never have recognized the full extent of this intriguing system,” said lead scientist Rafael Eufrasio, a research assistant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who is a doctoral student at Catholic University of America in Washington. He presented the findings Thursday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif. 

The galaxy’s unusual size and appearance stem from its interaction with a much smaller disk galaxy named IC 4970, which has only about one-fifth the mass of NGC 6872. The odd couple is located 212 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pavo.”

 Continue Reading…

thenewenlightenmentage
thenewenlightenmentage:

Should We Expect Other Earth-like Planets At All?
This year has been a spectacular one for exoplanets. New discoveries and new insights have truly pushed the gateway to other worlds even further open.
In the past 12 months we’ve gained increasingly good statistics on the incredible abundance of planets around other stars and their multiplicity. We also finally seem to have evidence that our neighboring star Alpha Centauri B does indeed harbor at least one world. It is by any set of standards, a great haul.
Continue Reading

thenewenlightenmentage:

Should We Expect Other Earth-like Planets At All?

This year has been a spectacular one for exoplanets. New discoveries and new insights have truly pushed the gateway to other worlds even further open.

In the past 12 months we’ve gained increasingly good statistics on the incredible abundance of planets around other stars and their multiplicity. We also finally seem to have evidence that our neighboring star Alpha Centauri B does indeed harbor at least one world. It is by any set of standards, a great haul.

Continue Reading

we-are-star-stuff
we-are-star-stuff:

Scientists show that microbes from Earth can survive conditions found on Mars
Astrobiologists have been worried for quite some time now that the Martian surface has been contaminated with microbes originating from Earth - what got there by clinging to all the various probes and artifacts we’ve sent there. But given how severe the conditions are on Mars, it has been generally assumed that this is likely an impossibility.
A recent study now threatens to overturn this sentiment. Researchers from Russia and the U.S. have demonstrated that a hardy bacterium found in Siberia is in fact capable of surviving Mars-like conditions - a revelation that will have profound implications on how we prepare our Mars-bound artifacts for future missions.
To conduct the study, researchers from the University of Florida and the Russian Academy of sciences extracted various strains of bacteria found in the Siberian permafrost off the banks of the Kolyma River — extremophiles that can survive some of the harshest conditions that Earth has to offer. The samples were taken from a depth of 12 to 20 meters (40 to 65 feet) where the soil has an average temperature of -7 °C (19 °F).
The samples were drilled out directly from the depth of the permafrost, and without fluid (which normally serves as lubrication) to avoid any contamination. The microbes that were taken had endured their conditions deep underground for the past 6,000 to 8,000 years.
The team grew larger cultures of these microbes back at the lab at normal temperatures in preparation for the next phase. The researchers took these cultures and exposed them to similar conditions found on Mars, including a severe lack of oxygen, extreme cold temperatures, and very low pressure (about 150 times lower than the Earth’s). The experiment was run over the period of 30 days. Over 10,000 isolates were exposed to these conditions - and they all died.
Except six.
And in fact, these six surviving microbes actually did better under these conditions. Surprised by the result, the researchers took a closer look at the survivors, and following a genetic analysis concluded that they all came from the same genus: an extremely hardy extremophile called Carnobacterium.
Carnobacterium can be found in cold climates around the world, including Alaska and the oxygen-poor waters of Ace Lake in Antarctica.
Indeed, it’s a startlingly common anaerobic organism that doesn’t require oxygen for growth. And in fact, a species of Carnobacterium (CB1) is used as a food additive for vacuum or modified atmosphere-packaged ready-to-eat and processed meats. In other words, it’s the kind of bacterium that could easily make its way onto a probe bound for the Martian surface.
As the researchers note in their study, “the ability of terrestrial microorganisms to grow in the near-surface environment of Mars is of importance to the search for life and protection of that planet from forward contamination by human and robotic exploration.” Moving forward, and despite the fact that Mars has a highly irradiated surface, scientists will now have to ensure complete sterilization of all artifacts bound for the Martian surface.
The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

we-are-star-stuff:

Scientists show that microbes from Earth can survive conditions found on Mars

Astrobiologists have been worried for quite some time now that the Martian surface has been contaminated with microbes originating from Earth - what got there by clinging to all the various probes and artifacts we’ve sent there. But given how severe the conditions are on Mars, it has been generally assumed that this is likely an impossibility.

A recent study now threatens to overturn this sentiment. Researchers from Russia and the U.S. have demonstrated that a hardy bacterium found in Siberia is in fact capable of surviving Mars-like conditions - a revelation that will have profound implications on how we prepare our Mars-bound artifacts for future missions.

To conduct the study, researchers from the University of Florida and the Russian Academy of sciences extracted various strains of bacteria found in the Siberian permafrost off the banks of the Kolyma River — extremophiles that can survive some of the harshest conditions that Earth has to offer. The samples were taken from a depth of 12 to 20 meters (40 to 65 feet) where the soil has an average temperature of -7 °C (19 °F).

The samples were drilled out directly from the depth of the permafrost, and without fluid (which normally serves as lubrication) to avoid any contamination. The microbes that were taken had endured their conditions deep underground for the past 6,000 to 8,000 years.

The team grew larger cultures of these microbes back at the lab at normal temperatures in preparation for the next phase. The researchers took these cultures and exposed them to similar conditions found on Mars, including a severe lack of oxygen, extreme cold temperatures, and very low pressure (about 150 times lower than the Earth’s). The experiment was run over the period of 30 days. Over 10,000 isolates were exposed to these conditions - and they all died.

Except six.

And in fact, these six surviving microbes actually did better under these conditions. Surprised by the result, the researchers took a closer look at the survivors, and following a genetic analysis concluded that they all came from the same genus: an extremely hardy extremophile called Carnobacterium.

Carnobacterium can be found in cold climates around the world, including Alaska and the oxygen-poor waters of Ace Lake in Antarctica.

Indeed, it’s a startlingly common anaerobic organism that doesn’t require oxygen for growth. And in fact, a species of Carnobacterium (CB1) is used as a food additive for vacuum or modified atmosphere-packaged ready-to-eat and processed meats. In other words, it’s the kind of bacterium that could easily make its way onto a probe bound for the Martian surface.

As the researchers note in their study, “the ability of terrestrial microorganisms to grow in the near-surface environment of Mars is of importance to the search for life and protection of that planet from forward contamination by human and robotic exploration.” Moving forward, and despite the fact that Mars has a highly irradiated surface, scientists will now have to ensure complete sterilization of all artifacts bound for the Martian surface.

The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When Apollo 11 descended onto the lunar surface on July 20th, 1969, there were pre-existing concerns that the spacecraft would not be able to leave the moon once it arrived. These fears were certainly not alleviated when Buzz Aldrin accidentally broke the circuit breaker that would be instrumental in their relaunch (not to worry- he fixed it with a felt tip pen because science). Concerns prior to the launch had been so serious that Bill Safire, Nixon’s speech writer, actually drafted a statement for the president to deliver to the American people should a tragedy occur:


"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
"These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
"These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
"They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
"In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
"In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
"Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
"For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."


The memo was not released until 3 decades later. 

When Apollo 11 descended onto the lunar surface on July 20th, 1969, there were pre-existing concerns that the spacecraft would not be able to leave the moon once it arrived. These fears were certainly not alleviated when Buzz Aldrin accidentally broke the circuit breaker that would be instrumental in their relaunch (not to worry- he fixed it with a felt tip pen because science). Concerns prior to the launch had been so serious that Bill Safire, Nixon’s speech writer, actually drafted a statement for the president to deliver to the American people should a tragedy occur:

"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

"These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

"These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

"They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

"In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

"In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

"Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

"For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."

The memo was not released until 3 decades later. 

'Tis the season for holiday decorating and tree-trimming. Not to be left out, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a festive-looking nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined. A spectacular example of this beautiful complexity is seen in the bluish lobes of NGC 5189. Most of the nebula is knotty and filamentary in its structure. As a result of the mass-loss process, the planetary nebula has been created with two nested structures, tilted with respect to each other, that expand away from the center in different directions. This double bipolar or quadrupolar structure could be explained by the presence of a binary companion orbiting the central star and influencing the pattern of mass ejection during its nebula-producing death throes. The remnant of the central star, having lost much of its mass, now lives its final days as a white dwarf. However, there is no visual candidate for the possible companion. The bright golden ring that twists and tilts through the image is made up of a large collection of radial filaments and cometary knots. These are usually formed by the combined action of photo-ionizing radiation and stellar winds.

'Tis the season for holiday decorating and tree-trimming. Not to be left out, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a festive-looking nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined. A spectacular example of this beautiful complexity is seen in the bluish lobes of NGC 5189. Most of the nebula is knotty and filamentary in its structure. As a result of the mass-loss process, the planetary nebula has been created with two nested structures, tilted with respect to each other, that expand away from the center in different directions. This double bipolar or quadrupolar structure could be explained by the presence of a binary companion orbiting the central star and influencing the pattern of mass ejection during its nebula-producing death throes. The remnant of the central star, having lost much of its mass, now lives its final days as a white dwarf. However, there is no visual candidate for the possible companion. The bright golden ring that twists and tilts through the image is made up of a large collection of radial filaments and cometary knots. These are usually formed by the combined action of photo-ionizing radiation and stellar winds.

science-junkie
science-junkie:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has delivered a glorious view of Saturn, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn’s shadow. The cameras were turned toward Saturn and the sun so that the planet and rings are backlit. (The sun is behind the planet, which is shielding the cameras from direct sunlight.) In addition to the visual splendor, this special, very-high-phase viewing geometry lets scientists study ring and atmosphere phenomena not easily seen at a lower phase. 
Since images like this can only be taken while the sun is behind the planet, this beautiful view is all the more precious for its rarity. The last time Cassini captured a view like this was in Sept. 2006, when it captured a mosaic processed to look like natural color, entitled “In Saturn’s Shadow.” In that mosaic, planet Earth put in a special appearance, making “In Saturn’s Shadow” one of the most popular Cassini images to date. Earth does not appear in this mosaic as it is hidden behind the planet. 
Also captured in this image are two of Saturn’s moons: Enceladus and Tethys. Both appear on the left side of the planet, below the rings. Enceladus is closer to the rings; Tethys is below and to the left.
(via NASA - A Splendor Seldom Seen)

science-junkie:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has delivered a glorious view of Saturn, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn’s shadow. The cameras were turned toward Saturn and the sun so that the planet and rings are backlit. (The sun is behind the planet, which is shielding the cameras from direct sunlight.) In addition to the visual splendor, this special, very-high-phase viewing geometry lets scientists study ring and atmosphere phenomena not easily seen at a lower phase. 

Since images like this can only be taken while the sun is behind the planet, this beautiful view is all the more precious for its rarity. The last time Cassini captured a view like this was in Sept. 2006, when it captured a mosaic processed to look like natural color, entitled “In Saturn’s Shadow.” In that mosaic, planet Earth put in a special appearance, making “In Saturn’s Shadow” one of the most popular Cassini images to date. Earth does not appear in this mosaic as it is hidden behind the planet. 

Also captured in this image are two of Saturn’s moons: Enceladus and Tethys. Both appear on the left side of the planet, below the rings. Enceladus is closer to the rings; Tethys is below and to the left.

(via NASA - A Splendor Seldom Seen)