Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Joint UK and Algeria CubeSat Mission: First colour image

  • Captured image marks an important milestone as AlSat Nano is Algeria’s first CubeSat mission.
  • Surrey Space Centre (SSC), University of Surrey was responsible for the design, build and verification of the spacecraft including a training program for Algerian students, as well as supporting development of a ground station in Algeria and training their operators.
  • AlSat Nano stuck to a tight development schedule, with less than 18 months between payload selection and flight readiness, allowing UK industry and academia to stay ahead of the curve in the competitive global CubeSat market.

  • AlSat Nano is a joint nanosatellite mission between the UK Space Agency and Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) as part of an on-going initiative to enhance collaboration. The UK Space Agency has funded the design, build and verification of the spacecraft at Surrey Space Centre (SSC), University of Surrey, as a hands-on learning exercise for Algerian postgrad students to demonstrate the practical elements of low cost space technology. ASAL has provided the launch, and operations are being undertaken in Algeria by ASAL operators trained at SSC.

    The image was taken by the Open University C3D2 instrument’s wide field camera on 3rd December 2016 over the Arkhangelsk Oblast region, on the North West coast of Russia. The image was captured under twilight conditions at dawn, showing the coastline to the top of the image, and a brief winter sunrise over the arctic region with a deep red-brown hue. Through the cloud cover there is evidence of hills and snow on mountains, and mist in the river valleys. The object in the foreground is the Oxford Space Systems Ltd AstroTubeTM Boom payload, also carried on board the spacecraft.

    Prof Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of Surrey Space Centre, said: “AlSat Nano has been an exciting project for the Surrey Space Centre to be leading. Educational and research elements, and the technology knowledge transfer with the Algerian Space Agency were key parts of this project. Additionally, the development of this nanosatellite platform has been a great opportunity to work with UK payload providers, who are demonstrating some exciting new technologies.”

    AlSat Nano is Algeria’s first CubeSat mission and is globally showcasing the capability of UK technology in partnership with industry and academia. With a spacecraft the size of a shoebox yet featuring all the core subsystems of much larger satellites, the programme demonstrates how CubeSats can be assembled quickly and launched at a fraction of the cost. This will help Algeria strengthen its domestic space technology capability by giving their scientists and engineers first-hand experience of spacecraft operations.

    Dr Abdewahab Chikouche, Director of Space Programmes at Algerian Space Agency, said: “The Alsat-1N project is a concrete example of the success of our cooperation with UKSA. This project, very enriching from the scientific and technological point of view, allowed ASAL engineers to progress in the integration and testing of nanosatellites and acquire autonomy in its operation. This project will enable Algerian researchers and academics to strengthen national capabilities in advanced space technology.”

    The AlSat Nano mission hosts and has demonstrated three payloads, showcasing innovative technologies from UK suppliers:  C3D2 imager from Open University, AstroTubeTM Boom from Oxford Space Systems and Thin Film Solar Cell from Swansea University.

    Dr Ben Taylor, the SSC AlSat-Nano Project Lead, said: “The Alsat-Nano mission has been a great opportunity to work with a diverse and committed team across the UK and Algeria. The spacecraft carries some exciting new technologies which are already returning some great results and we are looking forward to further results as the mission continues”.

    The mission builds on the success of the flight services division at Surrey Space Centre, who are involved with a range of on-going spacecraft missions including CubeSats and larger scale missions.  A major on-going project is RemoveDebris, a €15.2M mission led by Surrey, aiming to be one of the world’s first demonstrations of space junk removal when it launches later this year.  


    earlier related post

    Comet-Like Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs)


    The lesser-known constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs), is home to a variety of deep-sky objects — including this beautiful galaxy, known as NGC 4861. Astronomers are still debating on how to classify it. While its physical properties — such as mass, size and rotational velocity — indicate it to be a spiral galaxy, its appearance looks more like a comet with its dense, luminous “head” and dimmer “tail” trailing off. Features more fitting with a dwarf irregular galaxy.

    Although small and messy, galaxies like NGC 4861 provide astronomers with interesting opportunities for study. Small galaxies have lower gravitational potentials, which simply means that it takes less energy to move stuff about inside them than it does in other galaxies. As a result, moving in, around, and through such a tiny galaxy is quite easy to do, making them far more likely to be filled with streams and outflows of speedy charged particles known as galactic winds, which can flood such galaxies with little effort.

    These galactic winds can be powered by the ongoing process of star formation, which involves huge amounts of energy. New stars are springing into life within the bright, colorful ‘head’ of NGC 4861 and ejecting streams of high-speed particles as they do so, which flood outwards to join the wider galactic wind. While NGC 4861 would be a perfect candidate to study such winds, recent studies did not find any galactic winds in it.

    Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
    Text credit: European Space Agency

    Tuesday, 24 January 2017

    NOAA’s GOES-16 weather satellite sends first images of Earth

    Since the GOES-16 satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral on November 19, scientists, meteorologists and ordinary weather enthusiasts have anxiously waited for the first photos from NOAA’s newest weather satellite, GOES-16, formerly GOES-R.
    The release of the first images today is the latest step in a new age of weather satellites. It will be like high-definition from the heavens.
    This 16-panel image shows the continental United States in the two visible, four near-infrared and 10 infrared channels on the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). These channels help forecasters distinguish between differences in the atmosphere like clouds, water vapor, smoke, ice and volcanic ash. (NOAA/NASA)
    The pictures from its Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument, built by Harris Corporation, show a full-disc view of the Western Hemisphere in high detail — at four times the image resolution of existing GOES spacecraft. The higher resolution will allow forecasters to pinpoint the location of severe weather with greater accuracy. GOES-16 can provide a full image of Earth every 15 minutes and one of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and scans the Earth at five times the speed of NOAA’s current GOES imagers.

    NOAA’s GOES-16, situated in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Earth, will boost the nation’s weather observation network and NOAA’s prediction capabilities, leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings.

    “This is such an exciting day for NOAA! One of our GOES-16 scientists compared this to seeing a new-born baby’s first pictures — it’s that exciting for us,” said Stephen Volz Ph.D. director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth. The fantastically rich images provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts.
    GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked across the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (NOAA/NASA)
    In May, NOAA will announce the planned location for GOES-16. By November 2017, GOES-16 will be operational as either GOES-East or GOES-West. Once operational, NOAA will use the satellite’s six new instruments to generate new or improved meteorological, solar, and space weather products.

    Second satellite in GOES series already in development

    Following on the heels of GOES-R will be, GOES-S, the second of four spacecraft in the series. GOES-S is undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin’s Corporation facility in Littleton, Colorado, where it was built. A full set of environmental, mechanical and electromagnetic testing will take about one year to complete. The GOES-S satellite will be moved into the other operational position as GOES-17 immediately after launch and initial checkout of the satellite, approximately nine months after GOES-16.
    Additional information:
    Learn more about the
    GOES series of satellites
    GOES-16 image gallery

    Manchester, England, aims to be City of Trees

    The Northern England City of Manchester has embarked on an ambitious project to plant at least one tree for every person in its three million population over the next 25 years. To paraphrase their website,  City of Trees ,  this is an innovative and exciting movement, set to re-invigorate Greater Manchester’s landscape by restoring underused, unloved woodland and planting a tree for every man, woman and child that lives in this post-industrial City Region.

    Please visit their website and consider helping, either locally if you are lucky to live in this fantastic part of the world, or perhaps by a donation.

    The pioneers  believe that trees are essential to the future of our towns and cities, and a City of Trees is one that is healthier, more resilient and more prosperous. Here is a link with more about the benefits of trees.

    Initiated by The Oglesby Charitable Trust, and Community Forest Trust, the charitable organisation that supports the delivery of City of Trees, this ambitious movement is securing a much greener, more resilient and pleasant environment that everyone can enjoy. You can find out more about the history of the movement on our timeline.
    Their goals
    • 3 million trees planted, one for every man, woman and child across Greater Manchester
    • 2,000 hectares of unmanaged woodland brought back into a productive state
    • Connect people to the trees and woods around them


    The movement

    A City of Trees will mean great things for Greater Manchester and you can help to make it happen!

    City of Trees is being spearheaded by a number of committed partners and to realise their vision they need companies, organisations and individuals from across Greater Manchester to come together.

    If you are an individual you can get involved in a number of different ways - whether that’s coming along to one of our events, helping to plant a tree, or simply keeping in touch with them.

    If you are a company, community group or organisation you can become a partner in the movement.http://www.cityoftrees.org.uk/donate

    Friday, 20 January 2017

    Breakthrough Initiative Are We Alone? VLT to Search for Planets in Alpha Centauri System

    Are We Alone?

    First a reproduction of an open letter , then a news report!

    Now is the time to find out

    Who are we?
    A mature civilization, like a mature individual, must ask itself this question. Is humanity defined by its divisions, its problems, its passing needs and trends? Or do we have a shared face, turned outward to the Universe?
    In 1990, Voyager 1 swiveled its camera and captured the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ - an image of Earth from six billion kilometers away. It was a mirror held up to our planet - home of water, life, and minds. A reminder that we share something precious and rare.
    But how rare, exactly? The only life? The only minds?
    For the last half-century, small groups of scientists have listened valiantly for signs of life in the vast silence. But for government, academia, and industry, cosmic questions are astronomically far down the list of priorities. And that lengthens the odds of finding answers. It is hard enough to comb the Universe from the edge of the Milky Way; harder still from the edge of the public consciousness.
    Yet millions are inspired by these ideas, whether they meet them in science or science fiction. Because the biggest questions of our existence are at stake. Are we the Universe’s only child - our thoughts its only thoughts? Or do we have cosmic siblings - an interstellar family of intelligence? As Arthur C. Clarke said, “In either case the idea is quite staggering.”
    That means the search for life is the ultimate ‘win-win’ endeavor. All we have to do is take part.
    Today we have search tools far surpassing those of previous generations. Telescopes can pick out planets across thousands of light years. The magic of Moore’s law lets our computers sift data orders of magnitude faster than older mainframes - and ever quicker each year.
    These tools are now reaping a harvest of discoveries. In the last few years, astronomers and the Kepler Mission have discovered thousands of planets beyond our solar system. It now appears that most stars host a planetary system. Many of them have a planet similar in size to our own, basking in the ‘habitable zone’ where the temperature permits liquid water. There are likely billions of earth-like worlds in our galaxy alone. And with instruments now or soon available, we have a chance of finding out if any of these planets are true Pale Blue Dots – home to water, life, even minds.
    There has never been a better moment for a large-scale international effort to find life in the Universe. As a civilization, we owe it to ourselves to commit time, resources, and passion to this quest.
    But as well as a call to action, this is a call to thought. When we find the nearest exo-Earth, should we send a probe? Do we try to make contact with advanced civilizations? Who decides? Individuals, institutions, corporations, or states? Or can we as species - as a planet - think together?
    Three years ago, Voyager 1 broke the sun’s embrace and entered interstellar space. The 20th century will be remembered for our travels within the solar system. With cooperation and commitment, the present century will be the time when we graduate to the galactic scale, seek other forms of life, and so know more deeply who we are.
    This open letter was signed by:
    Yuri Milner Founder Breakthrough Prize, Founder DST Global
    • Cori Bargmann Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, The Rockefeller University
    • Sarah Brightman Soprano
    • Magnus Carlsen World Chess Champion
    • Ding Chen Professor and Principal Investigator of the Search for Terrestrial Exo-Planets Mission, Chinese Academy of Sciences
    • Frank Drake Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute; Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz; Founding Director, National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center; Former Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
    • Ann Druyan Creative Director of the Interstellar Message, NASA Voyager; Co-Founder and CEO, Cosmos Studios; Emmy and Peabody award winning Writer and Producer
    • Stephen Hawking Professor, Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research, University of Cambridge
    • Paul Horowitz Professor of Physics and of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus, Harvard University
    • Garik Israelian Professor and Staff Astrophysicist, Institute of Astrophysics of Canary Islands
    • Lisa Kaltenegger Director, Carl Sagan Institute; Associate Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
    • Nikolay Kardashev Director, Astro Space Center of PN Lebedev Physics Institute
    • Mark Kelly Astronaut
    • Eric Lander President and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Professor of Biology, MIT; Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School
    • Alexey Leonov Cosmonaut
    • Avi Loeb Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science, Chair of the Astronomy Department and Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation, Harvard University
    • Seth MacFarlane Writer, Director and Actor
    • Geoff Marcy Professor of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley
    • Lord Martin Rees Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College; Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge
    • Kenneth Rogof Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics, Harvard University; International Grandmaster of Chess
    • Dimitar Sasselov Phillips Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University; Founding Director, Harvard Origins of Life Initiative
    • Sara Seager Professor of Planetary Sciences and Professor of Physics, MIT
    • Sujan Sengupta Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Ministry of Science and Technology
    • Seth Shostak Professor, Senior Astronomer and Director, Center for SETI research
    • Thomas Stafford Astronaut
    • Jill Tarter Astronomer; Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research, SETI Institute
    • Kip Thorne Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus, California Institute of Technology; Scientific consultant and an executive producer, Interstellar
    • James Watson Chancellor Emeritus, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Nobel Prize Laureate
    • Steven Weinberg Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Texas at Austin; Nobel Prize Laureate
    • Edward Witten Professor, School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study
    • Pete Worden Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation
    • Shinya Yamanaka Professor and Director of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University; Nobel Prize Laureate
    news update

    VLT to Search for Planets in Alpha Centauri System

    ESO has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. Such planets could be the targets for an eventual launch of miniature space probes by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative.
    ESO, represented by the Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives, represented by Pete Worden, Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Executive Director of the Breakthrough Initiatives. The agreement provides funds for the VISIR (VLT Imager and Spectrometer for mid-Infrared) instrument, mounted at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to be modified in order to greatly enhance its ability to search for potentially habitable planets around Alpha Centauri, the closest stellar system to the Earth. The agreement also provides for telescope time to allow a careful search programme to be conducted in 2019.
    The discovery in 2016 of a planet, Proxima b, around Proxima Centauri, the third and faintest star of the Alpha Centauri system, adds even further impetus to this search.
    Knowing where the nearest exoplanets are is of paramount interest for Breakthrough Starshot, the research and engineering programme launched in April 2016, which aims to demonstrate proof of concept for ultra-fast light-driven “nanocraft”, laying the foundation for the first launch to Alpha Centauri within a generation.
    Detecting a habitable planet is an enormous challenge due to the brightness of the planetary system’s host star, which tends to overwhelm the relatively dim planets. One way to make this easier is to observe in the mid-infrared wavelength range, where the thermal glow from an orbiting planet greatly reduces the brightness gap between it and its host star. But even in the mid-infrared, the star remains millions of times brighter than the planets to be detected, which calls for a dedicated technique to reduce the blinding stellar light.
    The existing mid-infrared instrument VISIR on the VLT will provide such performance if it were enhanced to greatly improve the image quality using adaptive optics, and adapted to employ a technique called coronagraphy to reduce the stellar light and thereby reveal the possible signal of potential terrestrial planets. Breakthrough Initiatives will pay for a large fraction of the necessary technologies and development costs for such an experiment, and ESO will provide the required observing capabilities and time.
    The new hardware includes an instrument module contracted to Kampf Telescope Optics (KTO), Munich, which will host the wavefront sensor, and a novel detector calibration device. In addition, there are plans for a new coronagraph to be developed jointly by University of Liège (Belgium) and Uppsala University (Sweden).
    Detecting and studying potentially habitable planets orbiting other stars will be one of the main scientific goals of the upcoming European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Although the increased size of the E-ELT will be essential to obtaining an image of a planet at larger distances in the Milky Way, the light collecting power of the VLT is just sufficient to image a planet around the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.
    The developments for VISIR will also be beneficial for the future METIS instrument, to be mounted on the E-ELT, as the knowledge gained and proof of concept will be directly transferable. The huge size of the E-ELT should allow METIS to detect and study exoplanets the size of Mars orbiting Alpha Centauri, if they exist, as well as other potentially habitable planets around other nearby stars.

    More Information

    The Breakthrough Initiatives are a program of scientific and technological exploration founded in 2015 by Internet investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner to explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.
    Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for a new technology, enabling ultra-light unmanned space flight at 20% of the speed of light, and to lay the foundations for a flyby mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation.
    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.



    Markus Kasper
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6359
    Email: mkasper@eso.org
    Breakthrough Initiatives
    Email: media@breakthroughprize.org
    Janet Wootten
    Rubenstein Communications, Inc.
    Tel: +1 212 843 8024
    Email: jwootten@rubenstein.com
    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org
    Connect with ESO on social media

    Search for Signs of Life on Wolf 1061 Exoplanet


    SF State astronomer Stephen Kane searches for signs of life in one of the extrasolar systems closest to Earth

    image credit: NASA
    Is there anybody out there? The question of whether Earthlings are alone in the universe has puzzled everyone from biologists and physicists to philosophers and filmmakers. It’s also the driving force behind San Francisco State University astronomer Stephen Kane’s research into exoplanets — planets that exist outside Earth’s solar system.

    As one of the world’s leading “planet hunters,” Kane focuses on finding “habitable zones,” areas where water could exist in a liquid state on a planet’s surface if there’s sufficient atmospheric pressure. Kane and his team, including former undergraduate student Miranda Waters, examined the habitable zone on a planetary system 14 light years away. Their findings will appear in the next issue of Astrophysical Journal in a paper titled  “Characterization of the Wolf 1061 Planetary System.”

    “The Wolf 1061 system is important because it is so close and that gives other opportunities to do follow-up studies to see if it does indeed have life,” Kane said.  

    But it’s not just Wolf 1061’s proximity to Earth that made it an attractive subject for Kane and his team. One of the three known planets in the system, a rocky planet called Wolf 1061c, is entirely within the habitable zone.  With assistance from collaborators at Tennessee State University and in Geneva, Switzerland, they were able to measure the star around which the planet orbits to gain a clearer picture of whether life could exist there.

    When scientists search for planets that could sustain life, they are basically looking for a planet with nearly identical properties to Earth, Kane said. Like Earth, the planet would have to exist in a sweet spot often referred to as the “Goldilocks zone” where conditions are just right for life. Simply put, the planet can’t be too close or too far from its parent star.  A planet that’s too close would be too hot. If it’s too far, it may be too cold and any water would freeze, which is what happens on Mars, Kane added. 

    Conversely, when planets warm, a “runaway greenhouse effect” can occur where heat gets trapped in the atmosphere. Scientists believe this is what happened on Earth’s twin, Venus. Scientists believe Venus once had oceans, but because of its proximity to the sun the planet became so hot that all the water evaporated, according to NASA. Since water vapor is extremely effective in trapping in heat, it made the surface of the planet even hotter. The surface temperature on Venus now reaches a scalding 880 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Since Wolf 1061c is close to the inner edge of the habitable zone, meaning closer to the star, it could be that the planet has an atmosphere that’s more similar to Venus. “It’s close enough to the star where it’s looking suspiciously like a runaway greenhouse,” Kane said. 
    Kane and his team also observed that unlike Earth, which experiences climatic changes such as an ice age because of slow variations in its orbit around the sun, Wolf 1061c’s orbit changes at a much faster rate, which could mean the climate there could be quite chaotic. “It could cause the frequency of the planet freezing over or heating up to be quite severe,” Kane said.

    These findings all beg the question: Is life possible on Wolf 1061c? One possibility is that the short time scales over which Wolf 1061c’s orbit changes could be enough that it could actually cool the planet off, Kane said. But fully understanding what’s happening on the planet’s surface will take more research.

    In the coming years, there will be a launch of new telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, Kane said, and it will be able to detect atmospheric components of the exoplanets and show what’s happening on the surface.



    Wednesday, 18 January 2017

    Calorie restriction lets monkeys live long and prosper

    Photonic Health

    This is an interesting news report from the University of Wisconsin–Madison that is specific to monkeys but does add to the dietary knowledge which we all should sift through in order to take control of our own human health (or not if that's the case for you).

    Settling a persistent scientific controversy, a long-awaited report shows that restricting calories does indeed help rhesus monkeys live longer, healthier lives.

    A remarkable collaboration between two competing research teams — one from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and one from the National Institute on Aging — is the first time the groups worked together to resolve one of the most controversial stories in aging research.

    The findings by the collaboration — including Senior Scientist Ricki Colman of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and UW–Madison Associate Professor of Medicine Rozalyn Anderson; and NIA Staff Scientist and Nonhuman Primate Core Facility Head Julie Mattison and Senior Investigator and Chief of the Translational Gerontology Branch Rafael de Cabo — were published yesterday, 2017) in the journal Nature Communications.

    In 2009, the UW–Madison study team reported significant benefits in survival and reductions in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and insulin resistance for monkeys that ate less than their peers. In 2012, however, the NIA study team reported no significant improvement in survival, but did find a trend toward improved health.

    “These conflicting outcomes had cast a shadow of doubt on the translatability of the caloric-restriction paradigm as a means to understand aging and what creates age-related disease vulnerability,” says Anderson, one of the report’s corresponding authors. Working together, the competing laboratories analyzed data gathered over many years and including data from almost 200 monkeys from both studies. Now, scientists think they know why the studies showed different results.

    First, the animals in the two studies had their diets restricted at different ages. Comparative analysis reveals that eating less is beneficial in adult and older primates but is not beneficial for younger animals. This is a major departure from prior studies in rodents, where starting at an earlier age is better in achieving the benefits of a low-calorie diet.

    Second, in the old-onset group of monkeys at NIA, the control monkeys ate less than the Wisconsin control group. This lower food intake was associated with improved survival compared to the Wisconsin controls. The previously reported lack of difference in survival between control and restricted groups for older-onset monkeys within NIA emerges as beneficial differences when compared to the UW–Madison data. In this way, it seems that small differences in food intake in primates could meaningfully affect aging and health.

    Third, diet composition was substantially different between studies. The NIA monkeys ate naturally sourced foods and the UW–Madison monkeys, part of the colony at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, ate processed food with higher sugar content. The UW–Madison control animals were fatter than the control monkeys at NIA, indicating that at non-restricted levels of food intake, what is eaten can make a big difference for fat mass and body composition.

    Finally, the team identified key sex differences in the relationship between diet, adiposity (fat), and insulin sensitivity, where females seem to be less vulnerable to adverse effects of adiposity than males. This new insight appears to be particularly important in primates and likely is translatable to humans.

    The upshot of the report is that caloric restriction does indeed seem to be a means to affect aging. However, for primates, age, diet and sex must all be factored in to realize the full benefits of lower caloric intake.

     - See more at: http://news.wisc.edu/calorie-restriction-lets-monkeys-live-long-and-prosper/#sthash.ta0TK7Wi.dpuf 


    On a personal (human) note, I have had some success with a low carbohydrate diet recently, rather than a low calorie diet.  Works for me and is very popular at present, particularly in using  non-medication to control or reverse pre-diabetes. However  that isn't an endorsement and you may not suit everyone. Ed.

    Tuesday, 17 January 2017

    Space X Flight Success

    SpaceX is 'bouncing back' in its quest for the development of private space flight. On January 9th the SpaceX company successfully launched another rocket, its first since a major set-back when one of its spaceship exploded last September. The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and deployed ten Iridium satellites.

    There is a great resource on the SpaceX site showing a graphic depiction of the Falcon 9 rocket and a break down of its ultimate aims, including manned flight.

    Iridium satellites, the name of a commercial group of satellites, are well known to amateur astronomers for the 'Iridium flare' effect, perhaps better known as .satellite flare, and also called satellite glint.  This phenomenon is caused by the reflective surfaces on satellites (such as antennas, SAR or solar panels) reflecting sunlight directly onto the Earth below and appearing as a brief, bright "flare".  These flashes in the sky are entirely predictable for a given location and can be found in tables on several web sites and apps; I use  Heavens-Above.

    satellite flare
    SpaceX  of course is also know for its recoverable first stage which if all goes well lands back to earth on a floating platform.  Here is a link to a video of  a 2016 landing.
    Those of us who were around in 1960s Britain, and perhaps some others who have seen it since, may be reminded uncannily of its predecessor, Fireball XL5.  I have sadly to admit I have the box set already. (ed.).


    Monday, 16 January 2017

    Great Observatories Unique Views of the Milky Way

    Great Images from Space

    In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA's Great Observatories -- the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory -- have produced a matched trio of images of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy. Each image shows the telescope's different wavelength view of the galactic center region, illustrating the unique science each observatory conducts. In this spectacular image, observations using infrared light and X-ray light see through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic core. Note that the center of the galaxy is located within the bright white region to the right of and just below the middle of the image. The entire image width covers about one-half a degree, about the same angular width as the full moon. Spitzer's infrared-light observations provide a detailed and spectacular view of the galactic center region [Figure 1 (top frame of poster)]. The swirling core of our galaxy harbors hundreds of thousands of stars that cannot be seen in visible light. These stars heat the nearby gas and dust. These dusty clouds glow in infrared light and reveal their often dramatic shapes. Some of these clouds harbor stellar nurseries that are forming new generations of stars. Like the downtown of a large city, the center of our galaxy is a crowded, active, and vibrant place. Although best known for its visible-light images, Hubble also observes over a limited range of infrared light [Figure 2 (middle frame of poster)]. The galactic center is marked by the bright patch in the lower right. Along the left side are large arcs of warm gas that have been heated by clusters of bright massive stars. In addition, Hubble uncovered many more massive stars across the region. Winds and radiation from these stars create the complex structures seen in the gas throughout the image.This sweeping panorama is one of the sharpest infrared pictures ever made of the galactic center region. X-rays detected by Chandra expose a wealth of exotic objects and high-energy features [Figure 3 (bottom frame of poster)]. In this image, pink represents lower energy X-rays and blue indicates higher energy. Hundreds of small dots show emission from material around black holes and other dense stellar objects. A supermassive black hole -- some four million times more massive than the Sun -- resides within the bright region in the lower right. The diffuse X-ray light comes from gas heated to millions of degrees by outflows from the supermassive black hole, winds from giant stars, and stellar explosions. This central region is the most energetic place in our galaxy. 



    NASA ID: PIA12348
  • Center: JPL

  • Secondary Creator Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI

  • Date Created: 2009-11-10
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