How Galaxy CGCG254-021 Got its Tail

A tale of two galactic cities 

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Space news (galaxy formation: galaxy tails; the largest ever) – 680 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Hercules – 

The ghostly blue, diffuse ribbon of hot gas seen trailing behind galaxy CGCG254-021 in the upper right of this composite image is the longest, largest galaxy tail observed during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. This stunning view was made using X-ray data (blue) collected by NASA’s Chandra Observatory and data (yellow) from the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes.

NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer found a tail behind a galaxy called IC 3418. The star-studded tail can be seen on the left, as detected by the space telescope in ultraviolet light. The tail has escaped detection in visible light, as shown by the image on the right, taken by a visible-light telescope on the ground. This tail was created as the galaxy plunged into gas in a family of galaxies known as the Virgo cluster. The image on the left is a composite of data from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (far-ultraviolet light is dark blue and near-ultraviolet light is light blue); and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (visible light is colored green and red). The image on the right is from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Other galaxies and stars can be seen scattered throughout the image. Another galaxy called IC 3413, which is part of the Virgo cluster, can be seen to the right of IC 3418 as an oval-shaped blob. The bright large dot at upper right is a star in our Milky Way galaxy. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer found a tail behind a galaxy called IC 3418. The star-studded tail can be seen on the left, as detected by the space telescope in ultraviolet light. The tail has escaped detection in visible light, as shown by the image on the right, taken by a visible-light telescope on the ground. This tail was created as the galaxy plunged into gas in a family of galaxies known as the Virgo cluster.
The image on the left is a composite of data from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (far-ultraviolet light is dark blue and near-ultraviolet light is light blue); and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (visible light is colored green and red). The image on the right is from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
Other galaxies and stars can be seen scattered throughout the image. Another galaxy called IC 3413, which is part of the Virgo cluster, can be seen to the right of IC 3418 as an oval-shaped blob. The bright large dot at upper right is a star in our Milky Way galaxy.
Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Galaxy tails are wispy ribbons of hot gas stripped from a galaxy as it travels through an immense cloud of hot intergalactic gas. In the case of galaxy CGCG254-021, a tail of hot gas estimated at over 250,000 light-years in length, and around 10 million degrees Centigrade, which is half the estimated temperature of the intergalactic gas cloud. 

Astronomers think CGCG254-021’s tail was stripped from the galaxy as it moved through hot gas in galaxy cluster Zwicky 8338. The pressure exerted by this rapid motion stripped gas away from the galaxy, creating the ghostly blue ribbon of hot gas observed. A ribbon astronomers think could be completely free of the galaxy, considering the distance between the two as seen in this image. 

Astronomers have been studying interactions between the ribbon and galaxy CGCG254-021 by examining the characteristics and properties of the galaxy and its ghostly tail. They noted it has a brighter spot they call its head with a tail of diffuse x-ray emission trailing behind. This could indicate the gas in the head in cooler and richer in elements heavier than helium compared to the rest of the ribbon. There’s also a hint of a bow shock at the head of the tail with the galaxy at the front.  

Additional observations by researchers at infrared wavelengths also show galaxy CGCG254-021 has more mass than any other galaxy in galaxy cluster Zwicky 8338. Using the data obtained and models of the evolution of galaxies astrophysicists predicted it recently had the highest rate of new star formation in the cluster. However, they can find no evidence of new stars recently forming within the galaxy. They think this lack of new stars is due to the stripping of gas as it traveled through galaxy cluster Zwicky 8338.  

The foreground galaxy is NGC 4569 of the Virgo cluster. The red filaments at the right of the galaxy show the hydrogen gas that has been removed. The tail represents about 95 per cent of the gas reservoir the galaxy needs to feed the formation of new stars. Credit: CFHT/Coelum
The foreground galaxy is NGC 4569 of the Virgo cluster. The red filaments at the right of the galaxy show the hydrogen gas that has been removed. The tail represents about 95 per cent of the gas reservoir the galaxy needs to feed the formation of new stars. Credit: CFHT/Coelum

What’s next?

Astrophysicists plan on additional observations of galaxy CGCG254-021 and Zwicky 8383 in the future using Chandra, the Newton Group of telescopes, and other assets. They hope to fill in the blanks on how it obtained the largest galaxy tail recorded during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. To learn the story of how this galaxy got its ghostly blue tail. 

Read the PDF on the study of the tail of galaxy CGCG254-021 in galaxy cluster Zwicky 8383.

Read about the five-year journey of NASA’s Juno spacecraft to a recent arrival at Jupiter.

Read about the things astronomers studying the magnetic lines of force emanating from supermassive black holes have discovered

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Read a study on the galaxy tail of galaxy NGC 4569 in the Virgo Cluster.

You can learn more about galaxy CGCG254-021 here

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Read and learn about the space discoveries made by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory here

Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (yellow) in the Canary Island. 

Discover galaxy cluster Zwicky 8338 here

Learn more about the space discoveries made by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Karl Jansky Very Large Array. 

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Initial Atmospheric Study of Two Earth-Sized Exoplanets

Data shows at least one of two exoplanets studied orbits within the habitable zone of host red dwarf star in system TRAPPIST-1

This illustration shows two Earth-sized worlds passing in front of their parent red dwarf star, which is much smaller and cooler than our sun. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. de Wit (MIT)/G. Bacon (STScI)
This illustration shows two Earth-sized worlds passing in front of their parent red dwarf star, which is much smaller and cooler than our sun. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. de Wit (MIT)/G. Bacon (STScI)

Space news (the search for Earth 2.0: the first atmospheric study of Earth-sized exoplanets; TRAPPIST-1 system) – searching for possible atmospheres surrounding exoplanets TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c 40 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Aquarius – 

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star. In this view one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star.
This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star. In this view one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to search for suitable exoplanets to act as a cradle for a new human genesis recently sampled the atmospheres of two exoplanets orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth. They used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to observe TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c in near-infrared wavelengths to look for signs of an atmosphere. They discovered these two exoplanets probably don’t have the fluffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres found around larger, gaseous exoplanets.  

This chart shows the naked eye stars visible on a clear dark night in the sprawling constellation of Aquarius (The Water Carrier). The position of the faint and very red ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 is marked. Although it is relatively close to the Sun it is very faint and not visible in small telescopes.
This chart shows the naked eye stars visible on a clear dark night in the sprawling constellation of Aquarius (The Water Carrier). The position of the faint and very red ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 is marked. Although it is relatively close to the Sun it is very faint and not visible in small telescopes.

The image seen at the top of the page is an artist’s portrayal of TRAPPIST-1b and 1c, two Earth-sized exoplanets shown passing in front of their host red dwarf star. Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to look for hints of atmospheres surrounding these distant worlds and detected signs increasing the chances of habitability.  

This picture shows the Sun and the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 to scale. The faint star has only 11% of the diameter of the sun and is much redder in colour.
This picture shows the Sun and the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 to scale. The faint star has only 11% of the diameter of the sun and is much redder in color. Credit: ESO

“The lack of a smothering hydrogen-helium envelope increases the chances for habitability on these planets,” said team member Nikole Lewis of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. “If they had a significant hydrogen-helium envelope, there is no chance that either one of them could potentially support life because the dense atmosphere would act like a greenhouse.” 

Dr. Lewis is an expert in the area of exoplanet atmospheric characterization. Her work focuses on the interplay of dynamical, radiative, and chemical processes (including cloud formation) in exoplanet atmospheres. She has successfully bridged the gap between theory and observation through her pioneering work with Spitzer Space Telescope exoplanet observations and the development of general circulation models for a number of giant exoplanets. Dr. Lewis' work at the Space Telescope Science Institute focuses on enabling transiting exoplanet observations with the James Webb Space Telescope
Dr. Lewis is an expert in the area of exoplanet atmospheric characterization. Her work focuses on the interplay of dynamical, radiative, and chemical processes (including cloud formation) in exoplanet atmospheres. She has successfully bridged the gap between theory and observation through her pioneering work with Spitzer Space Telescope exoplanet observations and the development of general circulation models for a number of giant exoplanets. Dr. Lewis’ work at the Space Telescope Science Institute focuses on enabling transiting exoplanet observations with the James Webb Space Telescope

Julien de Wit of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and a team of astronomers used spectroscopy to decipher the light, revealing clues to the chemical composition of an atmosphere surrounding these candidates. By taking advantage of a rare double-transit of both exoplanets across the face of their host star, they collected starlight passing through any gas envelope surrounding these exoplanets. This event only occurs every two years, but it allowed for a simultaneous measurement of atmospheric characteristics. The exact composition’s still a mystery at this point, further observations are required to determine more clues. This is an exciting and promising start. 

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and may be the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star. In this view one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star.
This artist’s impression shows an imagined view of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and may be the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star. In this view one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star.

“These initial Hubble observations are a promising first step in learning more about these nearby worlds, whether they could be rocky like Earth, and whether they could sustain life,” says Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is an exciting time for NASA and exoplanet research.” 

Mr. Geoffrey L. Yoder is currently the acting Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.
Mr. Geoffrey L. Yoder is currently the acting Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.

Estimates put the age of the host red dwarf star at around 500 million years, which is young for a star with a potential lifespan of trillions of years. Red dwarf stars burn a lot cooler, but completely consume their supply of hydrogen, unlike more massive types of stars. The most common star in the cosmos, astronomers think 20 out of 30 near-Earth suns could be red dwarfs. The numbers indicate searching nearby red dwarfs for an exoplanet with the right ingredients for habitability is a good place to begin our search. 

Dr. Susan Lederer stands next to the UKIRT Telescope located on Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai’i, which was used to confirm the existence of the newly discovered exoplanets and constrain their orbital periods. Says Lederer, "For such a small, cool, star giving off so much of its light in the infrared, the UKIRT telescope, designed solely for infrared observations, was ideally suited for confirming the existence of these Earth-sized planets.”
Dr. Susan Lederer stands next to the UKIRT Telescope located on Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai’i, which was used to confirm the existence of the newly discovered exoplanets and constrain their orbital periods. Says Lederer, “For such a small, cool, star giving off so much of its light in the infrared, the UKIRT telescope, designed solely for infrared observations, was ideally suited for confirming the existence of these Earth-sized planets.”

The team and other astronomers plan on making follow-up measurements of these two exoplanets using the Hubble Space Telescope, the Kepler Space Telescope, the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, and other assets to look for thinner gas layers containing heavier atoms than hydrogen as in Earth’s atmosphere.  

“With more data, we could perhaps detect methane or see water features in the atmospheres, which would give us estimates of the depth of the atmospheres,” said Hannah Wakeford, the paper’s second author, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

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Hannah Wakeford. Credits: Linked

Toward the future

In the years ahead, using assets like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers should be able to determine the exact composition of any atmospheres surrounding these exoplanets and others. Finding the signatures of water vapor and methane, or even carbon dioxide and ozone is a significant step toward possible habitability for lifeforms. The power of Webb should also allow planetary scientists to measure the surface and atmospheric temperature and pressure of each exoplanet. Both key factors to determining if these exoplanets orbiting red dwarf TRAPPIST-1 are possible cradles for the genesis of life. 

“Thanks to several giant telescopes currently under construction, including ESO’s E-ELT and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope due to launch for 2018, we will soon be able to study the atmospheric composition of these planets and to explore them first for water, then for traces of biological activity. That’s a giant step in the search for life in the Universe,” says Julien de Wit. 

Julien De Witt: Credits: Linked
Julien De Witt: Credits: Linked

“These Earth-sized planets are the first worlds that astronomers can study in detail with current and planned telescopes to determine whether they are suitable for life,” said de Wit. “Hubble has the facility to play the central atmospheric pre-screening role to tell astronomers which of these Earth-sized planets are prime candidates for more detailed study with the Webb telescope.” 

Read about a recent discovery about supermassive black holes changing current theories.

Read and learn about the new space technology being developed.

Read about the first observation of a supernova shockwave.

Read the official study here.

Check out NASA’s interactive exploration of the Exoplanet Zoo.

Learn more about NASA’s plans for the James Webb Space Telescope

Take the space journey of NASA here

Discover the Hubble Space Telescope. 

Read more about NASA’s plans for K2

Voyage across the cosmos on board the telescopes of the ESA here

Learn more about astronomy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Read and learn more about TRAPPIST-1 and its planets here

Learn more about plans for the ESA’s E-ELT

Discover more about the work of NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute here

Learn about the outstanding work being done by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

Take a tour of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center here

 

Seven University Teams Selected to Design Prototypes for 2017 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge

Proposals selected advance development of 3D printer technology and printing capabilities, develop and improve long-term plant growth and water recycling systems, and design new conceptual habitats

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Space news (new space technology: deep space habitats; the 2017 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge) – NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division headquarters – 

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This map shows the relative location and project of each of the seven teams selected for 2017 challenge. Credits: NASA

NASA and partner the National Space Grant Foundation recently announced the selection of seven university teams to design and build the prototypes proposed as part of the 2017 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge. The teams selected have the 2016 – 2017 academic year to develop their proposal into functional, working prototypes astronauts could use around the International Space Station. At the same time, they’ll gain valuable hands-on design and engineering skills and experience necessary to achieve their goals in the years ahead. During the school year, teams selected complete scheduled reviews of engineering designs and conduct three proposal status meetings with NASA officials before submitting finished prototypes in May 2017. 

“The X-Hab challenge allows NASA to access new ideas and emerging concepts while providing undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in technology development,” said Tracy Gill, who leads the X-Hab activity from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “We are particularly excited to see returning teams that are successfully continuing to build on the designs and lessons learned from prior years.” 

Seven university teams were selected to design, engineer and build useful, handy prototypes astronauts could use on a daily basis to make life in space and on the International Space Station easier to manage. Each team receives a grant up to $30,000, which is managed by the National Space Grant Foundation on behalf of NASA and the American people. To support each team’s work on designing and developing useful prototypes to make life in space, and on Earth, easier to manage during the decades ahead. 

The seven university teams selected to complete the 2017 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge are: 

Being able to recycle the material you used to construct necessary tools during a long space journey or while colonizing Mars is a neat trick. Students at the University of Connecticut are working on developing a recycling plan for integrated 3-D printer technology that will be used during future space missions. It will be capable of both manufacturing and recycling polymer parts and will address the form, fit, and function of polymer parts being refitted during their entire lifespan. The ability to reuse the material used to construct items made by integrated 3-D printer technology will save space, energy, and other resources, which will reduce the number of resupply missions required during long space missions. 

Engineers and designers have only scratched the surface of possible uses of the integrated 3-D printer technology on the International Space Station. The Young geniuses at the University of Maryland are working on new technology designed and engineered to utilize 3-D printing to make strong, rigid parts for the pressurized spacesuits astronauts need to work and live in space. They plan on using mostly additive manufacturing technologies to design and engineer low-friction bearings, rotary seals and pressure seals for state-of-the-art spacesuits. This technology could help develop other applications for deep space exploration and the eventual colonization of Mars. 

Medical professionals studying the physical and medical problems associated with long term space travel and living on Mars say the build up of CO2’s a problem for astronauts. A team of student innovators and inventors at the University of Colorado are working on developing technology to reduce the levels of CO2 during space voyages of the future. They’re working on improving the processes used to remove CO2 concentrations, which can adversely affect astronaut performance and health during future space missions. Necessary technology for the success any trip to the Red Planet and the survival of future colonists planning on living on Mars. 

x-hab-2017-aether_univcolo

Preparing food grown during a long space journey or while colonizing the Red Planet’s going to be an adventure in itself. Designer, engineers, and scientists of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York are planning on perfecting their Mars Transit Habitat design. This time, they plan on using elements from their design for a kitchen and sleeping pod for a Mars transit habitat concept not requiring redesigned as their template for a kitchen and sleeping pod concept for a Mars surface habitat. Unfortunately, the astronauts heading into space and living on Mars won’t find any Star Trek Food Replicators in the Pratt Institute’s kitchen designs. Guess they’ll have to make do with instant coffee and pre-packaged, processed foods.  

The Pratt Institute's Mars Transit Habitat Concept. Credits: The Pratt Institute
Normally we spend over one third of our lives on Earth sleeping and eating. Will it be different living on a spacecraft in space? The Pratt Institute’s Mars Transit Habitat Concept is a step in the direction of eating and sleeping comfortably during our trips across the solar system and beyond.
Credits: The Pratt Institute

Making sure internal systems of all habitat systems and modules needed to ensure a successful trip to Mars are compatible and interchangeable will make the trip and life on the Red Planet easier. Design geniuses from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater are working on constructing the communications, controls and environmental systems needed to integrate NASA’s Stafford Deep Space Habitat (SDSH) and Martian Reconfiguration Habitat (ReHAB). This team has also been working on systems for NASA’s Multi-purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) and the Organics and Agricultural Sustainment Inflatable System (OASIS). All the internal systems of the individual components sent to Mars will need to be completely compatible. It will make implementation, maintenance, and repair of systems easier for astronauts heading into space and colonizing Mars. 

Eating the right amount of food during a long space journey through the solar system or to Mars is a problem for astronauts. You can’t just take along all the foodstuffs you need to ensure you get the required amount of calories and vitamins. Ingenious engineers and designers from Ohio State University in Wooster are working on perfecting previous improvements they made to NASA’s Vegetable Production System (Veggie) on the International Space Station. Presently, they’re working on eliminating air bubbles in the water column between the water reservoir and plants while keeping root oxygen levels sufficient for growth, which improves water capillary transport. They’re also evaluating the feasibility of recycling plant biomass to use as soil, which will reduce the need to launch it into space. Fresh vegetables to consume during a long space trip to Mars is a thumbs up to the team. 

The Ohio State University's passive water delivery system. Credits: The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University’s passive water delivery system is designed to provide water to grow vegetables to keep astronauts healthy during long periods or trips in space.
Credits: The Ohio State University

Wastewater treatment during long-term space travel or on Mars isn’t going to be the simple flush and forget it’s on Earth. A team of engineers and designers from the University of Michigan are working on a next generation system to clean and recycle the limited amount of water that will be available during any space trip. They’ll also work on designs for wastewater treatment systems usable in low gravity environments, like the surface of the Moon or the Red Planet. The water isn’t going to be the freshest in the solar system, but it will be wet, and wonderful to drink during a long journey across the solar system. 

What’s next?

The seven teams in this challenge submitted proposals early in 2016 that were selected by officials. During the 2016-2017 academic year, each team will work towards a number of milestones on the road to designing, manufacturing, assembling, and testing proposed systems and concepts. They’ll work shoulder to shoulder with scientists and engineers of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications and Advanced Exploration Systems divisions. Together they’ll advance technology in additive manufacturing, advanced life support systems, and space habitation and food production systems. Just seven groups of big kids playing with their new toys and dreaming of the things they can do with them. 

Learn about changes to a theory concerning active supermassive black holes.

Read about one of the brightest cosmic events ever recorded during the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

Learn how astronomers study the formation of new stars.

Watch this YouTube video made by NASA astronauts about living and working in space.

Learn more about living in space here

Read and learn what NASA has learned about living and working in space.

Read about NASA’s plans to travel to and live on Mars

Read and discover 3-D printer technology here

Discover the work being done by the National Space Grant Foundation

Take the space journey of NASA here

Learn more about the Red Planet

Learn more about the 2017 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge here

X-57 Electric Propulsion Aircraft Being Assembled

Aeronautic engineers and technicians reach milestone in development of all-electric propulsion system

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The Italian Tecnam aircraft fuselage, P2006T, arrived in California and will be integrated with the wing for electric propulsion becoming X-57, or Maxwell. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

Space news (New space technology: new space propulsion systems; SCEPTOR) – Armstrong Flight Research Center and Langley Research Center –

Traveling across the solar system using present space propulsion technology is going to be very time-consuming and costly in terms of the extra weight requirements for chemical propulsion systems. In order to enable future trips to distant bodies in our host solar system. NASA scientists and engineers of the Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology and Operations Research (SCEPTOR), under the management and direction of the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program, are working on the first all-electric propulsion aircraft.  

The Tecnam P2006T cockpit for the X-57, or Maxwell, will be the first all electric propulsion aircraft once the plane and wing integration is complete. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich
The Tecnam P2006T cockpit for the X-57, or Maxwell, will be the first all electric propulsion aircraft once the plane and wing integration is complete.
Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

Called the X-57 (Maxwell), the first all-electric propulsion aircraft will be the first in a series of scaled up models. During the next phase of the project, they expect to install the flight system and begin test flights. An important milestone on the road to designing propulsion systems capable of taking us across the solar system in a reasonable amount of time.

Preparations are underway to inspect, weigh and balance the Tecnam fuselage before it heads to Mojave, California, for wing integration. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich
Preparations are underway to inspect, weigh and balance the Tecnam fuselage before it heads to Mojave, California, for wing integration.
Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

“I am very excited that NASA Aeronautics has started the Convergent Aeronautic Solutions project where cross-center teams can propose revolutionary ideas that if feasible, can graduate that new technology into one of the mainstream aeronautics projects for further research and validation,” stated NASA Armstrong Deputy Aeronautics Research Director Starr Ginn

This artist's concept of NASA's X-57 Maxwell aircraft shows the plane's specially designed wing and 14 electric motors. NASA Aeronautics researchers will use the Maxwell to demonstrate that electric propulsion can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Credits: NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Lab, AMA, Inc.
This artist’s concept of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell aircraft shows the plane’s specially designed wing and 14 electric motors. NASA Aeronautics researchers will use the Maxwell to demonstrate that electric propulsion can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.
Credits: NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Lab, AMA, Inc.

“Unboxing the airplane today was an exciting milestone for those of us who have been advocating for several years the need to design, build and fly an electric airplane, and understand the system integration challenges, technology gaps and showcase a new area of vehicle design space with distributed electric propulsion.” 

This artist's concept of NASA's X-57 Maxwell aircraft shows the plane's specially designed wing and 14 electric motors. NASA Aeronautics researchers will use the Maxwell to demonstrate that electric propulsion can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Credits: NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Lab, AMA, Inc.
This artist’s concept of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell aircraft shows the plane’s specially designed wing and 14 electric motors. NASA Aeronautics researchers will use the Maxwell to demonstrate that electric propulsion can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.
Credits: NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Lab, AMA, Inc.

The fuselage for the new aircraft an Italian Tecnam P2006T left Naples, Italy and arrived at Empirical Systems Aerospace’s facility at Oceano Airport in California (ESAero). Eager engineers from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and Langley Research Center were on hand to inspect the fuselage for the first all-electric propulsion aircraft. Watch this video of its arrival.

“We’re all really excited. We get to see in person what we’ve been modeling for so long,” said Sean Clarke, principal investigator for the X-57 project out of NASA Armstrong. “We’ve been looking forward to this for years now, so there’s been a lot of anticipation, and to have it out here in front of us is a relief.” 

The equipment required for an electric propulsion test is ready for research. April 5, 2016 NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes
The equipment required for an electric propulsion test is ready for research.
April 5, 2016
NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes

Engineers working on the X-57 project completely inspected the fuselage, including testing its weight and balance. Technicians and engineers verified all modifications were made to the design during the fabrication process. This is necessary for the successful integration of the electric propulsion system into the existing infrastructure of the fuselage.  

“I’ve never worked on a NASA X-plane before, this is a very exciting experience for me,” Foster said “It has become very real for everyone to actually have some hardware to touch. Everything up until now has been on paper and photographs, so everyone is very excited, and looking forward to the next several years.” 

The electric propulsion system to be tested is secured at the top of the Airvolt test stand and instrumented to collect data. Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes
The electric propulsion system to be tested is secured at the top of the Airvolt test stand and instrumented to collect data.
Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes

After all inspections by engineers and scientists are finished, NASA’s future X-57 Maxwell’s scheduled to be sent to SCEPTOR in Mojave, California, where it will be housed during its modification into the first fully electric aircraft. The engineering team will verify the safety and operation of the aircraft’s all-electric power system and two electric cruise motors planned for the wing tips before the new high-aspect ratio wing’s integrated into the design. In the final design, twelve smaller electric propellers along the new wing’s leading edge will provide lift during take-off and landing, while the two electric cruise motors are used during flight.  

The experimental, high-aspect ratio wing designed at NASA Langley in Virginia, and fabricated by Xperimental LLC in San Luis Obispo, California will be integrated into the fuselage after final inspections are complete. The battery system used to power the future X-57 Maxwell was designed and developed by Electric Power Systems in California. 

During this phase in the development of NASA’s first all-electric, next generation propulsion system engineers and scientists will assess and reduce risks in the final design of NASA’s future X-57 Maxwell. This includes installing the two electric cruise motors, which are being designed and developed by Joby Aviation in Santa Cruz, California. If all goes as planned with the integration and testing of the aircraft’s all-electric power system, scientists and engineers will begin ground tests to analyze all flight systems. Culminating in flight tests for this first model sometime in the spring of 2018, if all goes well with the development and tests. 

Up, up and away!

Successful flight tests of this model of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell will be just one step in designing and developing the propulsion systems we’ll need to travel further into the solar system and one day colonize the Red Planet. The first electric propulsion system for the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Hopefully, leading to the development of propulsion systems capable of taking mankind to the stars and beyond. The X-57 Maxwell gets us one step closer to dancing among the stars. 

You can learn more about Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology and Operations Research (SCEPTOR) project. 

Take the space journey of NASA here

Learn about NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program

Learn more about NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s New Aviation Horizons initiative here

Learn more about NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

Learn more about NASA’s Langley Research Center here.

Read about NASA’s Juno spacecraft making Jupiter orbit after five years of traveling across the solar system.

Read and learn about a recent sky survey that revealed millions of black hole candidates.

Read about a supermassive star nicknamed Nasty 1.

Starburst Galaxy NGC 1569

Is bursting at its galactic seams, creating new stars at a rate more than 100 times faster than the Milky Way, due to gravitational interactions within its host galaxy group IC 342 

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the iridescent interior of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood — NGC 1569, a small galaxy located about eleven million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe). This galaxy is currently a hotbed of vigorous star formation. NGC 1569 is a starburst galaxy, meaning that — as the name suggests — it is bursting at the seams with stars, and is currently producing them at a rate far higher than that observed in most other galaxies. For almost 100 million years, NGC 1569 has pumped out stars over 100 times faster than the Milky Way! As a result, this glittering galaxy is home to super star clusters, three of which are visible in this image — one of the two bright clusters is actually  the superposition of two massive clusters. Each containing more than a million stars, these brilliant blue clusters reside within a large cavity of gas carved out by multiple supernovae, the energetic remnants of massive stars. In 2008, Hubble observed the galaxy's cluttered core and sparsely populated outer fringes. By pinpointing individual red giant stars, Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys enabled astronomers to calculate a new — and much more precise — estimate for NGC 1569’s distance. This revealed that the galaxy is actually one and a half times further away than previously thought, and a member of the IC 342 galaxy group. Astronomers suspect that the IC 342 cosmic congregation is responsible for the star-forming frenzy observed in NGC 1569. Gravitational interactions between this galactic group are believed to be compressing the gas within NGC 1569. As it is compressed, the gas collapses, heats up and forms new stars.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the iridescent interior of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood — NGC 1569, a small galaxy located about eleven million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe). 

Space news (astrophysics: starburst galaxies; NGC 1569) – 11 million light-years away toward the constellation Camelopardalis (The Giraffe) – 

The Hubble Space Telescope image above reveals the chaotic, yet visually stunning core of starburst galaxy NGC 1569. A relatively small galaxy more recent calculations by astronomers show is actually 11 million light-years from Earth, which is one and half times further than previous distance estimates. This starburst galaxy is one of the brightest in galaxy group IC 342, which is just one of many groups of galaxies within the Virgo Supercluster and is located in the constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe) in our night sky. 

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Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory, flaunting their young, bright, blue star clusters in beautiful, symmetric spiral arms. But small, irregular galaxies form stars too. In fact, as pictured here, dwarf galaxy NGC 1569 is apparently undergoing a burst of star-forming activity, thought to have begun over 25 million years ago. The resulting turbulent environment is fed by supernova explosions as the cosmic detonations spew out material and trigger further star formation. Two massive star clusters – youthful counterparts to globular star clusters in our own spiral Milky Way galaxy – are seen left of center in the gorgeous Hubble Space Telescope image. The picture spans about 1,500 light-years across NGC 1569. A mere 7 million light-years distant, this relatively close starburst galaxy offers astronomers an excellent opportunity to study stellar populations in rapidly evolving galaxies. NGC 1569 lies in the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis.

Look at the interior of NGC 1569 from different angles and the hues viewed seem to shift across its 5,000 light-year width. For almost 100 million years this starburst galaxy has created new stars at a rate over 100 times faster than our Milky Way. The core was a vigorous, hotbed of star formation bursting at the seams with new and old stars. It’s home to many super star clusters, three of which are visible in this image as brilliant blue clusters, each residing within a large cavity of gas carved out by successive supernovae of red giant supermassive stars. 

This image taken by NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope showcases the brilliant core of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood. The entire core is 5000 light-years wide. Credits: NASA/ESA/Hubble
This image taken by NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope showcases the brilliant core of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood. The entire core is 5000 light-years wide. Credits: NASA/ESA/Hubble

NGC 1569’s new location puts it smack in the middle of ten galaxies within IC 342 interacting gravitationally, which compressed gas floating among its stars until it collapsed, heated up and formed new stars. A process Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and Advanced Camera for Surveys were able to observe in September 1999, November 2006, and January 2007. Observations allowing for the creation of this stunning, amazing image of a starburst galaxy at work.  

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NASA Selects US Aerospace Firms to Study Mars Orbiter Concepts

5 US companies to conduct concept studies for support missions to colonize Mars 

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NASA has selected 5 major US aerospace firms to help develop and lead the way to Mars during the next phase of mankind’s journey to the stars. Credits: NASA/journeytomars

Space news (Journey to Mars: Mars Orbiter Mission; support mission concept studies) – NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California – 

NASA’s plans to send astronauts to explore and one day live on Mars turned a page today with the announcement of the selection of five US aerospace firms to study possible mission concepts. The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Orbital ATK, and Space Systems will each conduct four months of research on ways a new Mars orbiter mission would benefit communications, imaging ability, and operational capabilities of future manned missions to the Red Planet. 

Mars colonists will need to find local sources of water in order to survive on the Red Planet. The canyon system seen here is Valles Marineris, one of the largest found in the solar system, and a possible source of future water for any mission to Mars. Credits: NASA/JPL
Mars colonists will need to find local sources of water in order to survive on the Red Planet. The canyon system seen here is Valles Marineris, one of the largest found in the solar system, and a possible source of future water for any mission to Mars. Blue dots on this map indicate sites of recurring slope lineae (RSL) in part of the Valles Marineris canyon network on Mars. RSL are seasonal dark streaks regarded as the strongest evidence for the possibility of liquid water on the surface of modern Mars. The area mapped here has the highest density of known RSL on the Red Planet. Credits: NASA/JPL

“We’re excited to continue planning for the next decade of Mars exploration,” said Geoffrey Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. 

Mars colonists will have to deal with severe winds, extreme dust storms, and other environmental phenomena that will make adapting to life on the Red Planet an adventure unlike any undertaken by mankind. Credits: NASA/JPL/MRO
Mars colonists will have to deal with severe winds, extreme dust storms, and other environmental phenomena that will make adapting to life on the Red Planet an adventure unlike any undertaken by mankind. Miniature wind vortices called Martian dust devils will be a common occurrence. Spinning columns of rising air heated by the warm surface of Mars, lasting just a few minutes, dust devils full of loose red-colored dust abound. Credits: NASA/JPL/MRO

Partners in making history

NASA is actively seeking partnerships in their desire to send manned missions to Mars as early as the 2030s. The Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group published a report a few months ago on the science objectives proposed for the manned Journey to Mars missions by the scientific community and their feasibility. People and firms interested in contributing to the Journey to Mars should contact NASA to see how they can take part. 

NASA's InSight Mars lander After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science payload.
NASA has suspended the 2016 launch of InSight Mars lander following the unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science load. Expectations are for the InSight Mars lander to help lead the way for future missions and colonists heading to the Red Planet. Credits: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Journey to Mars is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California under the direction of the agency’s Mars Exploration Program. This is a very ambitious space program expected to lead the way for mankind to one day travel to Mars and take steps to stay forever. Presently, it has two robotic rovers and three orbiting spacecraft exploring the Red Planet and future plans include the launch of the InSight lander in 2018 and the Mars 2020 rover, which is currently in development. 

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This artist’s concept depicts the early Martian environment (left) as humans would like to see it– containing liquid water and a thicker atmosphere – versus the cold, dry, harsh environment seen at Mars now (right). NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution is in orbit above the Red Planet studying its upper atmosphere, ionosphere, interactions with the sun and solar wind and habitability for future colonists. Credits: NASA/JPL

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Makes Jupiter Orbit After Five Years Traveling Across the Solar System

Juno team still celebrating confirmation of successful insertion into Jupiter orbit

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This computer-generated image depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft firing its Leros-1b main engine. Credits: NASA/JPL

Space news (Space missions to Jupiter: NASA; Juno makes orbit around mighty Jupiter) – 370 million miles (596 million kilometers) from Earth, traveling at around 11 miles per second (17 kilometers per second) relative to the Sol, or 29 miles/second (46 kilometers/s) relative to Earth – 

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft above the north pole of Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL
This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft above the north pole of Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL

It’s a bold, confident step forward into the solar system for NASA and the human journey to the beginning of space and time. After traveling nearly 1.36 billion miles (2.2 billion kilometers) during a journey lasting almost five years, NASA scientists and engineers prepared the Juno spacecraft for a planned 45-minute main engine burn to slow the spacecraft by around 1,200 mph (540 meters per second). At this lesser speed, the spacecraft falls quietly into mighty Jupiter’s gravity well, by entering Jupiter orbital insertion at a more controlled velocity. During this pre-insertion phase mission, specialists in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California altered Juno’s altitude to point its main engine in the right direction for the maneuver. They also increased the spacecraft’s rate of rotation from 2 to 5 revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it. 

Portrait, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Washington, DC, July 29, 2009. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Portrait, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator, National Aeronautics, and Space Administration (NASA). Washington, DC, July 29, 2009. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.” 

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This infographic illustrates the radiation environments Juno has traveled through on its journey near Earth and in interplanetary space. Credits: NASA/JPL

At 8:18 p.m. PDT (11:18 p.m. EDT) on Monday, June 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft started its 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine to decrease velocity to allow for a safe Jupiter orbital insertion. 35 minutes later, at 8:53 p.m. PDT (11:53 p.m. EDT), NASA’s Juno team received data from the spacecraft confirming a successful insertion into orbit around mighty Jupiter. A little earlier than expected, but better early, than never at all.  

Description: Scott Bolton, Div. 15, Portrait, man, 1 image Date photographed: 12/7/04 Charge number: 68OH Publication: New Hire/Professional Announcement Contact name: Brenda Decker Photographed by: Larry Walther Department name: Division: (68)
Scott Bolton, principle investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Credits: NASA/JPL 

“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the 4th of July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.” 

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This is the final view taken by the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft before Juno’s instruments were powered down in preparation for orbit insertion on July 4. Credits: NASA/JPL

After the successful Jupiter orbital insertion, the team turned Juno so its three huge solar arrays, shaped like a windmill, could capture the sun’s rays on 18,698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy. At an average distance of around 484 million miles (778 million kilometers) from Sol, Jupiter is generally five times further from the sun than Earth, which means the amount of solar energy collected by Juno’s solar array’s about 25 times weaker. At this distance, despite recent advances in solar cell technology, Juno’s solar collectors only provide about 450 watts of power, enough to power four household light bulbs. 

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team members the mission they are looking for.” 

Next, the team will prepare Juno to conduct the science data collection phase of the mission. They need to do final testing of all spacecraft subsystems, calibrate science instruments, and collect some data to enable the next phase of Juno’s mission to Jupiter.  

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL
This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL

“Our official science collection phase begins in October, but we’ve figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that,” said Bolton. “Which when you’re talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here.” 

The Juno mission’s primary science objective is to uncover clues to the origin and evolution of mighty Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. Now, Juno will turn its suite of nine science instruments to the task of exploring the possible existence of a solid planetary core and mapping the gas giant’s extreme magnetic field. It will also measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere of Jupiter and observe its amazing, stunning auroras. If the mission goes as scripted, human knowledge and understanding of the birth and formation of giant planets will take a huge step forward, and the part Jupiter played in the origin and evolution of the solar system and life on Earth could be partly revealed. The knowledge we gain through our journey to Jupiter can even offer us useful, critical clues to the processes creating some of the bizarre creatures in the Planetary Zoo of Exoplanets.  

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This trio of Junocam views of Earth was taken during Juno’s close flyby on October 9, 2013. The leftmost view shows the southern two-thirds of South America. As the spacecraft moved eastward during its flyby, the Chilean coast and the snowy line of the Andes Mountains recedes toward the limb at left on the planet. The third image includes a view of the Argentinean coastline with reflections, or specular highlights, off the Rio Negro north of Golfo San Matias, as well as cloud formations over Antarctica. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Watch JunoCam

Join the conversation and help determine future targets for JunoCam, a visible light camera on board Juno. Right now, people around the world are talking about and voting on the images the spacecraft will take of Jupiter during its mission. They’re uploading personal images and data NASA mission specialists can use to help plan the days ahead for the Juno mission. We suggest you read the submission guidelines before submitting images or data to the official Juno website.  

Here people can read the latest news concerning Juno, watch a series of videos with announcer Bill Nye (The Science Guy) explaining the dangers and interesting things you need to know about Jupiter and its moon system and meet the team behind our journey to the biggest planet in the solar system. You can follow the story of the Juno mission from start to finish and find out about future plans for our visit. 

Watch this movie of Juno’s approach to Jupiter and moons between June 12 – 29. It starts with the spacecraft about 10 million miles from Jupiter and ends 3 million miles away from the gas giant.  

For millennium Jupiter was but a wandering star until Galileo observed transiting bodies change position with respect to the suspect star over the course of a few nights. Through these observations, he realized these bodies were moons orbiting a distant planet. He came to the revelation the Earth isn’t the center of the universe and forever changed the way we view our place in the cosmos.  

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Read and learn about magnetic lines of force emanating from supermassive black holes.

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