Spectacular Images and Video of India From the International Space Station


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Pictures and footage of India taken from space show the country by night and day as seen from the International Space Station, including a spectacular lightning storm.

The images were taken by Terry Virts, the commander of the current project, Expedition 43, at the space station and tweeted from his verified account.

A one-year joint mission between space agencies in the United States, Russia and Europe, began on Mar. 11, 2015 and is in its final days. Astronauts are expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.

The six-member crew have been conducting astrophysics research, physical science investigations and technology demonstrations, but no space walks.

Two of the crew, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korneinko, have spent the entire year in space and have undergone medical studies to help further scientific advancements on Earth. Other astronauts were rotated in at the end of Expedition 42 in December.

Check out some other Amzing Pictures of India From space taken by Terry Virts

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com

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The Milky Way’s New Neighbor May Tell Us Things About the Universe


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As part of the Local Group, a collection of 54 galaxies and dwarf galaxies that measures 10 million light years in diameter, the Milky Way has no shortage of neighbors. However, refinements made in the field of astronomy in recent years are leading to the observation of neighbors that were previously unseen. This, in turn, is changing our view of the local universe to one where things are a lot more crowded.

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Dwarf spheroidal galaxies, like this one seen in the constellation Fornax, may exist in greater numbers than previously thought. Credit: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2 (Click Image to Download)

For instance, scientists working out of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, recently found a previously undetected dwarf galaxy that exists 7 million light years away. The discovery of this galaxy, named KKs3, and those like it is an exciting prospect for scientists, since they can tell us much about how stars are born in our universe.

The Russian team, led by Prof Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), used the Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to locate KKs3 in the southern sky near the constellation of Hydrus. The discovery occurred back in August 2014, when they finalized their observations a series of stars that have only one ten-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way.

Such dwarf galaxies are far more difficult to detect than others due to a number of distinct characteristics. KKs3 is what is known as a dwarf spheroid (or dSph) galaxy, a type that has no spiral arms like the Milky Way and also suffers from an absence of raw materials (like dust and gas). Since they lack the materials to form new stars, they are generally composed of older, fainter stars.

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Image of the KKR 25 dwarf spheroid galaxy obtained by the Special Astrophysical Observatory using the HST. Credit: SAO RAS (Click Image to download)

In addition, these galaxies are typically found in close proximity to much larger galaxies, like Andromeda, which appear to have gobbled up their gas and dust long ago. Being faint in nature, and so close to far more luminous objects, is what makes them so tough to spot by direct observation.

Team member Prof Dimitry Makarov, also of the Special Astrophysical Observatory, described the process: “Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighborhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.”

Painstaking is no exaggeration. Since they are devoid of materials like clouds of gas and dust fields, scientists are forced to spot these galaxies by identifying individual stars. Because of this, only one other isolated dwarf spheroidal has been found in the Local Group: a dSph known as KKR 25, which was also discovered by the Russian research team back in 1999.

But despite the challenges of spotting them, astronomers are eager to find more examples of dSph galaxies. As it stands, it is believed that these isolated spheroids must have been born out of a period of rapid star formation, before the galaxies were stripped of their dust and gas or used them all up.

Studying more of these galaxies can therefore tell us much about the process star formation in our universe. The Russian team expects that the task will become easier in the coming years as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope begin service.

Much like the Spitzer Space Telescope, these next-generation telescopes are optimized for infrared detection and will therefore prove very useful in picking out faint stars. This, in turn, will also give us a more complete understanding of our universe and all that it holds.

Source : universe today

The Fastest Stars in the Universe May Approach Light Speed


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Our sun orbits the Milky Way’s center at an impressive 450,000 mph. Recently, scientists have discovered stars hurtling out of our galaxy at a couple million miles per hour. Could there be stars moving even faster somewhere out there?

After doing some calculations, Harvard University astrophysicists Avi Loeb and James Guillochon realized that yes, stars could go faster. Much faster. According to their analysis, which they describe in two papers recently posted online, stars can approach light speed. The results are theoretical, so no one will know definitively if this happens until astronomers detect such stellar speedsters—which, Loeb says, will be possible using next-generation telescopes.

But it’s not just speed these astronomers are after. If these superfast stars are found, they could help astronomers understand the evolution of the universe. In particular, they give scientists another tool to measure how fast the cosmos is expanding. Moreover, Loeb says, if the conditions are right, planets could orbit the stars, tagging along for an intergalactic ride. And if those planets happen to have life, he speculates, such stars could be a way to carry life from one galaxy to another.

It all started in 2005 when a star was discovered speeding away from our galaxyfast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way. Over the next few years, astronomers would find several more of what became known as hypervelocity stars. Such stars were cast out by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. When a pair of stars orbiting each other gets close to the central black hole, which weighs about four million times as much as the sun, the three objects engage in a brief gravitational dance that ejects one of the stars. The other remains in orbit around the black hole.

Loeb and Guillochon realized that if instead you had two supermassive black holes on the verge of colliding, with a star orbiting around one of the black holes, the gravitational interactions could catapult the star into intergalactic space at speeds reaching hundreds of times those of hypervelocity stars.

This appears to be the most likely scenario that would produce the fastest stars in the universe, Loeb says. After all, supermassive black holes collide more often than you might think. Nearly all galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers, and nearly all galaxies were the product of two smaller galaxies merging. When galaxies combine, so do their central black holes.

Loeb and Guillochon calculated that merging supermassive black holes would eject stars at a wide range of speeds. Only some would reach near light speed, but many of the rest would still be plenty fast. For example, Loeb says, the observable universe could have more than a trillion stars moving at a tenth of light speed, about 67 million miles per hour.

Because a single, isolated star streaking through intergalactic space would be so faint, only powerful future telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope , planned for launch in 2018, would be able to detect them. Even then, telescopes would likely only see the stars that have reached our galactic neighborhood. Many of the ejected stars probably would have formed near the centers of their galaxies, and would have been thrown out soon after their birth. That means that they would have been traveling for the vast majority of their lifetimes. The star’s age could therefore approximate how long the star has been traveling. Combining travel time with its measured speed, astronomers can determine the distance between the star’s home galaxy and our galactic neighborhood.

If astronomers can find stars that were kicked out of the same galaxy at different times, they can use them to measure the distance to that galaxy at different points in the past. By seeing how the distance has changed over time, astronomers can measure how fast the universe is expanding.

These superfast rogue stars could have another use as well. When supermassive black holes smash into each other, they generate ripples in space and time called gravitational waves, which reveal the intimate details of how the black holes coalesced. A space telescope called eLISA, scheduled to launch in 2028, is designed to detect gravitational waves. Because the superfast stars are produced when black holes are just about to merge, they would act as a sort of bat signal pointing eLISA to possible gravitational wave sources.

The existence of these stars would be one of the clearest signals that two supermassive black holes are on the verge of merging, says astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Although they may be hard to detect, he adds, they will provide a completely novel tool for learning about the universe.

In about 4 billion years, our own Milky Way Galaxy will crash into the Andromeda Galaxy. The two supermassive black holes at their centers will merge, and stars could be thrown out. Our own sun is a bit too far from the galaxy’s center to get tossed, but one of the ejected stars might harbor a habitable planet. And if humans are still around, Loeb muses, they could potentially hitch a ride on that planet and travel to another galaxy. Who needs warp drive anyway?

Source : wired.com

What Our Milky Way Galaxy Looked Like 10 Billion Years Ago


Using two supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Swiss National Supercomputing Center, a group of researchers headed by Dr Simon Portegies Zwart of Leiden Observatory has simulated the long term evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy over a period of six billion years – from 10 to 4 billion years ago.

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If you took a photo of our Milky Way Galaxy today from a distance, it would show a spiral galaxy with a bright, central bar of dense star populations.

The Sun would be located outside this bar near one of the spiral arms composed of stars and interstellar dust; beyond the visible galaxy would be a dark matter halo.

Now, if you wanted to go back in time and take a video of our Milky Way Galaxy forming, you could go back 10 billion years, but many of the galaxy’s prominent features would not be recognizable.

You would have to wait about 5 billion years to witness the formation of our Solar System. By this point, 4.6 billion years ago, the galaxy looks almost like it does today.

This is the timeline Dr Portegies Zwart and his colleagues are seeing emerge when they use supercomputers to simulate the Milky Way’s evolution.

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This image shows what the Milky Way Galaxy looked like ten billion years ago. Image credit: SURFsara / J. Bédorf / NVIDIA.

“We don’t really know how the structure of the galaxy came about. What we realized is we can use the positions, velocities, and masses of stars in three-dimensional space to allow the structure to emerge out of the self-gravity of the system,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.

The challenge of computing galactic structure on a star-by-star basis is, as you might imagine, the sheer number of stars in the Milky Way – at least 100 billion. Therefore, the team needed at least a 100 billion-particle simulation to connect all the dots.

Before the development of the team’s code, known as Bonsai, the largest galaxy simulation topped out around 100 million particles.

The team tested an early version of Bonsai on the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s Titan – the second-most-powerful supercomputer in the world – to improve scalability in the code.

After scaling Bonsai, the scientists ran Bonsai on the Piz Daint supercomputer at the Swiss National Supercomputing Center and simulated galaxy formation over 6 billion years with 51 million particles representing the forces of stars and dark matter.

After a successful Piz Daint run, the team returned to Titan to maximize the code’s parallelism. Bonsai achieved nearly 25 petaflops of sustained single-precision, floating point performance on the Titan.

The team aims to compare simulation results to new observations coming from ESA’s Gaia satellite launched in 2013.

“One percent of the particles, or stars, in our simulated galaxy should match Gaia data,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.

Source : sci-news

India’s Manned Space mission: ISRO to test-drop crew module in December


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Aiming to start a manned space mission, the ISRO will launch the GSLV Mk-III in the second week of December to study its performance and carry out a crew module recovery experiment through it.

The 630-tonne launch vehicle, designated as LVM3-X, will carry CARE (Crew Module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment) weighing about 3.65 tonnes. The Isro intends to study the impact of heat on the crew module when it enters the earth atmosphere.

Briefing the media on the salient features of the experimental mission, Satish Dhawan Space Centre director, Dr M.Y.S. Prasad said that the objectives of the mission are flight validation of the complex atmospheric flight regime of LVM3 vehicle, validation of new design features and overall integrity of the mission design.

The experimental flight will provide all the inputs required for the first developmental flight of the GSLV Mark-III, which is being planned within next two years. It will carry a communication satellite of four tonne nominal payload capability.

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Isro’s (Indian Space Research Organisation) crew module or CARE, which would be launched in an experimental mission from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota between December 15 and 20. (Photo: PTI)

Dr Prasad said that Care is expected to enhance their understanding on re-entry and parachute phase of crew module. The crew module, after getting separated from the launch vehicle at an altitude of 125 km, will re-enters Earth’s atmospheric at about 80 km and descend in ballistic mode.

Source :deccan chronicle

A Universe of Blue Dots? –“Water Common During the Formation of All Planetary Systems”


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The new SciFi blockbuster, Interstellar, shows astonauts from post apocalyptic earth, destroyed by what appears to be a modern dust-bowl, catapulted into the unknown of outer space in the hopes of finding a new home for the human race, only to discover an extraterrestrial tidal wave on a distant exo planet. How realistic is the premise of an alien water planet? New findings suggest it’s based on solid science.
“This is an important step forward in our quest to find out if life exists on other planets,” said Tim Harries, from the University of Exeter’s Physics and Astronomy department, who was part of the research team. “We know that water is vital for the evolution of life on Earth, but it was possible that the Earth’s water originated in the specific conditions of the early solar system, and that those circumstances might occur infrequently elsewhere. By identifying the ancient heritage of Earth’s water, we can see that the way in which our solar system was formed will not be unique, and that exoplanets will form in environments with abundant water. Consequently, it raises the possibility that some exoplanets could house the right conditions, and water resources, for life to evolve.”
The implication of these findings is that some of the solar system’s water must have been inherited from the Sun’s birth environment, and thus predate the Sun itself. If our solar system’s formation was typical, this implies that water is a common ingredient during the formation of all planetary systems.

To date, the Kepler satellite has detected nearly 1,000 confirmed extrasolar planets. The widespread availability of water during the planet-formation process puts a promising outlook on the prevalence of life throughout the galaxy.

A pioneering new study has shown that water found on Earth predates the formation of the Sun – raising hopes that life could exist on exoplanets, the planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. The ground-breaking research set out to discover the origin of the water that was deposited on the Earth as it formed.

It found that a significant fraction of water found on Earth, and across our solar system, predates the formation of the Sun. By showing that water is ‘inherited’ from the environment when a star is born, the international team of scientists believe other exoplanetary systems also had access to an abundance of water during their own formation.

As water is a key component for the development of life on Earth, the study has important implications for the potential for life elsewhere in the galaxy.

Scientists have previously been able to understand the conditions present when stars are formed by looking at the composition of comets and asteroids, which show which gases, dust and, most importantly, ices were circling the star at its birth.

The team of international scientists were able to use ‘heavy water’ ices – those with an excess of water made with the element deuterium rather than hydrogen – to determine whether the water ices formed before, or during, the solar system’s formation.

Continue reading A Universe of Blue Dots? –“Water Common During the Formation of All Planetary Systems”

Isro to Test Crew Module in December for India’s First Human Space Flight


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India will launch an unmanned crew module in December onboard a heavy rocket to test its re-entry into the atmosphere for the country’s maiden human space flight, the space agency chief said Thursday.
“We will send an unmanned crew module on the experimental GSLV-Mark III rocket in December and test its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere for a human space flight plan in future,” Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters in Bangalore on the margins of an engineers conclave.

Weighing 3.6 tonnes, the crew module will be put into orbit 100-120km up in a satellite and brought back to Earth for checking its re-entry characteristics when carrying two Indian astronauts in the proposed human space flight.

“Though the actual human space flight will be in an orbit around earth at a height of 270km for a week, the experimental flight with the crew module in a spacecraft will go up to 100-120km above earth to test its heat shield survive very high temperatures (about 1,500 degrees Celsius) during the re-entry into the atmosphere,” Radhakrishnan noted.

The crew module will have a parachute that will open up after re-entry into the atmosphere and fall into sea for retrieval.

“The parachute will open up for soft landing of the spacecraft carrying the crew module in the Bay of Bengal, about 450 km away from Andamans (islands), and will be retrieved by a boat,” Radhakrishnan said.

The previous UPA government had sanctioned Rs. 145 crores to Isro for developing a crew module that will fly two Indian astronauts into space, space suits, life support systems and related technologies for the human space flight programme.

The heavy rocket (GSLV) will, however, have a passive cryogenic stage – liquid nitrogen at super cooled temperature and gaseous nitrogen instead of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

The space agency is integrating the rocket with the crew module at its Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, about 90 km northeast of Chennai.

Source : NDTV

China’s Main Competitor in Space Exploration is India, Not Russia


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China’s principal competitor in space exploration is India, not Russia, researcher at the Russian Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Vasily Kashin told RIA Novosti on Friday.

“China and India are two new space powers. They have vast resources and consider their space programs from the national prestige perspective ,” the expert said.

He added that China and India are following Russian and US footsteps in space exploration.

“China’s more developed space-rocket industry and immense resources have let it take the lead in the two countries’ space race,” Kashin argued.

Despite being behind China in space exploration, India has a significant advantage, according to the researcher.

“China is still under rigid restrictions on any form of cooperation with the United States, including on the purchase of components…The Chinese are forced to do many things on their own and they sometimes cannot produce components of a required level. The Indians have less resources, but they are in good relations with everyone. India can cooperate with both Russia and the West, adopting their best technologies,” Kashin concluded.

Earlier on Friday, China launched an experimental spacecraft to the moon orbit, which is to return to Earth in eight days. The spacecraft is to test out re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere for the planned 2017 Chang’e-5 lunar mission.

GSLV-Mark III launch in 45 days, says ISRO chief


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A step closer to sending astronauts into space

In just 45 days from now, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would launch its most ambitious suborbital — less than the usual orbit- test flight — Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III.

It will be an unmanned crew module. This will unleash India’s dream of sending its astronauts into space come true.

“We will comeback soon with an unmatched module in the next 45 days. GSLV Mark III will be one of the heaviest indigenous launch vehicles,” said K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman, ISRO, after the launch of PSLV C26, IRNSS-1C, the third satellite of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System from the first launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

The GSLV Mark III will help ISRO put heavier communication satellites of INSAT-4 class into orbit. These satellites weigh anywhere between 4,500-5,000 kg. The vehicle is 42.4 metre tall compared to the other GSLV which is 49 metre. It will be a three-stage vehicle.

“We are already working on this next launch. The work is completed and in testing stages,” Y.S. Prasad, Director, SHAR, said.

Terming the Mark III mission as most important and challenging, M. Chandradathan, Director of Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre of ISRO, said: “It is one of the heaviest indigenous launch vehicles that is been developed till date.”

The launch of GSLV Mark III will enhance India’s capability to be a competitive player in the multimillion dollar commercial launch market.

The vehicle envisages multi-mission launch capability for GTO (geo transfer orbit), LEO (low earth orbit), Polar and intermediate circular orbits.

India reaches Mars, Prime Minister Narendra Modi showers praises on ISRO


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India scripted history on Wednesday,24 September with the success of its Mars mission. As the Mangalyaan entered the Mars orbit, making India the first country in the world to make it to the Red Planet in the first attempt. Mangalyaan moved a step closer to home after the dormant main engine on the spacecraft was test-fired flawlessly, ISRO looked confident of giving one final nudge to put it in orbit around Mars that saw it make space history. – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/live-indias-mars-mission-mangalyan-red-planet-mars-orbiter/#sthash.240P3tKY.dpuf