Hubble Spies Glittering Star Cluster in Nearby Galaxy

NASA – Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Oct. 19, 2018

This glittering ball of stars is the globular cluster NGC 1898, which lies toward the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud — one of our closest cosmic neighbors. The Large Magellanic Cloud is a dwarf galaxy that hosts an extremely rich population of star clusters, making it an ideal laboratory for investigating star formation.

Discovered in November 1834 by British astronomer John Herschel, NGC 1898 has been scrutinized numerous times by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Today we know that globular clusters are some of the oldest known objects in the universe and that they are relics of the first epochs of galaxy formation. While we already have a pretty good picture on the globular clusters of the Milky Way — still with many unanswered questions — our studies on globular clusters in nearby dwarf galaxies just started. The observations of NGC 1898 will help to determine whether their properties are similar to the ones found in the Milky Way, or if they have different features, due to being in a different cosmic environment.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

This image was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Text: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Karl Hille.

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An artificial moon to light up the Earth

China artificial Moon illustration.

Oct. 19, 2018

Beijing would like to reflect sunlight on Earth overnight to achieve lighting savings.

China wants to launch in space by 2020 an “artificial Moon”, which would reflect on Earth the sunlight during the night and would achieve savings in lighting, said Friday a state media.

Russian project “Mayak satellite”

This satellite equipped with a reflective film would be responsible for illuminating the large city of Chengdu (southwest) and should be eight times brighter than the lunar body, reports the China Daily.

A first copy should first be sent to space, followed by the success of three others in 2022, Wu Tengfeng, the head of the Tianfu New Area Science Society, told Xinhua.

“The first Moon will be mainly experimental, but the three sent in 2022 will be the real finished product. They will have great potential in terms of services to the people and from a commercial point of view, “Wu said.

Significant electricity savings

By sending sunlight back to Earth, the satellite, which would evolve at an altitude of 500 km, is supposed to be able to partially replace streetlights. It could save Chengdu about 1.2 billion yuan (about 170 million francs) of electricity a year if it can illuminate an area of ​​50 square kilometers.

The artificial light source could also be used after natural disasters, by deflecting solar rays to terrestrial areas where power was cut off, Wu Chunfeng said. AFP could not contact Mr. Wu or his institution directly.

Russian project “Znamya”

Beijing has for many years been conducting an ambitious space program to catch up with the United States and Russia. The country plans to send a small robot named Chang’e-4 on the far side of the moon by the end of 2018.

China is not the first country to try to reflect the sun’s rays on the Earth. In the 1990s, Russian scientists had developed a similar project called Znamya (“Banner”), stopped after some tests.

Images, Text, Credits: Tianfu New Area Science Society/IEEE Spectrum/AFP/GM Productions/Mike Fisher/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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BepiColombo – Swiss Technology on Mercury

ESA – BepiColombo Mission patch.

Oct. 19, 2018

Ariane 5 will take off this weekend from Kourou, with two probes and instruments designed by the University of Bern on board.

Swiss researchers and companies took part in the ambitious Mercure research mission to be launched on the night of Friday to Saturday. The instruments developed must help reveal the secrets of the planet closest to the sun.

BepiColombo in the withe room

Instruments designed and manufactured by the Institute of Physics at the University of Bern will travel aboard the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) probes.

This is the Bela laser altimeter, the largest and most fragile instrument of the mission, and the brand new Strofio mass spectrometer, says the University of Bern.

BepiColombo Laser Altimeter – BELA

The BepiColombo mission consists of two space vehicles: one built by Europeans, Mercury Planetary Orbiter (DFO), and the other by the Japanese agency, Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

The two vehicles will travel together to Mercury in a coupled system, but once there, they will be placed in different orbits. The MMO will study the interaction between the planet and the solar wind, while DFO will be responsible for mapping the surface of Mercury.

3D representation of the planet

The objective of the Bela laser altimeter, one of the elements on board DFO, is to measure the shape, topography and morphology of the Mercury surface. “Bela essentially allows us to create a 3D representation of the whole planet,” explains Nicolas Thomas, co-director of the project and director of the Institute of Physics at the University of Bern.

BepiColombo configuration

The all-new Strofio mass spectrometer is designed to capture the very fine atmosphere of Mercury – the exosphere – and to analyze its chemical composition.

The researchers had to design instruments so that they could withstand the heat of the sun: on Mercury, the temperature can be ten times higher than on Earth.

Neuchatel micro-cameras

The academic world is not the only Swiss player involved in the BepiColombo research mission. Neuchâtel equipment developed by Micro-Cameras & Space Exploration (MCSE) is part of the trip.

Digital Space Micro-Camera

MCSE has completely produced an instrument panel consisting of three micro-cameras. These will be used especially to photograph the passages near Venus and the approach of Mercury.

For its part, the armament and aeronautics group Ruag notably delivered the structure of the MPO vehicle in aluminum panels.

BepiColombo is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is the first Mercury mission to send two science orbiters to make complementary measurements of the planet’s dynamic environment at the same time.

A third module will transport the orbiters on the seven year cruise to Mercury, using a combination of solar electric propulsion and nine gravity assist flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana:

BepiColombo launch live broadcast:


03:15 CEST Start of live transmission
03:45 CEST Liftoff, followed by confirmation of acquisition of signal, expected 40 minutes after launch
04:30 CEST End of live transmission

Related links:

ESA’s BepiColombo:

BepiColombo Laser Altimeter – BELA:

Micro-Cameras & Space Exploration (MCSE):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/ATS/University of Bern/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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