Hubble Space Telescope Sees Ancient Galaxy Cluster and Mysterious Object

Galaxy Cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508 and Mysterious Blue Arc
Image Credit: NASA / ESA /University of Florida, Gainsville / University of Missouri-Kansas City / UC Davis

In an article in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomers report a massive galaxy cluster 10 Billion light years away, the largest known at that distance, and a bright blue arc (gravitational lense?) perhaps 13 Billion light years away. The astronomers state that for that brightness and distance “…we expect to find no arcs over the entire sky as bright”. The abstract:

The galaxy cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508 at z = 1.75 is the most massive galaxy cluster yet discovered at z > 1.4 and the first cluster at this epoch for which the Sunyaev-Zel’Dovich effect has been observed. In this paper, we report on the discovery with Hubble Space Telescope imaging of a giant arc associated with this cluster. The curvature of the arc suggests that the lensing mass is nearly coincident with the brightest cluster galaxy, and the color is consistent with the arc being a star-forming galaxy. We compare the constraint on M 200 based upon strong lensing with Sunyaev-Zel’Dovich results, finding that the two are consistent if the redshift of the arc is z ~ 3. Finally, we explore the cosmological implications of this system, considering the likelihood of the existence of a strongly lensing galaxy cluster at this epoch in a ΛCDM universe. While the existence of the cluster itself can potentially be accommodated if one considers the entire volume covered at this redshift by all current high-redshift cluster surveys, the existence of this strongly lensed galaxy greatly exacerbates the long-standing giant arc problem. For standard ΛCDM structure formation and observed background field galaxy counts this lens system should not exist. Specifically, there should be no giant arcs in the entire sky as bright in F814W as the observed arc for clusters at z ≥ 1.75, and only ~0.3 as bright in F160W as the observed arc. If we relax the redshift constraint to consider all clusters at z ≥ 1.5, the expected number of giant arcs rises to ~15 in F160W, but the number of giant arcs of this brightness in F814W remains zero. These arc statistic results are independent of the mass of IDCS J1426.5+3508. We consider possible explanations for this discrepancy.


Soyuz TMA-03M Undocks and Returns to Earth.

Soyuz TMA-03 Undocking from the Mini Research Module (MRM-1)
Image Credit: NASA TV

The Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft undocked from the Mini-Research Module at the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:48 PM Saturday night, while flying above China. This brought Expedition 31 to a close and inaugurated Expedition 32 under the command of Gennady Padalka. The other two crew members on ISS are Russian Sergey Revin, and American Joe Acaba.

The deorbit burn occurred at 12:19 AM Phoenix time Sunday. Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, and ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers, returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz Descent Module. The landing in Zhezkaghan took place at 1:14 AM Phoenix time (0814 UTC).

The remainder of the year is heavily booked with activity:

  • 15 July – launch (with 17 July docking) of the Soyuz TMA-05M/31S spacecraft, carrying three additional members of Expedition 32 – Russian Yuri Malenchenko, American Suni Williams, and Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide.
  • 21 July – the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3) spacecraft will launch to the ISS, for a rendezvous and berthing to the ISS
  • 22 July – the Progress M-15M/47P spacecraft will undock from the Docking Compartment-1 (DC-1) module
  • 24 July – the Progress M-15M/47P spacecraft will perform a re-docking to the ISS to test a new Kurs-NA antenna.
  • 30 July – Progress M-15M will undock for the final time and reenter the atmosphere and burn up.
  • 1 August – Launch of Progress M-16M/48P, which will dock to the ISS just a few hours after launch to test a new fast-rendezvous profile.
  • 6 September – departure of the HTV-3 and burn up on reentry
  • 17 September – departure of Soyuz TMA-04M/30S with Gennady Padalka, Sergey Revin and Joe Acaba, marking the end of Expedition 32
  • 23 September – departure of Europe’s ATV-3 spacecraft
  • 5 October – Launch of the first Dragon flight under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract – known as SpX-1
  • 7 October – Docking of SpX-1

SpaceX and the Dragon Cargo to the ISS

Interior of Dragon Spacecraft Prior to Launch to ISS
Image Credit: NASA

NASA has release a series of images of the preparations leading up to the launch of Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch is scheduled for 30 April from Cape Canaveral and launch complex 40 at 9:22 AM Phoenix time (1622 UTC). The mission is designed to satisfy both the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program (COTS) level 2 and 3 requirements. Officially, the mission will be successful if it satisfies the COTS 2 requirements. All of us hope that both sets of requirements will be met, and the Dragon will deliver its cargo to the ISS.

NASA has released an overview of the Dragon mission along with a review of the objectives for the mission.

The Dragon is the only spacecraft with down mass capability other than the crewed Soyuz spacecraft. The Russian Progress, European Space Agency (ESA) ATV and Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV all burn up upon re-entry. The up mass and down mass manifest for Dragon include:

  • Going up:
  • 117 standard meals. 45 low sodium meals
  • Crew clothing
  • Pantry items
  • Module 9 nano-racks with student experiments
  • Spare cargo bags
  • Laptop, batteries, related supplies
  • “Official flight kit”
  • Going down:
  • “Crew preference items”
  • Hardware from several past experiments
  • Some ISS hardware bits
  • Some EVA-gear sized for previous crew members

Flight Events – International Space Station 2012

Here is the current calendar for 2012 for International Space Station as listed on the Forum at NASASpaceFlight on 2 September 2012:


  • Complete
  • March 23 – ATV-3 “Edoardo Amaldi” launch
  • March 28 – ATV-3 “Edoardo Amaldi” docking (to Zvezda)
  • April 4 – ISS orbit’s test raising by ATV-3 engines
  • April 19 – Progress M-14M undocking (from Pirs)
  • April 20 – Progress M-15M launch
  • April 22 – Progress M-15M docking (to Pirs)
  • April 25 – ISS orbit’s raising by ATV-3 engines
  • April – Progress M-14M deorbit
  • April 30 – Soyuz TMA-22 undocking (from Poisk) and landing [Shkaplerov, Ivanishin, Burbank]
  • May 22 – Dragon (SpX-D) launch
  • May 25 – Dragon (SpX-D) capture and berthing (to Harmony nadir) by SSRMS
  • May 31 (TBD) – Dragon (SpX-D) unberthing (from Harmony nadir) and release by SSRMS
  • May 15 – Soyuz TMA-04M launch [Padalka, Revin, Acaba]
  • May 17 – Soyuz TMA-04M docking (to Poisk)
  • July 1 – Soyuz TMA-03M undocking (from Rassvet) and landing [Kononenko, Kuipers, Pettit]
  • July 15 – Soyuz TMA-05M launch [Malenchenko, S.Williams, Hoshide]
  • July 17 – Soyuz TMA-05M docking (to Rassvet)
  • July 18 – ISS orbit’s raising by ATV-3 “Edoardo Amaldi” engines
  • July 21 – HTV-3 “Kounotori-3” launch
  • July 22 – Progress M-15M undocking (from Pirs) for test of new Kurs-NA antenn
  • July 24 – Progress M-15M docking (to Pirs)
  • July 27 – HTV-3 “Kounotori-3” capture and berthing (to Harmony nadir) by SSRMSJuly 30 – Progress M-15M undocking (from Pirs)
  • August 1 – Progress M-16M launch
  • August 2 – Progress M-16M docking (to Pirs)
  • August 16 – spacewalk (ISS Russian EVA-31) from Pirs airlock [Padalka, Malenchenko]
  • August 30 – spacewalk (ISS U.S. EVA-18) from Quest airlock [S.Williams, Hoshide]
  • September 4 (TBD) – spacewalk (ISS U.S. EVA-19) from Quest airlock [S.Williams, Hoshide]
  • September – HTV-3 “Kounotori-3” unberthing (from Harmony nadir) and release by SSRMS
  • September – HTV-3 “Kounotori-3” deorbit
  • September 12 – ISS orbit’s raising by ATV-3 engines
  • September 17 – Soyuz TMA-04M undocking (from Poisk) and landing [Padalka, Revin, Acaba]
  • September 25 – ATV-3 “Edoardo Amaldi” undocking (from Zvezda)
  • October 8 – Dragon (SpX-1) launch
  • October 10 – Dragon (SpX-1) capture and berthing (to Harmony nadir) by SSRMS
  • October 15 – Soyuz TMA-06M launch [Novitskiy, Tarelkin, Ford]
  • October 17 – ISS orbit’s raising by Zvezda engines
  • October 23 – Soyuz TMA-06M launch [Novitskiy, Tarelkin, Ford]
  • October 25 – Soyuz TMA-06M docking (to Poisk)
  • October 28 – Dragon (SpX-1) unberthing (from Harmony nadir), release by SSRMS and landing
  • October 31 – Progress M-17M launch
  • October 31 – Progress M-17M docking (to Zvezda)
  • November 19 – Soyuz TMA-05M undocking (from Rassvet) and landing [Malenchenko, S.Williams, Hoshide]
  • December 13 – ISS orbit’s reboost by Progress M-17M engines
  • December 19 – Soyuz TMA-07M launch [Romanenko, Hadfield, Marshburn]
  • December 21 – Soyuz TMA-07M docking (to Rassvet)
  • Upcoming


  • January 17 – ISS orbit’s reboost by Progress M-17M engines
  • February 6 – ISS orbit’s reboost by Progress M-17M engines
  • February 10 – Progress M-16M undocking (from Pirs)
  • February 11 – Progress M-18M launch
  • February 11 – Progress M-18M docking (to Pirs)
  • March 1 – Dragon (SpX-2) launch
  • March 3 – Dragon (SpX-2) capture and berthing (to Harmony nadir) by SSRMS
  • March 15 – Soyuz TMA-06M undocking (from Poisk) and landing [Novitskiy, Tarelkin, Ford]
  • March 28 – Soyuz TMA-08M launch [Vinogradov, Misurkin, Cassidy] and docking (to Poisk)

Updated 31 December 2012

Launch Schedule – Japan 2012

Here is the current calendar for 2012 for Japan’s satellites and rocket launch vehicles as listed on the Forum at NASASpaceFlight on 15 November 2012:


  • Complete
  • May 18 – H-2A – (F-21: 202 config. with 4/4D-LC faring) GCOM-W1″SHIZUKU”; Kompsat-3 (Arirang-3); SDS-4; Houryuu-2 – 1639 UTC
  • July 21 – H-2B (F-3) – HTV3 – 0218 UTC
  • September 9 – (PSLV-C21) – Proiteres – 04:23 UTC
  • Upcoming


  • January 27 (04:00-06:00 UTC) – H-2A (F-22) – IGS radar-4; IGS Optical-5 demo (Test version)

Last updated 31 December 2012

2011 Launches

TMA-02M Undocks and Returns Safely from the ISS

TMA-02M Undock
TMA-02M undocks from the ISS
Image Credit: NASA TV

TMA-02M Descent
TMA-02M fireball during descent
Image Credit: NASA TV

TMA-02M Descent
TMA-02M on Main Parachute
Image Credit: NASA TV

The modern Russian Soyuz TMA-02M undocked from the International Space Station and returned safely to Kazakhstan late yesterday evening.

From the NASA press release:

Three International Space Station crew members safely returned to Earth on Monday, wrapping up nearly six months in space during which NASA and its international partners celebrated the 11th anniversary of continuous residence and work aboard the station.

Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum, Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sergei Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz spacecraft in frigid conditions on the central steppe of Kazakhstan at 8:26 p.m. CST Nov. 21 (8:26 a.m. Kazakhstan time, Nov. 22). The trio arrived at the station on June 9. They spent 167 days in space and 165 days on the complex. Volkov, a two-time station crew member, now has accumulated 366 days in space.

Before leaving the station, Fossum handed over command to NASA’s Dan Burbank, who leads Expedition 30. Burbank and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov of Russia will continue research and maintenance aboard the station.

The remaining Expedition 30 crew members, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, are scheduled to launch Dec. 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and dock with the station on Dec. 23.

Hayabusa – Dust From Itokawa – III

The issue of the journal Science from 26 August 2011 vol 333 pp 1113-1131 has six articles on the Hayabusa sample return mission from the asteroid Itokawa. The first article is discussed here, the second here, and this is the third:

Neutron Activation Analysis of a Particle from Asteroid Itokawa

A single grain from the Hayabusa mission has been analyzed by instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). The grain was mainly olivine, with minor amounts of plagioclase, troilite and metal.

This grain was one of the largest returned by the Hayabusa mission. The scanning electron microprobe (SEM) results show this to be a large crystal of olivine. Small pieces of silicate were attached to the surface. Radioactive analysis indicates that the grain is relatively homogeneous.

Comparison of the INAA analysis of this grain from Itokawa with from an LL6 chondrite (St Severin) and an L6 chondrite (Modoc) indicated an elemental abundance discrepancy.

Iron (Fe) and Scandium (Sc) abundance can be determined reliably, and the ratio is determined by the differentiation of iron into the core of a body during its formation. In particular, the Fe/Sc ratios from the Earth, Moon, Mars and 4Vesta are lower than those of chondrites. The ratios from Itokawa are higher than those from terrestrial olivine, and are thus from an extraterrestrial origin. This increases confidence that Hayabusa did return samples from Itokawa.

Nickel (Ni) and Cobalt (Co) typically diffuse into a metal phase. The ratio of Ni/Co in bulk chondrites plot along a line with carbonaceous chondrites. Samples from the Earth’s crust are relatively depleted in Nickel compared to Cobalt, and thus are distinguished from the grain returned from Itokawa.

In addition, Iridium (Ir) abundances were estimated, and the result indicates that the sample must have condensed from a fractionated nebula gas where refractory siderophiles such as Iridium had already condensed and been removed.