Sonntag, 7. Juli 2013 - 15:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Russische Raumfahrtindustrie in der Kritik


Russian space industry disastrously ill


The Russian space industry is gravely ill, as a long string of failed satellite launches and the findings of ensuing probes unmistakably indicate. A wide variety of remedies have been offered, but one thing is pretty clear - only drastic measures will help.

The Audit Chamber has ruled that the management of the Russian space industry is extremely ineffective and uncompetitive. This conclusion following a routine inspection is contained in a report the Audit Chamber published on its website on Thursday.

The report points to a “system of collective irresponsibility” in the space industry. While spending on space soars, the effectiveness of how the money is used dwindles. The federal space program for 2010 was fulfilled 40%, for 2011, 67%, and for 2012, 73%, while the costs of its implementation over the past few years skyrocketed 150%.

Besides, the number of space satellites, put in orbit in 2010-2012, was less than half of the expected amount (47%). Also, these satellites are four times more costly than their foreign counterparts, and their quality, far inferior. Their parameters remain very low, and the rate of failures keeps climbing.

The deadlines for creating clusters of space satellites have to be postponed again and again. The Audit Chamber says that some satellites take decades to make, because Roscosmos - the general customer that orders them - is not responsible either for meeting specific dates or for accomplishing the expected tasks. The development and manufacturing deadlines are not synchronized with those of the delivery vehicles, expected to put them in orbit. Domestic satellites ready for launch are too few, so redundant space rockets manufactured at the budget’s expense have begun to be used for putting in space foreign apparatuses on the commercial basis.

The July 2 abortive attempt to launch three Glonass-M satellites with a Proton rocket is the most outrageous failure in the space industry over recent years. Seconds after liftoff the rocket went astray, caught fire, crashed and exploded. Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Thursday there were three versions of the emergency. None of them is ruled out at the moment - problems with launching equipment, the rocket’s control system and the engine.

Shortly after the tragic incident Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin declared plans for reforming the Russian space rocket industry and pooling its enterprises. “A decision has been made to create a special commission that will draft a presidential resolution to reform the space rocket industry,” Rogozin declared. As follows from what he said, some “unified integrated entity” will be in charge of all space rocket technologies soon. The proposed structure - likely to be called a United Space Rocket Corporation - will have the status of an open joint stock company, and not a state corporation.

The daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta has described the latest abortive satellite launch as “clear evidence of the Russian space industry’s degradation.” “The viewers of that live telecast were witnesses to not just 200 million dollars vanish into thin air. It was the hope for an end to the Russian space industry’s crisis that went up in flames,” the daily says. “The reasons are pretty clear: incompetent management, loss of manufacturing culture and technological backwardness, aging personnel and equipment, the lack of quality control and a comprehensible space doctrine.”

The losses are not confined to the material costs of the accident. The looming collapse of the satellite group GLONASS is far worse. On the eve of the failed launch one navigation satellite Glonass-M No. 728 went dead after just 54 months (4.5 years) in operation, 2.5 years before the end of its seven-year service life. Instead of the standard 24 satellites the GLONASS cluster now as only 23 operational ones. Another four are listed as stand-by ones, but all have expired life cycles.

Pretty soon the satellites that have been in service for more than 60 months will begin to drop out one by one. There are six of them in the GLONASS group.

The daily Moskovsky Komsomolets has published a sad list of Russian space satellites lost over the past three years.

December 5, 2010 - the loss of three GLONASS satellites 2.5 billion rubles worth.

February 1, 2011 - failed launch of the Rokot rocket carrying the secret military satellite GEO-IK-2.

August 18, 2011 - the loss of the Express-AM4 communication satellite meant for digital television broadcasting - the Proton-M rocket failed to put it into the designated orbit (7.5 billion rubles)

August 23, 2011 - the loss of the Progress-M-12M cargo spacecraft, resulting from the failure of the Soyuz-U rocket (material damage estimated at 3.2 billion rubles).

November 9, 2011 - the loss of the automatic inter-planetary space probe Fobos-Grunt, built for exploring Mar’s satellite (5 billion rubles).

December 2011 - the loss of the double purpose satellite Meridian (about 2 billion rubles).

August 7, 2012 - the loss of the newest communication satellites Express-MD2 and Telecom-3 after the Proton-M rocket failed to put them in orbit (5.6 billion rubles).

February 1, 2013 - the fall of a Zenit rocket with the foreign satellite Intelsat-27.

July 2, 2013 - the fall and explosion of a Proton-M rocket with three Russian GLONASS satellites (2.5 billion rubles).

Quelle: Itar-Tass


Sonntag, 7. Juli 2013 - 14:55 Uhr

Raumfahrt - DLR-Wissenschaftler testen Modell der Vega-Rakete im Windkanal



Zwei Mal ist die europäische Trägerrakete Vega bereits ins All gestartet, um Satelliten zu ihrem Bestimmungsort zu befördern. Im Deutschen Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) hat sie solch einen Flug bereits über 50 Mal absolviert - allerdings als Miniaturausgabe in einem Windkanal. 75 Zentimeter große und aus Stahl und Titan geformt war das Modell, mit dem die DLR-Ingenieure im Hyperschallwindkanal Köln die Trennung von Unterstufe und Oberstufe simulierten. "Das ist einer der kritischsten Momente bei solch einem Flug", betont Oliver Hohn, Mitarbeiter der DLR-Einrichtung "Über- und Hyperschalltechnologien" im Institut für Aerodynamik und Strömungstechnik. Im Windkanal untersuchten die Ingenieure im Auftrag der europäischen Raumfahrtagentur ESA, wie sich die Strömung um die Rakete durch die Stufentrennung verändert. Dabei belegten die Tests unter anderem, dass es zu diesem Zeitpunkt zu Strömungsablösungen am Flugkörper kommt, die teilweise große Auswirkungen auf die Stabilität der Raketen haben.

Trennt sich die Unterstufe von der Oberstufe, zünden während des Flugs Retro-Raketen - kleine Feststoffraketen, die den unteren Teil der Rakete "wegstoßen" und so eine saubere, möglichst schnelle Trennung ermöglichen. "Die Trennung verursacht dadurch eine Ruckbewegung, die sich auf den restlichen Raketenkörper auswirkt", erläutert Projektleiter Oliver Hohn. Im Windkanal ließen die Ingenieure über 35 Sekunden lang Luft mit mehrfacher Schallgeschwindigkeit über das Modell in eine 2000-Kubikmeter-Vakuumkugel strömen. Währenddessen strömte aus kleinen Düsen im Modell mit hohem Druck Luft aus, die die Zündung der Retro-Raketen simuliert. So entstanden Bedingungen, die dem Flug der Vega-Rakete in 50 Kilometern Höhe sehr nahe kommen.

Mit Öl und Schatten die Strömung sichtbar machen

Mit einer hochpräzisen Waage erfassten die Ingenieure die Kräfte und Momente, die durch die Stufentrennung auf die Rakete einwirken - so konnten sie die Flugstabilität untersuchen. Um eine bisher nur mit Computermodellen gerechnete Veränderung der Strömung entlang der Rakete sichtbar zu machen, trugen die Ingenieure für ihre umfangreiche Messreihe zudem Öle mit verschiedener Viskosität auf das Modell auf und zeichneten die Veränderungen dieses Ölfilms auf. Auch die Dichteänderung der Luft rund um das Modell wird benutzt, um die Strömung durch Schattenaufnahmen sichtbar zu machen: Hier wird mit einer Kamera erfasst, wie sich der Schatten des Strömungsfeldes durch die Änderung der Strömungsdichte um das Testmodell ändert.

Das wichtigste Ergebnis: "Das Strömungsfeld um die Rakete wird bei der Trennung der verschiedenen Stufen enorm gestört - es entstehen unsymmetrische Wirbel, die Strömung löst sich ab", fasst Projektleiter Oliver Hohn zusammen. Abhängig von dem Flugwinkel der Rakete fallen diese Störungen unterschiedlich stark aus. "Mit unseren Messdaten kann der optimale Zeitpunkt für die Stufentrennung besser definiert werden." Die Daten der Versuchsreihen fließen nun auch in die numerischen Simulationen des DLR-Instituts für Aerodynamik und Strömungstechnik in Göttingen und der University of Southampton ein. Die Ergebnisse können zudem auch auf andere Raketentypen übertragen werden: "Diese Interaktion zwischen den unterschiedlichen Stufen kommt bei allen Typen vor", betont  Oliver Hohn.


Quelle: DLR


Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 23:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Start von Progress M-20M zur ISS am 28.Juli 2013


Russia Will Launch Space Freighter on Schedule – Roscosmos

Russia will launch the next cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on schedule, despite a recent accident with a Proton-M carrier rocket, a senior Russian space official said Friday.

The Progress M-20M space freighter is slated for lift off on July 28 from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan where a Proton rocket carrying three Glonass navigation satellites exploded shortly after launch on Tuesday.

“Preparations for the Progress launch are running according to schedule. It is still planned for July 28,” Popovkin told reporters after meeting of the state commission on reforming the space industry.

Popovkin also said that Tuesday’s accident would not affect the launch of a Russian laboratory module on board a Proton-M to the ISS in December.

“We will certainly sort this thing out by December. What’s important is that the module is ready by December,” he said.

Popovkin confirmed that an investigation into the Proton rocket’s failed launch is currently considering three possible causes, including malfunctioning launch equipment, faulty control systems or problems with the first stage of the rocket engine.

"It is hard to set any deadlines, but I think the preliminary investigation will be completed by the end of July," he said.

Russia’s space program has suffered a slew of setbacks in recent years, most of them blamed on faulty hardware.



Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 23:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt -SpaceX Dragon Raumfahrzeuge machen Fortschritte Richtung MARS


SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is continuing to make solid progress during the early years of its incremental roadmap, a path that has a firm focus on sending humans to Mars. With successful Commercial Cargo missions already under its belt, Dragon is already targeting the role of transporting NASA crews to the International Space Station (ISS)

The next Dragon mission, the third under SpaceX’s Commercial Ressuply Services (CRS) contract with NASA, will also aim to complete another milestone, as the CRS-3 (SpX-3) Dragonlooks forward to a ride on the next version of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Falcon 9 v1.1 is at the center of two major milestones in SpaceX’s future ambitions. The first involves the increased power of the new Merlin 1D engines, arranged in an “octagonal” pattern on a longer first stage.

A single Second Stage Merlin VacD engine will be responsible for the final push to orbit. Also, 27 of these engines will power the three cores on the Falcon Heavy, set to debut next year.

Following the successful conclusion of development firings at SpaceX’s Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas – the Merlin 1Ds are currently undergoing validation testing – with a test firing conducted on Thursday.

Thanks to the new Falcon 9′s increase in capability, SpaceX note future Dragon spacecraft – while always packed to the brim – riding with the upgraded Falcon will be able to carry a greater mass to the ISS, if NASA manifests denser cargo for Dragon, or heavy items for the trunk.

“Dragon is volume-limited, meaning we always launch Dragon with its volume capacity filled,” noted SpaceX spokesperson Christina Ra to “The original Falcon 9 was able to deliver 10,454 kg to LEO, while the upgraded Falcon 9 can deliver 13,150 kg.”

The future aim of the new Falcon 9 is more obvious when using the vehicle’s other name, the Falcon 9-R – with “R” standing for “Reusable”.

Although the new Falcon 9 will be tasked with a number of satellite launches, ahead of launching the CRS-3 Dragon to the ISS, the rocket will eventually sprout legs.

Revealed to the public, via a speech to the National Press Club by SpaceX CEO and Founder Elon Musk in 2012, the aim is to create a fully-reusable launch system that results in both the First and Second Stages returning to Earth, allowing them to be refurbished for another launch.

Testing has already begun, with the Grasshopper system currently testing hardware elements, propulsive landing and the landing legs structure, at the McGregor facility, with numerous incremental successes already achieved.

The Dragon spacecraft has always been designed to return to Earth, providing NASA with much-needed downmass capability from the ISS.

However, while every Dragon launched thus far has successfully returned home, the current method of parachute landing into the Pacific Ocean will eventually be replaced by propulsive landings on terra firma.

With future Dragon spacecraft sporting a series of eight SuperDraco liquid engines – built into the side walls of the capsule – these thrusters will provide an initial Launch Abort System (LAS) capability, by producing up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to drive the Dragon away from a failing launch vehicle.

Because the system is integrated with the Dragon – as opposed to a Tower system that normally requires jettison shortly after first stage flight – the spacecraft can technically abort within much longer periods.

However, the big advantage – per SpaceX’s ambitions – is the use of the engines during the end portion of the mission, allowing Dragon to land propulsively. Once this capability is online, in tandem with the return of the First and Second stages, SpaceX will be in the position of returning all of the launch system hardware to the ground for reuse.

Propulsive landing of the Dragon will be one of the key technologies used when SpaceX begin to fly crews on the spacecraft. However, the timing of the switch from water to ground landings will be negotiated between SpaceX and NASA.

“As we’ve noted in the past, future iterations of Dragon will have the ability to propulsively land. SpaceX certainly sees value in implementing a propulsive landing system prior to crew launches but timing for implementation will be something we discuss with NASA as they are the primary customer for both types of flights,” added Ms. Ra.

As part of their drive to fly humans on the Dragon, SpaceX are continuing to work through the milestones of their Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) contract with NASA.

The company recently completed the fifth and sixth milestones for SpaceX, and remain on target to complete all 14 of its CCiCap milestones by mid-2014.

The latest milestones involved the presentation of SpaceX’s human certification plan, outlining testing, demonstrations, analyses, inspections, verifications and training events. This was followed by a review of the upcoming pad abort test, which is currently targeted for later this year or early next year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida.

“The beauty of having the pad abort test review was it allowed both NASA and SpaceX to start coalescing toward an understanding of what will be tested and how we’ll measure success,” noted Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager. “We’re really looking forward to seeing SpaceX’s pad abort system take off from along Florida’s Space Coast.”

The Pad Abort test will also be another milestone for the SuperDraco engine development, with the test involving a Dragon being launched from the test stand via the ignition of the abort engines, prior to the initiation of the separation command. At around 5,000 feet, the spacecraft’s parachutes will deploy resulting in a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

While funding concerns for the Commercial Crew Program have resulted in internal manifests (L2) showing the first NASA crew to fly on a commercial vehicle to the ISS (USCV-1) has currently slipped to the end of 2017, SpaceX should be in the position to debut the crewed Dragon via an internally selected crew, sometime around 2015.

The company noted a crew is “still to be determined. We/NASA do not yet know who will comprise the inaugural flight,” options may range from three-time shuttle astronaut Garrett Reisman – SpaceX’s senior engineer working on astronaut safety and mission assurance – through to Mr. Musk himself.

Mr. Musk has made no secret of his ambition to fly into space, claiming in an interview with the BBC’s Jonathan Amos that he wants to push his company forward towards Mars missions, not least because he wants to be able to go to the Red Planet himself, before he gets “too old”.

SpaceX’s aspirations of heading to Mars may provide a unique security blanket for Dragon’s future, regardless of the uncertainty surrounding NASA’s funding levels for Commercial Crew.

“SpaceX was founded to develop the technology to get humans to Mars – to make humanity multi-planetary,” added Ms. Ra. “Everything we do is an incremental step towards that goal, including Dragon developments.”

Quelle: NASA


Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 17:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Fit Prüf-Sets Phase für Orion Recovery Test


The boilerplate test article was modified at Langley Research Center in Virginia for Orion recovery testing.


Engineers and technicians at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Langley Research Center in Virginia and Lockheed Martin Space Operations in Denver, Colo., prepared unique hardware that was used in a fit check June 25-28 of equipment that will be used to recover Orion upon splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The recovery operations are led by the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program at Kennedy.  

After traveling 3,600 miles above the Earth for its Exploration Flight Test-1 mission in September 2014, Orion will splash down for a landing in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered with the help of the United States Navy. A test of the recovery equipment and procedures will take place in August at the Naval Station Norfolk port facility in Norfolk, Va. To be ready for that test, a fit check of the hardware was conducted at the “Trim Pad” near Langley.

For the first time, the crew module recovery cradle designed by Lockheed Martin, the boilerplate handling fixture bumper assembly designed by Kennedy, and the Orion boilerplate test article (BTA) – a life-size test version of the spacecraft designed and built by Langley – was assembled and tested in one place.

The BTA originally was used for water impact testing at Langley’s hydro impact basin for the Orion Structural Passive Landing Attenuation for Survivability of Human-crew (SPLASH) project. Langley redesigned, analyzed, and modified the BTA to simulate the EFT-1 crew module’s mass properties and improve its water resistance for recovery operations.    

“One of the goals of this fit check was to practice putting together and taking apart the recovery hardware,” said Mike Generale, Orion recovery operations manager and recovery test director at Kennedy. “It’s a chance to learn how to operate the newly developed hardware and confirm that it is compatible.”

The “Trim Pad” is a large area of concrete near the hangar where the hardware was stored for the fit check. Prior to checkout, the team painted the outline of a ship’s well deck onto the concrete in order to confirm that the configuration of the recovery hardware will fit.

The one-of-a-kind handling fixture assembly was developed at Kennedy’s Prototype Laboratory and manufactured at the center’s Launch Equipment Test Facility by several Engineering Services contractors. It is the first piece of landing and recovery hardware to be completed and delivered to Langley in May.

Jeremy Parr, a mechanical design engineer in the center’s Prototype Laboratory, led the efforts to create the handling fixture using computer-aided design programs.

“We started with an initial design using computer modeling,” Parr said. “As the requirements were refined, we kept working towards a final design. The design portion took about one month to achieve.”

Essentially, the handling fixture is a steel beam frame about 17 feet wide and 19 feet long. The fixture has a bolt-on bumper assembly with cushions, or bumpers, that float up and down on guide rails. The assembly frame and bumper will be used to guide the Orion test article into the proper orientation over the handling fixture.

“The handling fixture allows NASA to move the test article into and out of the Navy recovery ship,” Generale said. “It also will serve as a fixture for storing the test article securely on board the recovery ship.”

The crew module recovery cradle then will be used to secure the Orion crew module in the recovery ship and to move it out of the ship after returning to port.

The fit check also gave the team the opportunity to see how NASA procedures and hardware mesh with procedures and hardware developed by the Navy.

 “The collaboration between the Navy and NASA during the fit check ensured operational success and will benefit the Orion EFT-1 mission,” said Lisa Hawks, SPLASH operations and integration manager."

Quelle: NASA


Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 17:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Erfolgreich 2 Raketen auf Wallops gestartet


Daytime Dynamo Mission Scrubbed July 3;  Next Attempt July 4

The launch of two sounding rockets from the Wallops Flight Facility was scrubbed on Wednesday, July 3 due to poor weather in the area. The next attempt for these two rockets will be Thursday, July 4, with a window of 9:30-11:30 a.m.

The two rockets, a Black Brant V and a Terrier-Improved Orion, will launch 15-seconds apart in support of the Daytime Dynamo experiment, which is a joint project between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.

The project is designed to study a global electrical current called the dynamo, which sweeps through the ionosphere. The ionosphere stretches from about 30 to 600 miles above Earth and plays a crucial role in our day-to-day lives. For example, radio waves bounce off it as they travel from sender to receiver, and communications signals from satellites travel through it as well. A disruption in the ionosphere can disrupt these signals.

The first rocket scheduled for launch is a single-stage Black Brant V, which will collect data on the neutral and charged particles it travels through. The second rocket is a two-stage Terrier-Improved Orion. It will shoot out a long trail of lithium gas to track how the upper atmospheric wind varies with altitude. These winds are believed to be the drivers of the dynamo currents.

Since the launch is during the day, the lithium trails will not be highly visible to the naked eye.

The rockets will be visible to residents in the Wallops region. The NASA Visitor Center will open at 8 a.m. on launch day for viewing the launches. The Wallops USTREAM channel will broadcast the launch live beginning at 8:30 a.m. on launch day.


Two Rockets Successfully Launched From Wallops


WALLOPS ISLAND, VA – Two suborbital rockets were successfully launched 15 seconds apart this morning from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility as part of a study of electrical currents in the ionosphere. 

The launch of the Black Brant V at 10:31:25 a.m. and the Terrier-Improved Orion at 10:31:40 were part of the Daytime Dynamo experiment, a joint project between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.

A Black Brant V and a Terrier-Improved Orion launch in support of Daytime Dynamo.

The project is designed to study a global electrical current called the dynamo, which sweeps through the ionosphere. The first rocket carried a payload that collected data on the neutral and charged particles in the ionosphere. The second rocket released a long trail of lithium gas to track how the upper atmospheric wind varies with altitude. These winds are believed to be the drivers of the dynamo currents.

A Black Brant V and a Terrier-Improved Orion launch in support of Daytime Dynamo mission.
Image Credit: 
P. Black

The next scheduled launch from Wallops is Terrier-Improved Malemute carrying experiments developed by students in the RockSat-X program.  The launch is currently scheduled between 6 and 10 a.m., August 13.

Quelle: NASA


Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 17:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Putin fordert Bereitschaft gegen Cyber und Weltraum Angriffe


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that his armed forces must be better prepared to ward off attacks in cyberspace as well as from outer space.

He warned that damage from cyberattacks could be higher than that of conventional weapons.

“We need to be prepared to effectively ward off threats to informational networks … first and foremost for strategic and critically important installations,” the president told a Russian Security Council meeting dedicated to improving the country’s armed forces through the year 2020.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had the previous day called for more computer programmers to join the armed forces, calling them part of “a new generation of people who will advance military science.”

“The character of military conflicts is literally before our eyes,” Putin said Friday. “There is a militarization of the cosmos and cyberspace … and instruments of soft power are being used.”

He also noted the development of precision-guided weapons around the world, saying that such arms were “practically every bit as good as strategic weapons.”

“We need to take all of those factors into account in our practical work,” the president said.


Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 16:45 Uhr

Astronomie -UK Astronomen koordinieren ihre Suche nach außerirdischen Signalen


British scientists are to make a concerted effort to look for alien life among the stars.

Academics from 11 institutions have set up a network to co-ordinate their Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (Seti).

The English Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, will act as patron.

The group is asking funding agencies for a small - about £1m a year - sum of money to support listening time on radio telescopes and for data analysis.

It would also help pay for research that considered new ways to try to find aliens.

Currently, most Seti work is done in the US and is funded largely through private donation.

UK Seti Research Network (UKSRN) co-ordinator Alan Penny said there was important expertise in Britain keen to play its part.

"If we had one part in 200 - half a percent of the money that goes into astronomy at the moment - we could make an amazing difference. We would become comparable with the American effort," the University of St Andrews researcher told BBC News.

"I don't know whether [aliens] are out there, but I'm desperate to find out. It's quite possible that we're alone in the Universe. And think about the implications of that: if we're alone in the Universe then the whole purpose in the Universe is in us. If we're not alone, that's interesting in a very different way."

The UKSRN held its first get-together at this week's National Astronomy Meeting.

British researchers and facilities have had occasional involvement in Seti projects down the years.

The most significant was the use in 1998-2003 of Jodrell bank, and its 76m Lovell radio telescope, in Project Phoenix. This was a search for signals from about 1,000 nearby stars. Organised - and paid for - by the Seti Institute in California, it ultimately found nothing.

Jodrell has since been updated, linking it via fibre optics into a 217km-long array with six other telescopes across England. Known as eMerlin, this system would be a far more powerful tool to scan the skies for alien transmissions.

And Jodrell's Tim O'Brien said Seti work could be done quite easily without disturbing mainstream science on the array.

"You could do serendipitous searches. So if the telescopes were studying quasars, for example, we could piggy-back off that and analyse the data to look for a different type of signal - not the natural astrophysical signal that the quasar astronomer was interested in, but something in the noise that one might imagine could be associated with aliens. This approach would get you Seti research almost for free," the Jodrell associate director explained.

"There are billions of planets out there. It would be remiss of us not to at least have half an ear open to any signals that might be being sent to us."


In addition to eMerlin, the UK is also heavily involved in Lofar - a European Low Frequency Array that incorporates new digital techniques to survey wide areas of the sky all at once.

And Jodrell itself is the management HQ for the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array, a giant next-generation radio observatory to be built in South Africa and Australia. It will have incredible power, not only to screen out interference from TV and phone signals here on Earth, but to resolve very faint signals at vast distances. It has been said the SKA could detect an airport radar on an alien world 50 light-years away.

One attraction of Seti is the great potential for "citizen science" involvement.

The Seti@Home screensaver has proved to be a big hit with the public, using downtime on home and business PCs to analyse radio telescope data for alien signals. The UK has a strong history in this area also with projects such as Galaxy Zoo, which sees citizen scientists help professional astronomers sift and classify the colossal numbers of images we now have of galaxy structures.


Sir Martin said there was huge public interest in the Seti question and some modest state funding for the area would probably get wide support.

"I'd put it this way: if you were to ask all the people coming out of a science fiction movie whether they'd be happy if some small fraction of the tax revenues from that movie were hypothecated to try to determine if any of what they'd just seen was for real, I'm sure most would say 'yes'," he told BBC News.

The issue is whether UK astronomy, currently operating under very tight fiscal constraints, can afford any spare cash for a field of endeavour that has completely unknown outcomes.

Sheffield University's Paul Crowther doubted the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the main funders of UK astronomy, would be able to support UKSRN.

"Continued flat-cash science budget awards are constantly eroding STFC's buying powers, causing the UK to withdraw from existing productive facilities such as the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.

"[British astronomy] faces the prospect of a reduced volume of research grants, and participation in future high-impact facilities [eg the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope] is threatened. I would be shocked if STFC's advisory panels rated the support of UKSRN higher than such scientifically compelling competition."

Dr Penny argued Seti could make a strong case, and that his group would try to get research council backing.

"The human race wants to explore, wants to find things out, and if we stop trying we're on the road to decay," he said.



UK astronomers plan to join search for alien intelligence

A network of radio telescopes across the country would listen for the alien equivalent of Hancock's Half Hour


British astronomers have drawn up plans to scour the heavens for signs of alien life using a network of telescopes that can detect broadcasts from other planets.

Seven major telescopes across the country would gather data for the project and send information over hundreds of kilometres of fibre-optic cables to analysts at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire.

The plans would establish Britain as the second largest centre for alien hunting in the world after the US, which has a number of projects dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti).

An advanced civilisation might make itself known by beaming messages into space, or by leaking local radiowave transmissions, just as early broadcasts of Hancock's Half Hour will by now have reached stars more than 50 light years from Earth.

Speaking at a Royal Astronomical Society meeting in St Andrews on Friday, Tim O'Brien, deputy director of Jodrell Bank, described how the array of telescopes, known as eMerlin, could join in the hunt for ET.

"We now have the capability to collect radiowaves across a wide swathe of the radiowave spectrum, and that allows us to look at the possibility of searching for the sorts of signals that might be created by ET civilisations," O'Brien said.

The work requires exquisitely sensitive radiowave receivers that can sift promising signals from the noise created by broadcasts on Earth and natural sources. Scientists expect alien broadcast signals to be sharper and to vary in different ways from those seen in nature.

The eMerlin telescopes are used around the clock to study exotic cosmic objects such as quasars, pulsars and dying stars. The cheapest way to hunt for advanced aliens is to pore over these data for evidence of their broadcasts.

But with more money, astronomers could do targeted searches and turn their telescopes towards regions of the sky where planets are known to orbit stars in the habitable zone, where conditions are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to form.

"Ask astronomers do they think ET exists and most will tell you yes," O'Brien told the Guardian. "We don't know what the nature of life would be, or whether it wants to communicate with us, but since we're collecting all this data anyway, it seems rather remiss not to search for ET signals."

If astronomers found signs of intelligent life, communication with the aliens would likely be fraught with difficulties. The language barrier would only be the start. "If it takes 1,000 years for our message to reach them, we are never going to have a scintillating conversation," O'Brien said.

Alan Penny, head of a newly established UK Seti research network, said advanced aliens may have remained elusive thus far for several reasons. They may have destroyed themselves before they had the technology to make contact with others. Or we may be alone. "The human race wants to know what's out there. And until we look, we won't know," he said.

Quelle: The Guardian




Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 14:00 Uhr

Planet Erde - Im Blick aus dem All


The foothills of the Andes mountains near the southern coast of Peru were captured by the Kompsat-2 satellite on 4 May 2011. The Andes stretch about 7000 km from Venezuela down South America’s west coast to the top of Argentina. The mountain rage is the result of the Nazca and Antarctic tectonic plates moving under the South American plate – a geological process called ‘subduction’. This process is also responsible for the Andes range’s volcanic activity.


Rolling hills of farmland in the northwest United States are pictured in this image from the Kompsat-2 satellite. Acquired over Washington state, the south and west areas of the image are in Walla Walla county, while the central-eastern-upper area is Columbia County. The area pictured is part of the Palouse region – an agricultural zone that mainly produces wheat and legumes. The rolling, picturesque landscape has sometimes been compared to Italy’s Tuscany. Zooming in, we can see swirling patterns in the vegetation created by ploughs. Roads cut through the shallow valleys and buildings can also be seen. Touchet River, known for its trout fishing, can been seen in the lower left. The diagonal line running next to the river is a road that connects the town of Prescott to the west to Waitsburg to the east.


An area covering northern Namibia and southern Angola is pictured in this Kompsat-2 image. Running across the image, the Okavango River forms the border between Namibia to the south and Angola to the north. Zooming in on the upper left corner, dots of white and other bright colours near a road show rural settlements. The red soil typical of many tropical and subtropical areas of Africa is also evident. In the lower-right corner, we can see large-scale, circular agricultural plots up to about 600 m in diameter. The white lines running through the circle could be maintenance roads.

The Korea Multi-purpose Satellite (Kompsat-2) of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute acquired this image on 3 January 2013. ESA supports Kompsat as a Third Party Mission, meaning it uses its ground infrastructure and expertise to acquire, process and distribute data to users.


Korea’s Kompsat-2 satellite captured this image over the sand seas of the Namib Desert on 7 January 2012. The blue and white area is the dry river bed of the Tsauchab. Black dots of vegetation are concentrated close to the river’s main route, while salt deposits appear bright white. Running through the river valley, a road connects Sossusvlei to the Sesriem settlement. At the road’s 45th kilometre, seen at the lower-central part of the image, a white path shoots off and ends at a circular parking area at the base of a dune. This is Dune 45, a popular tourist stop on the way to and from Sossusvlei. In this image, there appears to be some shadow on the western side. From this we can deduce that the image was acquired during the late morning.

ESA supports Kompsat as a Third Party Mission, meaning it uses its ground infrastructure and expertise to acquire, process and distribute data to users. 


This Envisat image, acquired on 4 July 2011, shows southern Namibia and northern South Africa on Africa’s lower-west coast. We can clearly see the sand dunes of the Namib Desert – considered to be the oldest desert in the world. To the south of the desert is the Sperrgebiet diamond mining area. Further south, the Orange River forms part of the border between South Africa and Namibia before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay, which is noticeable by a lighter green colour in this image.


This Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) image is centred over the Namib Desert located in Namibia. The desert stretches about 1,930 kilometres along the coast of southwest Africa, mostly within the Namibian country. Visible are the huge sand dunes that rise near the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and extend inland for up to 160 kilometres, ending at the steep slopes of the Great Escarpment (lower centre right).


Quelle: ESA


Samstag, 6. Juli 2013 - 10:45 Uhr

Astronomie - Hungrige Galaxie im Licht eines fernen Suchscheinwerfers gefangen


Astronomen ist es gelungen mit dem Very Large Telescope der ESO eine weit entfernte Galaxie beim Verschlingen des sie umgebenden Gases zu beobachten. Das Gas strömt auf die Galaxie zu und treibt dann sowohl die Sternentstehung als auch die Rotation der Galaxie an. Die Messungen sind der bisher beste direkte Nachweis für die Theorie, dass Galaxien das sie umgebende Gas an sich ziehen und aufbrauchen, indem sie wachsen und neue Sterne bilden. Die Forschungsergebnisse werden am 5. Juli 2013 in der Fachzeitschrift Science veröffentlicht.

Zwar hatten Astronomen schon länger den Verdacht, dass Galaxien wachsen, indem sie Material aus ihrer Umgebung einsaugen, doch es erwies sich als sehr schwierig, diesen Prozess direkt zu beobachten. Nun hat man mit dem Very Large Telescope der ESO eine sehr seltene Anordnung zwischen einer entfernten Galaxie [1] und einem noch weiter entfernten Quasar untersucht – dem extrem hellen Zentrum einer Galaxie, das von einem supermassereichen Schwarzen Loch angetrieben wird. Das Licht des Quasars muss das Material um die Galaxie im Vordergrund durchlaufen, bevor es die Erde erreicht. Dadurch ist es möglich, die Eigenschaften des Gases um die Galaxie im Detail zu untersuchen [2]. Die neuen Ergebnisse bieten daher die bisher beste Sicht auf eine Galaxie während der Fütterung.

„Diese Art von Anordnung ist sehr selten und hat es uns ermöglicht einzigartige Beobachtungen durchzuführen”, erklärt Nicolas Bouché vom Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP) in Toulouse (Frankreich) und Erstautor des Fachartikels. „Mit dem Very Large Telescope der ESO waren wir in der Lage sowohl die Galaxie selbst als auch das umliegende Gas zu beobachten. Erst das führte letztendlich dazu, dass wir ein wichtiges Problem der Galaxienentstehung angehen konnten: Wie wachsen Galaxien und wie nähren sie die Sternentstehung?”

Galaxien brauchen ihr Gasreservoir schnell auf, indem sie neue Sterne entstehen lassen. Daher müssen sie auf irgendeine Weise kontinuierlich mit neuem Gas versorgt werden, um diesen Prozess aufrechtzuerhalten. Die Astronomen hatten vermutet, dass die Lösung des Problems darin besteht, dass Galaxien kaltes Gas aus der Umgebung durch ihre gravitative Anziehung einsaugen. In diesem Szenario zieht eine Galaxie Gas zu sich, das dann um die Galaxie kreist und mit ihr zusammen rotiert, bevor es in die Galaxie fällt. Obwohl schon einige Anzeichen einer solchen Akkretion zuvor in Galaxien beobachtet wurden, konnten die Bewegung des Gases und seine weiteren Eigenschaften bisher nicht vollständig untersucht werden.

Die Astronomen haben für ihre Beobachtungen zwei Instrumente namens SINFONI und UVES [3] genutzt, die beide am VLT der ESO am Paranal-Observatorium im Norden Chiles montiert sind. Die neuen Beobachtungen zeigen sowohl wie die Galaxie selbst rotiert als auch die Zusammensetzung und die Bewegung des Gases außerhalb der Galaxie.

„Die Eigenschaften dieser enormen Menge an umliegendem Gas waren genau so, wie wir sie für kaltes Gas, das in die Galaxie gezogen wird, erwartet hätten”, ergänzt Koautor Michael Murphy  von der Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne (Australien). „Das Gas bewegt sich wie erwartet, die Gasmenge und die Zusammensetzung sind in etwa so wie erwartet und passen perfekt zu den Modellen. Es ist wie zur Fütterungszeit für Löwen im Zoo – diese bestimmte Galaxie hat einen gewaltigen Appetit und wir haben herausgefunden, wie sie sich selbst füttert, um so schnell zu wachsen.”

Astronomen hatten schon Anzeichen von Material um Galaxien im frühen Universum gefunden, jedoch ist dies das erste Mal, dass sie in der Lage waren deutlich zu zeigen, dass das Material sich nach innen und nicht nach außen bewegt. Außerdem konnten sie die Zusammensetzung dieses neuen Treibstoffs für zukünftige Generationen von Sternen bestimmen. Ohne das Licht des Quasars wäre das umliegende Gas nicht nachweisbar.

„In diesem Fall hatten wir das Glück, dass der Quasar sich gerade am richtigen Ort befindet, so dass sein Licht das einfallende Gas durchqueren muss. Die nächste Generation von noch größeren Teleskopen wird Untersuchungen mit mehreren Sichtlinien pro Galaxie ermöglichen und somit ein vollständiges Bild bieten”, schließt Koautorin Crystal Martin von der University of California Santa Barbara in den USA.


[1] Die Galaxie wurde in einer SINFONI-Beobachtungsstudie namens SINFONI Mg II Program for Line Emitters (SIMPLE) im Jahr  2012 bei einer Rotverschiebung von z~2 detektiert. Der Quasar im Hintergrund heißt HE 2243-60. Die Galaxie selbst liegt bei einer Rotverschiebung von 2,3285, was bedeutet, dass wir heute ihren Zustand zu einer Zeit sehen als das Universum gerade einmal etwa zwei Milliarden Jahre alt war.

[2] Wenn das Licht des Quasars die Gaswolken passiert, werden einige Wellenlängen absorbiert. Das Muster dieser Absorptionsfingerabdrücke kann Astronomen viel über die Bewegungen im Gas und die chemische Zusammensetzung verraten. Ohne den Quasar im Hintergrund hätte viel weniger Information gesammelt werden können – die Gaswolken leuchten nicht und sind auf direkten Aufnahmen nicht sichtbar.

[3] SINFONI steht für Spectrograph for Integral Field Observations in the Near Infrared (dt.: Spektrograph für integrierte Feldbeobachtungen), während UVES für Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (dt.: ultravioletter und visueller Echelle-Spectrograf) steht. Beide Instrumente sind am Very Large Telescope der ESO montiert. SINFONI hat die Bewegungen des Gases in der Galaxie selbst und UVES die Effekte des Gases um die Galaxie auf das Licht des weiter entfernten Quasars enthüllt. SINFONI besteht aus einem von der ESO entwickelten Modul für Adaptive Optik zum Ausgleich atmosphärischer Verzerrungen und dem Spektrografen SPIFFI (SPectrometer for Infrared Faint Field Imaging). SPIFFI wurde von der NOVA-Kollaboration niederländischer Universitäten und dem Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik in Garching konzipiert und gebaut.


Diese Übersichtsaufnahme zeigt die Himmelsregion um ein sehr seltenes Paar aus einer Galaxie und einem Quasar im südlichen Sternbild Tucana (der Tukan). Der Quasar und die Galaxie sind zu lichtschwach, um in dieser Aufnahme, die mit einem relativ kleinen Teleskop gemacht wurde, sichtbar zu sein. Ihre Positionen sind jedoch eingezeichnet. Dieses Bild wurde aus Aufnahmen des Digitized Sky Survey 2 erstellt.

Quelle: ESO


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