Study: Collateral Damage from Cosmic Rays Increases Cancer Risk for Mars Astronauts
New predictive model shows radiation from cosmic rays extends from damaged to otherwise healthy “bystander” cells, effectively doubling cancer risk.
Former NASA scientitst Francis (Frank) Cucinotta is a professor for the department of health physics and diagnostic sciences within the School of Allied Health Sciences. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Creative Services)
The cancer risk for a human mission to Mars has effectively doubled following a UNLV study predicting a dramatic increase in the disease for astronauts traveling to the red planet or on long-term missions outside the protection of Earth’s magnetic field.
Previous studies have shown the health risks from galactic cosmic ray exposure to astronauts include cancer, central nervous system effects, cataracts, circulatory diseases and acute radiation syndromes. Cosmic rays, such as iron and titanium atoms, heavily damage the cells they traverse because of their very high rates of ionization.
Conventional risk models used by NASA and others assume DNA damage and mutation are the cause of radiation cancers. This is based on studies at high doses where all cells are traversed by heavy ions one or more times within much shorter-time periods than will occur during space missions.
“Exploring Mars will require missions of 900 days or longer and includes more than one year in deep space where exposures to all energies of galactic cosmic ray heavy ions are unavoidable,” Cucinotta explained. “Current levels of radiation shielding would, at best, modestly decrease the exposure risks.”
In these new findings, a non-targeted effect model – where cancer risk arises in bystander cells close to heavily damaged cells – is shown to lead to a two-fold or more increase in cancer risk compared to the conventional risk model for a Mars mission.
“Galactic cosmic ray exposure can devastate a cell’s nucleus and cause mutations that can result in cancers,” Cucinotta explained. “We learned the damaged cells send signals to the surrounding, unaffected cells and likely modify the tissues’ microenvironments. Those signals seem to inspire the healthy cells to mutate, thereby causing additional tumors or cancers.”
Cucinotta said the findings show a tremendous need for additional studies focused on cosmic ray exposures to tissues that dominate human cancer risks, and that these should begin prior to long-term space missions outside the Earth’s geomagnetic sphere.
He also acknowledged the need to address a moral conundrum.
"Waving or increasing acceptable risk levels raises serious ethical flags, if the true nature of the risks are not sufficiently understood."
Alaska missile testing for Israel will be town hall subject
Officials from the spaceport on Kodiak Island will host a town hall meeting Wednesday to answer questions about the Missile Defense Agency’s plans to test a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic missile system in Alaska.
Testing of the Arrow-3 missile system will begin in 2018, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported (http://bit.ly/2rX3vuM ). The system was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing Co., and is co-managed by the Missile Defense Agency and the Israel Missile Defense Organization.
It will be part of the five- to six-year, $80.4 million contract between Alaska Aerospace Corporation and the Missile Defense Agency, which was announced last summer, Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell said.
“One of the better places to test is in Alaska, from Kodiak, and we plan to do that next year,” Navy Vice Adm. James Syring said.
The system is being developed to support Israel’s ballistic missile defense system. There are no plans to integrate the missiles into the U.S. ballistic missile defense system.
Syring said the system could be used by Israel deter potential missile threats from Iran.
Testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system is also set to take place in Alaska in the summer. This system has been touted as a possible defense against North Korean missiles.
Get ready for round two of the Thirty Meter Telescope debate!
The permitting process starts again, after the TMT construction permit was nullified last year, and a deadline is set to apply to be a part of the current contested hearing.
Developers believe the Thirty Meter Telescope could be used to look back billions of years ago to the beginnings of the universe, but Monday the focus for TMT was five years ago to the contested case hearing for the project. A hearing that had been thrown out by the State Supreme Court.
Outside a pre-conference hearing, those protesting the development of the Thirty Meter Telescope joined together to show their support to keep the top of Mauna Kea construction-free.
Inside, attorneys for both sides sat right next to one another, but remained far apart over who should be a part of this case and how much of the old permit should be included in the new one.
"I think we should approach this, given the significance of the case, anew," said Mauna Kea Hui attorney Richard Wurdeman.
Construction of the $1.5 billion telescope stopped after the State Supreme Court ordered another contested case hearing.
"The Supreme Court remanded it to a certain point in time," said former judge Riki May Amano, the hearing officer for the case.
The Supreme Court did not specify when, so the debate began over how much testimony from past public hearings, staff reports and documentation should be included in the new hearing.
Wurdeman felt much of the previous process was just for show, and the project was pre-determined to get the permit. Which is why his clients want to basically start over from the beginning.
"The big concern the Supreme Court had was they railroaded this application in before the contested case hearing even started. Which made the contested case meaningless," said Wunderman.
The attorney for University of Hawaii Timothy Lui-Kwan said much had already been presented, debated and protested even before the contested case hearing was requested. So there are many steps that don't need a do-over.
"Before you can order a contested case you have to close the public hearing, which was closed. The public hearing and application was completed and closed," stated Lui-Kwan.
Judge Amano decided to start on middle ground, for the very important Big Island ground at the top of Mauna Kea.
" I believe it would be at the point when the contested case hearing was requested. That should have stopped the board from making a decision and everything after that," said Amano.
The judge set a May 31 deadline for people to apply to be a part of the case.
Then there will be two weeks for both sides to respond to requests and applications before a public hearing on June 17 in Hilo.
Judge Amano added the legal conferences may be held in Honolulu, but the public hearings will be held in Hilo, as the Big Island is home to this dispute.
UH reports progress on governor’s 10 point plan for Maunakea
On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced a 10 point action plan for the stewardship of Maunakea. Here is an update, as of May 2016, on the steps the University of Hawaiʻi has taken to meet its obligations set by the governor’s plan.
UH Action Status
1. Accept its responsibility to do a better job in the future
COMPLETED— UH statement June 1, 2015: “We accept that the university has not yet met all of our obligations to the mountain or the expectations of the community. For that, we apologize and lay out this outline of an action plan for improving our stewardship.”
The untold story of improvements in UH stewardship of Maunakea, November 30, 2015
2. Formally and legally bind itself to the commitment that this is the last area on the mountain where a telescope project will be completed or sought
COMPLETED—A letter dated November 17, 2015 (PDF) was signed by UH President David Lassner and State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) Chair Suzanne Case. This confirmed the commitment in the UH Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for Maunakea approved by the UH Board of Regents (BOR) and BLNR.
3. Decommission—beginning this year—as many telescopes as possible with at least 25 percent of all telescopes gone by the time the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is ready for operation
Three decommissionings (25 percent of summit observatories) have been announced: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO), UH Hilo Hoku Kea and UKIRT, accelerating the commitments in the CMP.
UH on track to meet its commitments to contain its imprint on Mauna Kea, February 28, 2016
Formal Notices of Intent (NOI) were submitted for Hoku Kea on September 16, 2015 and CSO on November 18, 2015 to the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM), in accordance with the Decommissioning Plan (PDF) of the CMP.
UH announced on October 21, 2015 that UKIRT will be the third observatory to be decommissioned. Further planning, deconstruction and site restoration steps will be timed to take advantage of lessons learned from CSO and Hoku Kea and to maximize scientific productivity within the time available before the telescope must be removed.
Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) reviewed and approved the first two NOIs and provided procedural guidance on next steps.
The decommissioning review process called for in the Decommissioning Plan is currently underway for CSO and Hoku Kea.
The plans to decommission CSO and Hoku Kea have been presented to the Kahu Kū Mauna council.
The NOI to decommission CSO was approved by the Mauna Kea Management Board (MKMB). The NOI for Hoku Kea is currently under consideration by MKMB, pending consultation with the community.
4. Restart the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the university’s lease extension and conduct a full cultural impact assessment as part of that process
UH has done initial work on updating the EIS preparation notice, including revised alternatives, but has paused the process to address the return of 10,000 acres to DLNR jurisdiction (#8 below).
UH is currently assessing how the EIS can best proceed concurrently with the land return process.
A cultural impact assessment will be incorporated into the EIS as it is a requirement of State of Hawaiʻi EIS process.
5. Move expeditiously the access rules that significantly limit and put conditions on noncultural access to the mountain
UH has completed an internal draft of rules, which includes addressing access and is preparing for consultation with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, DLNR, Kahu Kū Mauna Council and MKMB.
After consultation is completed and any revisions made, approval will be requested from the BOR and governor to proceed to public hearing.
6. Require training in the cultural aspects of the mountain and how to be respectful of the cultural areas for anyone going on the mountain
All workers are required to undergo an orientation on the cultural aspects and natural resources of Maunakea.
Orientation for visitors may be required as called for in the CMP and will be set forth in the rules (#5 above).
7. Substantially reduce the length of its request for a lease extension from the Board of Land and Natural Resources
Will be addressed in the EIS preparation notice (#4 above).
The term will run from when new master lease is executed and not from the expiration date of the current lease.
8. Voluntarily return to full DLNR jurisdiction all lands (over 10,000 acres) not specifically needed for astronomy
UH and DLNR have agreed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to return lands not needed for astronomy to DLNR jurisdiction.
UH and DLNR have outlined a proposed map for consideration indicating the 10,000 acres to be returned.
DLNR has agreed to work on the first draft of the MOU to implement the return.
9. Ensure full use of its scheduled telescope time
COMPLETED—UH time has consistently been oversubscribed on all observatories.
10. Make a good faith effort to revisit the issue of payments by the existing telescope(s) now as well as requiring it in the new lease
Efforts are underway through ongoing discussions with observatories.
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has committed to significant additional community support; positive discussions with other observatories regarding additional community benefits and stewardship support are ongoing.
UH and all observatories understand that the $1 million annual rent agreed to by TMT sets a new standard for expected telescope site rent on Maunakea. The observatories prefer to discuss formal changes in the rents previously agreed to in the context of the full renegotiation of subleases under a future UH master lease extending beyond 2033.
Quelle: University of Hawaiʻi System News
Land Board keeps Amano as TMT hearings officer
HONOLULU — The state Land Board on Friday again affirmed a retired judge to oversee Thirty Meter Telescope permit proceedings despite calls for her removal from the project’s builder and those who opposed building the telescope on Mauna Kea.
Permit applicant University of Hawaii Hilo also requested a new hearings officer.
No qualified hearing officer candidate will satisfy everyone, the order said: “The board will not go down this rabbit hole.”
Retired Big Island Judge Riki May Amano didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
There are different reasons for wanting to replace her. Telescope opponents raise conflict-of-interest concerns over her paid family membership to the Imiloa Astronomy Center. The university takes issue with her mediating another matter involving the Manoa campus. The nonprofit telescope company says replacing her with an alternate would avoid further delay.
“With due respect and consideration to the parties’ various interests and reasons for asking the board to replace Judge Amano, the board cannot and will not sidestep its own administrative responsibility to exercise judgment and common sense regarding whether the selection process up until now has objectively appeared to be fair,” the order said. “Common sense must prevail.
A three-person committee selected Amano as the most qualified applicant after a procurement process mandated by law, the order said.
The university agrees Amano is well-qualified but still believes she should be replaced, said spokesman Dan Meisenzahl. “We stand by our statements and we’re exploring our options,” he said.
TMT International Observatory said in a statement it respects the decision: “We look forward to being a party in the contested case and participating in the proceedings.”
A new contested case hearing is necessary because the state Supreme Court in December invalidated the project’s permit, ruling the land board should not have issued a permit to construct the telescope on land designated for conservation before it held a hearing to evaluate a petition by a group challenging the project’s approval.
“We believe the TMT project is already on extremely tenuous legal grounds as a result of the board’s actions and the presentation of substantive evidence through the contested case process has not even started yet,” said Richard Wurdeman, the lawyer representing the group of petitioners.
The telescope has faced intense protests by those who say it will desecrate sacred land.
Telescope officials have said they want a permit in place by the end of the year or early next year in order to resume construction in 2018. Meanwhile, telescope officials are looking for possible alternate sites in case it can’t be built in Hawaii.
Amano previously scheduled a June 17 hearing in Hilo for multiple requests by project opponents and supporters who want to participate in the contested case hearing, including TMT. Currently, the only parties involved are the university, which leases the land from the state, and the group who challenged the permit approval.
Quelle: West Hawaii Today
Thirty Meter Telescope may not be built in Hawaii, say astronomers
Officials behind the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) are considering new locations for the $1.4bn facility, and expect to decide whether to opt for a new site early next year. The TMT is due to be built on Hawaii's Mauna Kea mountain but, following protests from local residents, its building permit was revoked last December by the state's Supreme Court. New locations that are being considered include Baja California in Mexico, the Canary Islands and Chile, as well as locations in India and China.
The TMT board had chosen Mauna Kea, which already hosts 13 other telescopes, as the observatory's site in July 2009. Over the following six years, the organization received a series of necessary approvals and permits. However native Hawaiians, who regard the Mauna Kea summit as sacred – and who had previously objected to the growth in the number of telescopes there – carried out a protest at the telescope's ground-breaking in October 2014.
Six months later, following further demonstrations, Hawaii governor David Ige announced a temporary postponement of the project. Then last December, the Hawaiian Supreme Court invalidated the TMT's building permit, ruling that the State Board of Land and Natural Resources had not followed due process when it was approved. The court then remanded the case back to the board.
Looking for plan B
TMT managers began to consider other sites for the telescope in January. "The TMT's board of directors decided to study other potential sites while the contested case takes its course in Hawaii," says TMT spokesperson Scott Ishikawa. "We need a reasonable plan B, should the Hawaii option not be feasible in a timely fashion."
Hawaii is still an option but we are very actively looking at alternatives
Fiona Harrison, Caltech
A key factor in the search for different locations is that construction of the TMT is planned to begin in April 2018 with completion in 2022. "It's no secret that the TMT project is looking at alternatives, driven by schedule considerations; if you stretch the project out, the cost will go up," Fiona Harrison, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology and member of the TMT International Observatory's board of governors, told Physics World. "Hawaii is still an option but we are very actively looking at alternatives. We'll be culling down [the list of sites] to a few options over the summer."
Despite the uncertainty over the site, work is still continuing on the TMT. Fengchuan Liu, TMT deputy project manager, told SPIE's Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2016 conference in Edinburgh last week that the uncertainty around the site has not delayed work on the telescope's design and related issues. "The team is not sitting idle," he says. "We are making progress and spending each dollar wisely." He adds that a decision on a new site will be made "by early 2017".
Still "first choice"
According to Ishikawa, the Hawaii site is still "first choice", and the process to reapply for the permit is already under way. The case for Hawaii was strengthened by the addition last month of the TMT International Observatory (TIO) to the TMT organization as an applicant for the permit. Formed in May 2014, the TIO consists of the California Institute of Technology, Japan's National Institutes of Natural Sciences, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Science, the regents of the University of California, as well as organizations from India and Canada.
Poll: 60 percent of isle residents support TMT construction
Sixty percent of Hawaii Island residents support building the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, according to a new poll.
That’s almost identical to a poll conducted last October that found 59 percent of Hawaii Island residents and 62 percent of residents statewide in favor of the $1.4 billion project.
The biggest change was in the number of people who said they were against construction of the 180-foot-tall observatory.
In October, 39 percent of Hawaii Island residents surveyed said they were against it. That dropped to 31 percent in the latest poll, conducted in July.
Native Hawaiians and part Hawaiians also remain split, with 46 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.
Both polls were commissioned by TMT International Observatory and conducted by Honolulu-based Ward Research Inc.
“It was important for us to understand how Hawaii Island residents feel about the project, and the latest poll results demonstrate that opposition to TMT on Hawaii Island is decreasing,” said TMT Executive Director Ed Stone in a press release. “That’s significant and we are most grateful that the community’s support of the project remains high.”
Stone said he hopes to see construction on Mauna Kea resume by April 2018.
Quelle: Hawaii Tribune Herald
As Hawaii deliberates, giant telescope considers new home - If you are going to spend more than a billion dollars building one of the world's biggest telescopes, you'll want to put it in a place with the best possible view of the stars. But in the case of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), an instrument that promises unprecedented images of everything from the most distant galaxies to nearby exoplanets, builders may have to settle for second best.
Next week, the fierce legal and cultural battle that has engulfed efforts to build the TMT on Mauna Kea, a 4207-meter-high peak in Hawaii, will reignite as state officials open a pivotal hearing on whether to allow construction. The peak is rated as the best observing site in the Northern Hemisphere, but for Native Hawaiians it is sacred land, and many residents oppose the project. "The risk [to the project] is by no means small," says project manager Gary Sanders of the TMT International Observatory in Pasadena, California, and "the cost of delay is significant." So the project is also hedging its bets by considering alternative sites.
The TMT is one of three giant telescopes expected to dominate ground-based optical astronomy beginning in the next decade. The European Extremely Large Telescope (with a 39-meter mirror) and the Giant Magellan Telescope (24.5 meters) are already under construction, both in Chile. The TMT was also supposed to be underway by now, having won a construction permit from Hawaiian officials in 2011 after a long approval process. But the project ground to a halt after Native Hawaiian protesters disrupted a 2014 groundbreaking ceremony and later blocked workers from reaching the site. Then in December 2015, native activists won a ruling from Hawaii's supreme court that invalidated the TMT's building permit because of procedural violations. The court ordered the state's Board of Land and Natural Resources to reopen hearings designed to give the public a voice in the decision.
The sky's the limit Troubles at Mauna Kea have forced the Thirty Meter Telescope to consider alternative sites. Lower elevations generally offer inferior observing conditions. LOCATION ELEVATION (METERS) Mauna Kea, Hawaii 4050 San Pedro Mártir, Mexico 2830 Roque de los Muchachos, Spain 2400 Antofagasta region, Chile 2300–4500 The new hearings begin on Hawaii's Big Island on 18 October and will last into late November. Sanders says the TMT's application is essentially unchanged. Witnesses have already supplied written statements, and more than a dozen parties, mostly opposing the project, will have a chance to ask questions. In the end, "it seems likely we'll get the permit," says astronomer Robert Kirshner, head of science programs at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California, which has so far ploughed $180 million into the TMT. But any decision, which is unlikely before the end of the year, will probably end up again in Hawaii's supreme court.
Even if the TMT ultimately gets a go-ahead, supporters worry that continuing opposition may make it difficult to build, staff, and operate the telescope. Protests on the mountain have become heated at times, according to press reports, and there have been arrests. "We can't take risks with people's safety," Sanders says.
Thirty Meter Telescope protestors Plans to construct the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii have prompted numerous protests by Native Hawaiians and others opposed to the project. Associated Press If Hawaii proves inhospitable, the TMT will try to relocate. Since this past February, experts have been reviewing alternative sites, including several that were studied when the TMT began serious planning in the mid-2000s. Cerro Armazones, a peak in northern Chile, was a favorite for the TMT, but it is now ruled out because Europe's giant scope is taking up residence. Other sites nearby are in contention. But moving the TMT to Chile would put all three giant telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere, where they would be unable to see much of the northern sky.
Potential Northern Hemisphere sites include San Pedro Mártir in Baja California in Mexico and Roque de los Muchachos on La Palma, a Spanish island off the Atlantic coast of Morocco. "Our friends in La Palma are pushing hard" to get the TMT, says Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C. But neither alternative matches the seeing conditions on Mauna Kea, and they would bring extra cost and complication. The project has already ruled out sites in the Himalayas, put forward by India and China—both TMT partners along with the United States, Japan, and Canada—because they are too far from ports and have short construction seasons.
The TMT governors are expected to choose their top alternative site later this month. Regardless of what happens in Hawaii, the governors have vowed to start construction—on Mauna Kea or elsewhere—no later than April 2018.
Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, illustrated above, in Hawaii remains on hold, and the project has developed a “Plan B” should those plans fail to win approval. (credit: TMT)
Decision time for the Thirty Meter Telescope
Two years ago, astronomers were gearing up for the beginning of construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)—named descriptively, if unimaginatively, after the diameter of its primary mirror—was set to start taking shape near the summit of Maunakea on the Big Island of Hawaii. With approvals from state officials and funding from various partners in place, the consortium working on the observatory for years was ready to start turning its concepts into reality.
Except the telescope didn’t start construction. Protests by native Hawaiian groups blocked access to the summit by construction crews for months, forcing the TMT to halt plans to start building the observatory (see “Thirty meter troubles”, The Space Review, July 6, 2015). The effort suffered another setback in December 2015, when the Supreme Court of Hawaii revoked the TMT’s construction permit, citing procedural errors by the state during a “contested case” hearing about the permit.
“We decided on the board that we needed to have a Plan B,” said Bolte.
More than a year later, there’s still no certainty about when, or where, the TMT will be built. A new contested case hearing for a building permit in Hawaii finally started in October, and has gone slowly. “We were hoping it would start last spring,” said Michael Bolte, an astronomer at the University of California Santa Cruz and a member of the TMT’s board of governors, during a town hall meeting about TMT Friday at the 229th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Texas. “And it started out very slowly.”
The pace of the hearing has picked up since that slow start, he said, when it took 12 days of hearings just to get through the first three witnesses. Bolte didn’t give an estimate of when the hearing would be completed and a ruling made about the permit, but suggested that the process would be completed, with a permit hopefully issued, in the next few months.
That’s unlikely to end the debate about building TMT atop Maunakea. “If we go through that and a permit is issued in the next few months, almost for sure it’ll be challenged in court,” he said. Such a challenge would go directly to the state supreme court under a new law, he said, expediting the process. That’s already happened with another observatory, with the court upholding in October a permit issued for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope being built atop Haleakala on Maui.
Bolte and other TMT officials said they remain optimistic that they will get a permit and win any legal challenge. They have, though, been actively developing a backup to Maunakea.
“There’s a risk the contested case won’t be ruled in our favor. There’s a risk that the land board will not issue a new permit, depending on what happens with the contested case. There’s a risk that the Hawaii Supreme Court will throw out our permit, not on procedural grounds this time, but on the substance,” he said. “So we decided on the board that we needed to have a Plan B.”
That effort included studying several alternative locations in China, Chile, India, Mexico, and Spain’s Canary Islands. For each site, Bolte said, the TMT team looked at several issues, from the scientific benefits and technical feasibility of building the TMT there to regulatory and other legal issues involved with getting approvals to build it.
In October, the TMT board reached a decision: the Observtorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), on La Palma in the Canary Islands, will serve as the alternate site for the telescope, should Maunkea not be feasible for some reason.
Bolte argued that ORM would be a good fit for TMT if it can’t be built in Hawaii. While the design of the observatory would require some modifications to fit on the alternative site—the construction of the foundation, for example, would have to be changed because of the different geology of the mountain, he said—the site overall offered a similar fraction of clear nights and good seeing as Maunakea.
A big difference, he acknowledged, is the altitude: ORM is only about 2,400 meters above sea level, a kilometer and a half lower than Mauna Kea. That means a warmer atmosphere with more water vapor, which could affect infrared observations in particular. “If you’re planning to do lots of lots of work in the mid-infrared, it’s not as good a site,” he said.
“Hawaii remains our preferred site,” Bolte said. “All of us are working as hard as we can to make Hawaii work, and we hope that’s how it works out.”
ORM is also at a higher latitude: about 29 degrees north, versus 20 degrees north for Maunakea. That would keep TMT from observing some parts of the southern sky visible from Hawaii but not the Canaries. That, however, is not considered a dealbreaker, in part because two other so-called “extremely large telescopes,” the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope, are planned for Chile.
“Being in the north is an important aspect for the site,” said Catherine Pilachowski of Indiana University, who has been working on a proposal to get the National Science Foundation to fund part of TMT in exchange for a share of telescope time. “In some sense, it makes no sense to have all of the large telescopes in the southern hemisphere.”
Not everyone at the town hall meeting, though, was convinced of the quality of ORM, with attendees exchanging anecdotes about good or bad experiences observing at other telescopes there. “I was a little dubious about the Canary Islands,” Bolte admitted. “There are many anecdotal stories. But in the end we’re scientists, and the data didn’t bear out a number of anecdotal stories.”
With ORM selected as the backup site, the TMT is starting work there to prepare construction there, including negotiating a hosting agreement with ORM and beginning the permitting process. At the same time, TMT officials say they’re still committed to building the telescope on Maunakea if it can secure a permit and survive a likely legal challenge.
“Hawaii remains our preferred site,” Bolte said. “All of us are working as hard as we can to make Hawaii work, and we hope that’s how it works out.”
Why, then, pick an alternative site and start planning for its development if Maunakea remains the preferred location? Bolte suggested that the observatory’s patience for delays building Hawaii was running out, saying that TMT needs “assured access” to a site in place by this fall so that some of the TMT’s various partners can include construction plans into their 2018 budgets.
“We’re going to build this telescope some place, either in Hawaii or at La Palma,” he said. “We want to start construction by April 2018.”
There’s a very real question, though, of whether that will be possible on Maunakea. Even if TMT gets a new construction permit, and that permit is affirmed by the state supreme court, there’s likely to be renewed protests by native Hawaiian groups who oppose construction of any new observatory on the mountain they consider sacred. The earlier protests, after all, had very little to do about claims of procedural flaws in awarding the original construction permit.
Curiously, there was little discussion at the town hall meeting about new outreach efforts to native Hawaiians and others. “I thought we had done a quite good job” in those original outreach efforts, Bolte said. “That was a little bit mistaken.”
At the end of the town hall meeting, Bolte reiterated the TMT’s preference to building the observatory on Maunakea. “But, you adjust your expectations to reality,” he said. “We’ve all spent a lot of time and somebody’s dollars on this project. And if the choice is walk away, or an alternative site, I think everyone will go for an alternative site.”
Quelle: The Space Review
After 44 days, hearings end for giant telescope in Hawaii
Long-running hearings for whether a giant telescope can be built atop a Hawaii mountain have wrapped up. But it will be a while before a decision is made on a project that has prompted intense protests by those who believe it will desecrate sacred land.
Oftentimes emotional testimony concluded Thursday evening after 71 people testified over 44 days on the Big Island. Testifiers included Native Hawaiians who believe the project will harm cultural and religious practices on Mauna Kea and Native Hawaiians who believe it will provide jobs and educational opportunities.
The hearings officer will recommend whether the state land board should grant a construction permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope. If there are exceptions filed to the hearings officer's recommendations, the land board will hear arguments before issuing a written decision.
"We remain hopeful that the state can issue a permit in a timely manner to start construction in April 2018," said Scott Ishikawa, a spokesman for the telescope.
This second round of contested-case hearings was necessary after the state Supreme Court invalidated an earlier permit issued by the board.
The state has spent nearly $225,000 on the hearings, according to figures provided by state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison.
Telescope officials have selected a backup site in the Spanish-controlled Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa if they can't build in Hawaii.
A Home For The Thirty Meter Telescope
The Thirty Meter Telescope, when completed, could be the most advanced optical telescope to date, able to see 10 to 100 times farther and more clearly than older telescopes. The instrument’s backers hope that its sharper vision will enable them to examine some of the oldest objects in the universe and gain insights into the evolution of other stars and their planets.
The TMT could still find a home at a backup site in the Canary Islands of Spain. Now, a group of Canadian scientists on the project are reporting on the pros and cons of switching sites. The good news: Moving to the Canary Islands would guarantee that the telescope could be built quickly enough to remain scientifically relevant. But, as Space.com senior reporter Michael Wall explains, the move wouldn’t be a cost-free decision.
Hubble Astronomers Develop a New Use for a Century-Old Relativity Experiment to Measure a White Dwarf’s Mass
Astronomers have used the sharp vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to repeat a century-old test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The Hubble team measured the mass of a white dwarf, the burned-out remnant of a normal star, by seeing how much it deflects the light from a background star.
This observation represents the first time Hubble has witnessed this type of effect created by a star. The data provide a solid estimate of the white dwarf’s mass and yield insights into theories of the structure and composition of the burned-out star.
Looks can be deceiving. In this Hubble Space Telescope image, the white dwarf star Stein 2051B and the smaller star below it appear to be close neighbors. The stars, however, reside far away from each other. Stein 2051B is 17 light-years from Earth; the other star is about 5,000 light-years away. Stein 2051B is named for its discoverer, Dutch Roman Catholic priest and astronomer Johan Stein.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and K. Sahu (STScI)
First proposed in 1915, Einstein’s general relativity theory describes how massive objects warp space, which we feel as gravity. The theory was experimentally verified four years later when a team led by British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington measured how much the sun’s gravity deflected the image of a background star as its light grazed the sun during a solar eclipse, an effect called gravitational microlensing.
Astronomers can use this effect to see magnified images of distant galaxies or, at closer range, to measure tiny shifts in a star’s apparent position on the sky. Researchers had to wait a century, however, to build telescopes powerful enough to detect this gravitational warping phenomenon caused by a star outside our solar system. The amount of deflection is so small only the sharpness of Hubble could measure it.
This illustration reveals how the gravity of a white dwarf star warps space and bends the light of a distant star behind it. The Hubble Space Telescope captured images of the dead star, called Stein 2051B, as it passed in front of a background star. During the close alignment, Stein 2051B deflected the starlight, which appeared offset by about 2 milliarcseconds from its actual position.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)
Hubble observed the nearby white dwarf star Stein 2051B as it passed in front of a background star. During the close alignment, the white dwarf’s gravity bent the light from the distant star, making it appear offset by about 2 milliarcseconds from its actual position. This deviation is so small that it is equivalent to observing an ant crawl across the surface of a quarter from 1,500 miles away.
Using the deflection measurement, the Hubble astronomers calculated that the white dwarf’s mass is roughly 68 percent of the sun’s mass. This result matches theoretical predictions.
The technique opens a window on a new method to determine a star’s mass. Normally, if a star has a companion, astronomers can determine its mass by measuring the double-star system’s orbital motion. Although Stein 2051B has a companion, a bright red dwarf, astronomers cannot accurately measure its mass because the stars are too far apart. The stars are at least 5 billion miles apart – almost twice Pluto’s present distance from the sun.
“This microlensing method is a very independent and direct way to determine the mass of a star,” explained lead researcher Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “It’s like placing the star on a scale: the deflection is analogous to the movement of the needle on the scale.”
Sahu will present his team’s findings at 11:15 a.m. (EDT), June 7, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.
The Hubble analysis also helped the astronomers to independently verify the theory of how a white dwarf’s radius is determined by its mass, an idea first proposed in 1935 by Indian American astronomer Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. “Our measurement is a nice confirmation of white-dwarf theory, and it even tells us the internal composition of a white dwarf,” said team member Howard Bond of Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
Sahu’s team identified Stein 2051B and its background star after combing through data of more than 5,000 stars in a catalog of nearby stars that appear to move quickly across the sky. Stars with a higher apparent motion across the sky have a greater chance of passing in front of a distant background star, where the deflection of light can be measured.
After identifying Stein 2051B and mapping the background star field, the researchers used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to observe the white dwarf seven different times over a two-year period as it moved past the selected background star.
The Hubble observations were challenging and time-consuming. The research team had to analyze the white dwarf’s velocity and the direction it was moving in order to predict when it would arrive at a position to bend the starlight so the astronomers could observe the phenomenon with Hubble.
The astronomers also had to measure the tiny amount of deflected starlight. “Stein 2051B appears 400 times brighter than the distant background star,” said team member Jay Anderson of STScI, who led the analysis to precisely measure the positions of stars in the Hubble images. “So measuring the extremely small deflection is like trying to see a firefly move next to a light bulb. The movement of the insect is very small, and the glow of the light bulb makes it difficult to see the insect moving.” In fact, the slight movement is about 1,000 times smaller than the measurement made by Eddington in his 1919 experiment.
Stein 2051B is named for its discoverer, Dutch Roman Catholic priest and astronomer Johan Stein. It resides 17 light-years from Earth and is estimated to be about 2.7 billion years old. The background star is about 5,000 light-years away.
The researchers plan to use Hubble to conduct a similar microlensing study with Proxima Centauri, our solar system’s closest stellar neighbor.
The team’s result will appear in the journal Science on June 9.
WASHINGTON — Rep. Steven Palazzo praised NASA's move away from studying the Earth and instead focusing resources on the rest of the universe.
During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Mississippi Republican applauded the agency for proposing to eliminate five Earth science missions designed to measure a number of global warming factors such as ocean ecosystems and carbon levels. President Trump's proposed budget also would cut funding for Earth research grants and would terminate the Carbon Monitoring System, a project that NASA developed in 2010 in response to congressional direction.
Republicans, including Palazzo, have long complained the Obama administration diverted too many of NASA’s limited resources pursuing climate change data when other agencies were conducting similar inquiries.
“I do think it’s important to be focusing on planetary sciences,” Palazzo said at a hearing Thursday of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. “Looking out there’s already over a dozen agencies that study our Earth, but there’s only one agency tasked with space exploration and that’s NASA."
“With limited funds, flat funding and budgets, I think our resources are better spent exploring the deep space," he said.
Not that NASA is getting out of the business of Earth science completely.
Acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot told two House committees Thursday there are 20 other Earth science missions NASA still plans to conduct.
“There’s a lot of analog to learning about Earth and how it plays with the other planets because Earth is a planet as well and how Earth evolves we learn a lot. … on what can happen to Mars, what can happen to Venus," Lightfoot told Palazzo during an afternoon hearing. “There is a value for us in learning about Earth as well. But I understand your point."
In March, Palazzo, former chairman of the House Space Subcommittee, joined other lawmakers at the White House when Trump signed a $19.5 billion bill to fund NASA programs. Palazzo, whose district is home to Stennis Space Center, was instrumental in helping craft the bill.
Palazzo, who has pushed for a return-to-the-moon mission, questioned Lightfoot Thursday about whether the nation could put a man back on the moon and eventually Mars.
Lightfoot said the agency’s goal of sending a human to Mars by 2033 remains on track despite concerns raised about future funding and independent assessments that suggest such a mission is unlikely without a sizable, long-term increase in funding.
“It’s kind of a stepping-stone approach," he said.
Lightfoot told lawmakers the $3.9 billion in the budget proposal for human exploration would allow NASA to continue developing its two key pieces of hardware: the Orion vehicle that will carry astronauts into deep space and the Space Launch System rocket that Orion will ride on past the moon and toward Mars.
Both systems are scheduled to be tested: first, in an uncrewed flight in 2019, then with astronauts into lunar orbit, no later than 2023.
“The budget we proposed has got the systems we need in 2018 to keep making the progress we think we need,” Lightfoot told members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
But some Republicans had issues with the proposal, including Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who questioned the elimination of the education office when Lightfoot came before members of the Appropriations subcommittee.
“The education programs hopefully have been spreading the word about NASA’s (accomplishments),” Rogers told Lightfoot. “I can’t understand why you would want to cut that."
The administrator said NASA is trying to weave education outreach and promote space careers into other areas.
“I don’t deny that the (education) programs have been pretty successful for us but we felt like in the balance of things we could do this more effectively in a different way,” he said.
Back in 1969, Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, uttered his famous words: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."
The statement has inspired ever since. More than 500 astronauts have entered space in the nearly five decades that have followed, and over 10 have landed on the moon.
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon and Armstrong's companion in the Apollo 11 mission, gave a presentation on his ideas for visiting Mars at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017), which concluded on Thursday.
WHAT IS THE NEXT STOP?
Global leaders in space exploration have now set their sights on Mars, including China.
Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said that the country has started an unmanned Mars probe project and plans to launch a Mars probe around 2020.
Steve Eisenhart, senior vice president of the Strategic and International Affairs of the Space Foundation of the United States, said that Aldrin has been working on his idea for close to 30 years.
According to Aldrin's plan, humans may be able to land on Mars before 2039 and set up a station there. Eisenhart and Aldrin, while not representing the U.S. government or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), agreed that Mars is a good destination for space exploration.
However, Jan Woerner, director-general of European Space Agency (ESA), said that the moon is a good stepping-stone before going to Mars.
"If we have a goal which is too far away, there might be roads in between those inspirations," said Woerner, adding that the moon is close enough to test and develop needed technology. "It's a very good test bed -- then go deeper into our solar system."
Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the CNSA, said that China is now in discussions with the ESA on co-building a "moon village."
Tian said that a house on the moon could be constructed within a week with materials brought from Earth as well as moon surface materials using 3D printing technology.
Yasuyuki Ito, associate director-general of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said that his generation was greatly affected by the Apollo program.
"Lunar exploration is our target. At the same time, we've also been discussing a Mars goal," he added.
Pascale Ehrenfreund, chair of the executive board of the German Aerospace Center, said that bringing humans to Mars is very difficult, as is raising funds for space exploration.
"We do things in steps. And the moon is one of the important steps on our way to Mars," she said.
CHINA'S LUNAR EXPLORATION
China's Chang'e lunar program, named after a legendary goddess, includes three phases: orbiting, landing and returning with samples.
Liu Jizhong, director of the China Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center of the CNSA, said the Chang'e 5 lunar probe is expected to land in the Mons Rumker region and to take samples back to Earth at the end of the year.
The probe landing site, an isolated volcanic formation located on the northwest of the near side of the moon.
"China is planning and designing its future lunar exploration program. We will focus on the south pole region of the moon. The research on water and the permanent shadow area of the lunar south pole region will bring greater scientific discoveries," Liu said.
According to Wu Yansheng, general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China is working on an idea for manned lunar landing.
The mission will consist of a manned spaceship, a propulsion vehicle and a lunar lander. The manned spaceship and the lunar lander will be sent into circumlunar orbit separately.
Yang Liwei, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, said that China is in the preliminary stage of its manned lunar program and estimated that Chinese astronauts will be able to walk on the moon around 2030.
LOW-COST SPACE TRANSPORT
Without capable launch vehicles, humans are not able to go deeper into space.
China's Long March carrier rockets still have room for improvement, according to Lu Yu, director of Science and Technology Committee of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).
He said that CALT is developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle with a payload of 140 tonnes to low Earth orbit and 50 tonnes to lunar transfer orbit.
CALT has made progress in developing reusable launch vehicles, including parachute landing and propulsion landing, said Lu.
Founded by U.S. entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2002, SpaceX aims to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars. It has developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and invested big in reusable technology for orbital rockets.
Aerospace transportation is now focused on low-cost ways to enter space, said Wang Guoqing, a CASC official.
Wang said leaders in space exploration have set up their own range of launch vehicles and systems, and reusing launch vehicles will become important for reducing costs.
"Breakthroughs have been achieved in reusable technology after 10 years of study. However, we still face challenges as reusable aerospace launches require high reliability and safety," he added.
Chinese and global space leaders reached an agreement on cooperation in space exploration at GLEX 2017 -- no matter whether they aim for the moon or Mars.
"China is expanding cooperation with the United Nations (UN) in space exploration and will disclose projects later this year," said Yang.
The country has previously undertaken bilateral cooperation with various countries and institutions and is looking toward multilateral projects. China will carry out joint projects with the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), including astronaut training, scientific experiments aboard space stations and multilateral application of such experiments, he added.
Liu also proposed creating an open platform for cooperation in accordance with the principle of "sharing the risks and achievements" and setting up the International Union of Planetary Scientists and the International Union of Planetary Science College Students.
"Rather than a space race, I think cooperation is always good and worldwide cooperation is even better. I hope we can breach Earth's crises by having worldwide cooperation in space," said Woerner.
"We should not try to duplicate everything, and if we join forces we can do even more with the same amount of money," he added.
A new video, based on measurements by ESA’s Gaia and Hipparcos satellites, shows how our view of the Orion constellation will evolve over the next 450 000 years.
Stars are not motionless in the sky: their positions change continuously as they move through our Galaxy, the Milky Way. These motions, too slow to be appreciated with the naked eye over a human lifetime, can be captured by high-precision observations like those performed by ESA’s billion-star surveyor, Gaia.
By measuring their current movements, we can reconstruct the past trajectories of stars through the Milky Way to study the origins of our Galaxy, and even estimate stellar paths millions of years into the future.
This video provides us with a glimpse over the coming 450 000 years, showing the expected evolution of a familiar patch of the sky, featuring the constellation of Orion, the Hunter.
The portion of the sky depicted in the video measures 40 x 20º – as a comparison, the diameter of the full Moon in the sky is about half a degree.
Gaia's all-sky view
Amid a myriad of drifting stars, the shape of Orion as defined by its brightest stars is slowly rearranged into a new pattern as time goes by, revealing how constellations are ephemeral.
The red supergiant star Betelgeuse is visible at the centre towards the top of the frame at the beginning of the video (represented in a yellow–orange hue). According to its current motion, the star will move out of this field of view in about 100 000 years. The Universe has a much harsher fate in store for Betelgeuse, which is expected to explode as a supernova within the next million of years.
More of the stars shown in this view will have exploded as supernovas before the end of the video, while others might be still evolving towards that end, like Orion’s blue supergiant, Rigel, visible as the bright star in the lower left, or the red giant Aldebaran, which is part of the constellation Taurus, and can be seen crossing the lower part of the frame from right to left.
Many new stars will also have been born from the Orion molecular cloud, a mixture of gas and dust that is not directly seen by Gaia – it can be identified as dark patches against the backdrop of stars – but shines brightly at infrared wavelengths. The birth and demise of stars are not shown in the video.
The Hyades cluster, a group of stars that are physically bound together and are also part of the Taurus constellation, slowly makes its way from the lower right corner to the upper left.
The new video is based on data from the Tycho–Gaia Astrometric Solution, a resource that lists distances and motions for two million stars in common between Gaia’s first data release and the Tycho-2 Catalogue from the Hipparcos mission. Additional information from ground-based observations were included, as well as data from the Hipparcos catalogue for the brightest stars in the view.
China willing to cooperate with India in space, says top Chinese scientist
China is willing to cooperate with India in space programmes provided the two governments decide the scope of the collaboration, a top Chinese aerospace scientist has said.
File photo of the Long March 3B rocket docked at the launch pad at Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Liangshan, Sichuan province of China, in December 2013.(Reuters)
China is willing to cooperate with India in space programmes but this depends on the governments deciding the extent of collaboration, a top Chinese aerospace scientist has said, playing down the so-called “space race” between the two countries.
“We are very willing to cooperate with India in the field of aerospace,” said Sun Weigang, chief engineer of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
Sun spoke to Hindustan Times at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) 2017 in Beijing after delivering a keynote talk on “The Engineering Plan of China’s Lunar Exploration Program Phase III”.
India, despite its standing as an emerging player in the sector, was the notable absentee at the three-day conference that brought together space engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators, agency representatives and policy-makers from dozens of countries.
Several international delegates expressed surprise at India not being represented at the meet.
Sun didn't comment on India’s absence but said top Indian and Chinese officials were in contact over possible collaborative projects. “The directors of space agencies from both sides have met and have discussed about cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
He said both countries should invest in space programmes. If the two governments were willing, then the possible areas of cooperation is very wide, he added.
It emerged last year that India and China were cooperating on the proposed “BRICS Constellation of satellites”.
Media reports on a space summit in New Delhi last year quoted Wu Yan Hua, deputy administrator of the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) as saying that China was “in dialogue with India on the BRICS Constellation for disaster risk reduction”.
Sun was among the top speakers at GLEX, co-organised by the International Astronautical Federation and the Chinese Society of Astronautics.
Despite India’s competitive space programme, including its successful Mars orbiter project, China is considered to have a more advanced programme with its six manned space missions to date.
Valanathan Munsami, chief executive officer of the South African National Space Agency, said it was surprising that India wasn’t present at the conference.
Speaking of collaborating with the Indian Space Research Organisation, Munsami said talks were ongoing about launching a joint science mission by South Africa, Brazil and India. “We would bring in the satellite bus, Brazil would bring in the instruments and India would launch it,” he said.
China achieves key breakthrough in multiple launch vehicles
China is working on reusable launch vehicles and has achieved progress in some key areas, a carrier rocket official said Thursday.
The processes under development include parachute-landing and propulsion-landing, said Lu Yu, director of Science and Technology Committee of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017).
Reusable lift-body launchers will be developed in three stages -- rocket-engine partial reusable vehicle, rocket-engine full reusable vehicle and combined cycle-engine reusable vehicle, said Lu.
The Long March carrier rockets still have room for improvement, Lu said, adding that the CALT is developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle with a payload of 140 tonnes to low Earth orbit and 50 tonnes to lunar transfer orbit.
The heavy-lift carrier rocket is currently called the Long March-9, and it should be sent into space by 2030, he said.
According to Lu, a low-cost commercial medium launch vehicle, the Long March-8. is under development, and based on the Long March-8, a new high-orbit medium launch vehicle should be designed to improve the Long March series and enhance competitiveness.
Since China's space transportation system started in 1960s, a total of 17 types of launch vehicles have been developed. As of May 2017, Long March series carrier rockets have conducted 246 flights with a success rate of 96 percent, fulfilling missions including the launch of manned spacecraft, a moon rover and the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.
Lu said that China has carried out international space transportation cooperation through piggyback- and commercial-satellite launches and in-orbit delivery.
As of present, the Long March series have finished 55 international launches, sending 64 payloads into orbit for more than 20 countries and regions.
China will also enhance cooperation by renting foreign launch sites to improve launch flexibility, building international launch sites at equatorial regions, and developing sea-based launch platforms with other countries, he said.