lundi 24 juillet 2017

Groundbreaking for an international neutrino experiment

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

24 Jul 2017

Image above: This 11-meter high prototype at CERN will refine neutrino detector technology. The final DUNE detectors will be 20 times larger than this prototype and located in the new LBNF cavern in the United States. (Image: M. Brice, J. Ordan/CERN).

Today, construction started on an international mega-science facility that will employ the expertise of CERN to study the properties of neutrinos; ghostly fundamental particles that play by an unknown set of rules. The 1.6km-deep experimental cavern is part of the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility, an international research centre located in the United States that will eventually host four giant neutrino detectors. Researchers at CERN are currently building prototypes for these detectors and experimenting with new technologies that will enhance our pictures of these ghostly cosmic nomads.

“Some of the open questions in fundamental physics today are related to extremely fascinating and elusive particles called neutrinos,” says CERN’s Director-General Fabiola Gianotti. “The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility in the United States, whose start of construction is officially inaugurated with today’s ground-breaking ceremony, brings together the international particle physics community to explore some of the most interesting properties of neutrinos.’

Small Particles, Big Science: The International LBNF/DUNE Project

Video above: This animation explains how the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility will operate and supply neutrino beams to the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) 1300km from the source. (Video: Fermilab).

Neutrinos are among the most abundant fundamental particle in the universe, but little is known about them because they rarely interact with ordinary matter. Previous research has shown that neutrinos play by a different set of rules than all other particles, giving scientist hope that neutrinos might be the key to many lingering questions about the origin and evolution of the cosmos.

“Studying neutrinos could provide answers to some major mysteries in physics, such as why is the Universe made entirely of matter and not antimatter,” says Filippo Resnati, a CERN researcher working at the Neutrino Platform. “We need a powerful neutrino beam and huge detectors if we want to measure and understand their properties.”

Neutrinos can traverse thousands of kilometers through rock and dirt before bumping into a terrestrial atom. While this aloofness makes neutrinos incredibly difficult to detect, it is also the principle underlying the Deep Under Ground Neutrino Experiment, which will be the first tenant in the new LBNF cavern. As neutrinos travel, they change their properties—a phenomenon which is little understood. The LBNF/DUNE Experiment will catch and measure neutrinos generated by a proton beam at Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois, before and after their 1300km subterranean sprint to Sanford Lab located in Lead, South Dakota. CERN’s Neutrino Platform is hosting an international community of researchers as they design and build prototypes for DUNE’s far detectors.

“Building and testing large prototypes is a necessary intermediary step for a project as massive as LBNF/DUNE,” Marzio Nessi, the head of CERN’s Neutrino Platform saiys. “We’re figuring out how to adapt the existing technology to thrive inside a house-sized detector. Once we’ve proven that it can work, we will then scale it up by a factor of 25 for the final DUNE detectors.”

Image above: Workers stand on scaffolding inside the DUNE prototype (ProtoDUNE). The metallic paneling will act as an expandable tank for the liquid argon, which will generate electrons and light when a particle interacts with the atoms of the liquid. (Image: Maximilien Brice, Julien Ordan/CERN).

The CERN prototypes are refining a detection technology originally developed by Carlo Rubbia, a Nobel prize winning physicist and former CERN Director General. Hatched panels of delicate wires and photon sensors record the electrical and light signals generated by neutrinos as they crash into argon atoms. This information enables physicists to triangulate the positions of neutrinos and measure their properties. These panels will be submerged in liquid argon in one prototype, and the other prototype will test a newer technology which uses electron multipliers suspended in argon vapor.

In addition to building and testing the detector prototypes for LBNF/DUNE, CERN will serve as the European hub for neutrino physicists working on research based in the United States and elsewhere in the world. CERN has a rich history of neutrino research and contributed to past discoveries, such as the direct observation of neutrino shape-shifting made by the OPERA experiment at Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy. CERN also provides the infrastructure for DUNE researchers to build and test their detectors using CERN’s test beam facility. This is the first-time CERN joins projects located in the United States, with an active role designing final DUNE detectors and building the cryogenics infrastructure.

Fly above ProtoDUNE at CERN Neutrino Platform

Video above: Take a look at the CERN Neutrino platform with the eye of a drone. The huge red cube is the ProtoDUNE, a prototype for the DUNE detectors which will be installed in South-Dakota, USA, in the new Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility cavern. (Video: CERN).

“Things are changing,” Resnati said. “CERN’s mission is to seek answers to the big questions in physics, and we want to be part of this worldwide quest for knowledge. We’re pulling together as a global community of physicists and making it happen.”

The groundbreaking ceremony at Sanford Lab in South Dakota starting at 11:20 pm CEST will be webcast. Watch the webcast!


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

Long Baseline Neutrino Facility:

Neutrino Platform:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Images (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Sarah Charley/Corinne Pralavorio.


Launch Preps in Kazakhstan; Cancer Therapies Researched on Station

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

July 24, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

A new International Space Station crew is less than a week away from beginning a 4-1/2 month mission living and working in space. The trio from the United States, Russia and Italy is in Kazakhstan counting down to a Friday launch at 11:41 a.m. EDT inside the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft.

Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy will command the Soyuz vehicle during the six-hour, 19-minute ride from Earth to the station’s Rassvet module. He will be flanked by crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA and astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency. NASA TV will cover the launch and docking activities live.

Meanwhile, the Expedition 52 crew orbiting Earth now explored how microgravity impacts cancer therapies. The trio also worked on various maintenance tasks throughout the orbital lab.

Image above: Expedition 52-53 crew members (from left) Paolo Nespoli, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Randy Bresnik, stand in front of the Soyuz rocket that will launch them to space. Image Credits: Andrey Shelepin/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

New space research aboard the station is providing insights that may accelerate development of drugs that target only cancer cells. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson peered at cells today through a microscope for the cancer study that started in April this year. Results may create more effective treatments for cancer patients on Earth.

Jack Fischer of NASA moved a variety of science gear around and cleaned a mouse habitat. He also swapped out a hard drive for an experiment that measures the composition of meteors orbiting and entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Related links:

Expedition 52:

Cancer study:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned),  Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

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Saturn Surprises As Cassini Continues its Grand Finale

NASA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

July 24, 2017

Image above: This mosaic combines views captured by Cassini as it made the first dive of the mission's Grand Finale on April 26, 2017, and shows details in bands and swirls in the atmosphere. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.

As NASA's Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding -- so far -- that the planet's magnetic field has no discernable tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn's day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini's mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn's atmosphere.

Image above: Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Cassini is now in the 15th of 22 weekly orbits that pass through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings. The spacecraft began its finale on April 26 and will continue its dives until Sept. 15, when it will make a mission-ending plunge into Saturn's atmosphere.

"Cassini is performing beautifully in the final leg of its long journey," said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Its observations continue to surprise and delight as we squeeze out every last bit of science that we can get."

Image above: Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Cassini scientists are thrilled as well -- and surprised in some cases -- with the observations being made by the spacecraft in the finale. "The data we are seeing from Cassini's Grand Finale are every bit as exciting as we hoped, although we are still deep in the process of working out what they are telling us about Saturn and its rings," said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker at JPL.

Early Magnetic Field Analysis

Based on data collected by Cassini's magnetometer instrument, Saturn's magnetic field appears to be surprisingly well-aligned with the planet's rotation axis. The tilt is much smaller than 0.06 degrees -- which is the lower limit the spacecraft's magnetometer data placed on the value prior to the start of the Grand Finale.

This observation is at odds with scientists' theoretical understanding of how magnetic fields are generated. Planetary magnetic fields are understood to require some degree of tilt to sustain currents flowing through the liquid metal deep inside the planets (in Saturn's case, thought to be liquid metallic hydrogen). With no tilt, the currents would eventually subside and the field would disappear.

Image above: Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Any tilt to the magnetic field would make the daily wobble of the planet's deep interior observable, thus revealing the true length of Saturn's day, which has so far proven elusive.

"The tilt seems to be much smaller than we had previously estimated and quite challenging to explain," said Michele Dougherty, Cassini magnetometer investigation lead at Imperial College, London. "We have not been able to resolve the length of day at Saturn so far, but we're still working on it."

The lack of a tilt may eventually be rectified with further data. Dougherty and her team believe some aspect of the planet's deep atmosphere might be masking the true internal magnetic field. The team will continue to collect and analyze data for the remainder of the mission, including during the final plunge into Saturn.

Image above: This colorful spectrogram represents data collected by Cassini's Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument as it crossed through Saturn's D ring on May 28, 2017. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Iowa.

The magnetometer data will also be evaluated in concert with Cassini's measurements of Saturn's gravity field collected during the Grand Finale. Early analysis of the gravity data collected so far shows discrepancies compared with parts of the leading models of Saturn's interior, suggesting something unexpected about the planet's structure is awaiting discovery.

Sampling Saturn

In addition to its investigation of the planet's interior, Cassini has now obtained the first-ever samples of the planet's atmosphere and main rings, which promise new insights about their composition and structure. The spacecraft's cosmic dust analyzer (CDA) instrument has collected many nanometer-size ring particles while flying through the planet-ring gap, while its ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS) has sniffed the outermost atmosphere, called the exosphere.

During Cassini's first dive through the gap on April 26, the spacecraft was oriented so its large, saucer-shaped antenna would act as a shield against oncoming ring particles that might cause damage. While at first it appeared that there were essentially no particles in the gap, scientists later determined the particles there are very small and could be detected using the CDA instrument.

Image above: This false-color view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft gazes toward the rings beyond Saturn's sunlit horizon, where a thin haze can be seen along the limb. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

The cosmic dust analyzer was later allowed to peek out from behind the antenna during Cassini's third of four passes through the innermost of Saturn's main rings, the D ring, on June 29. During Cassini's first two passes through the inner D ring, the particle environment there was found to be benign. This prompted mission controllers to relax the shielding requirement for one orbit, in hopes of capturing ring particles there using CDA. As the spacecraft passed through the ring, the CDA instrument successfully captured some of the tiniest particles there, which the team expects will provide significant information about their composition.

During the spacecraft's final five orbits, as well as it final plunge, the INMS instrument will obtain samples deeper down in the atmosphere. Cassini will skim through the outer atmosphere during these passes, and INMS is expected to send particularly important data on the composition of Saturn's atmosphere during the final plunge.

Cassini Grand Finale. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Amazing Images

Not to be outdone, Cassini's imaging cameras have been hard at work, returning some of the highest-resolution views of the rings and planet they have ever obtained. For example, close-up views of Saturn's C ring -- which features mysterious bright bands called plateaus -- reveal surprisingly different textures in neighboring sections of the ring. The plateaus appear to have a streaky texture, whereas adjacent regions appear clumpy or have no obvious structure at all. Ring scientists believe the new level of detail may shed light on why the plateaus are there, and what is different about the particles in them.

On two of Cassini's close passes over Saturn, on April 26 and June 29, the cameras captured ultra-close views of the cloudscape racing past, showing the planet from closer than ever before. Imaging scientists have combined images from these dives into two new image mosaics and a movie sequence. (Specifically, the previously released April 26 movie was updated to greatly enhance its contrast and sharpness.)

Image above: Cassini captured the near-infrared images in this mosaic on June 29, 2017, as it raced toward the gap between Saturn and its rings. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has orbited Saturn since arriving in 2004 for an up-close study of the planet, its rings and moons, and its vast magnetosphere. Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean with indications of hydrothermal activity within the moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on another moon, Titan.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

More information about the Cassini mission:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Preston Dyches.

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NASA Mission Surfs through Waves in Space to Understand Space Weather

NASA - Van Allen Probes Mission patch.

July 24, 2017

The space surrounding our planet is full of restless charged particles and roiling electric and magnetic fields, which create waves around Earth. One type of wave, plasmaspheric hiss, is particularly important for removing charged particles from the Van Allen radiation belts, a seething coil of particles encircling Earth, which can interfere with satellites and telecommunications. A new study published in Journal of Geophysical Research using data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes spacecraft has discovered that hiss is more complex than previously understood.

The new study looked at a newly identified population of hiss waves at a lower frequency than usually studied. These low-frequency hiss waves are particularly good at cleaning out high-energy particles — those that can cause damage to satellites — from the radiation belts. The authors of the study noticed that low-frequency waves are actually a separate and unique population, tending to cluster in different regions around Earth compared to their high-frequency counterparts.

Image above: The two populations of hiss, low and high frequency, inhabit two separate regions in near-Earth space. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith.

“You want to know the state of the Van Allen radiation belts so you know how long satellites will last, and part of that is understanding the state of the waves,” said David Malaspina, lead author and researcher at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado. “We found the low frequency hiss interacts more effectively with higher energy electrons and can knock those electrons out of the belts more efficiently.”

In order to protect satellites, NASA wants to better understand this region of near-Earth space. The space environment surrounding Earth is filled with plasma — clouds of charged particles — whose movement is determined not only by gravity, but also by electromagnetics. Constantly changing electric and magnetic fields rolling through space interact with the particles, creating waves in the plasma (like hiss), which are integral to sculpting the near-Earth space environment.

To understand the ever-changing near-Earth particle ecosystem and make better space weather predictions, scientists create models of the plasma waves. Incorporating this new information will make for better simulations. Homayon Aryan, researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said, “Most current wave models do not include this low frequency population of hiss waves. This is definitely an improvement and will allow us to understand the region better and compare theoretical predictions with observations more effectively.”

Van Allen Probes in orbit. Image Credit: NASA

Hiss is aptly named: its typical frequencies are right in the middle of the audible range, and it sounds like static noise when picked up by radio receivers. No one knows with certainty how low-frequency hiss waves originate, but current theories suggest that they form when charged particles are injected into the region of cold near-Earth plasma known as the plasmasphere. NASA’s Van Allen Probes spacecraft study hiss and other plasma waves as part of their work to understand the complex interactions of particles and electromagnetic fields in near-Earth space.

Related Links:

Journal of Geophysical Research: http://http//

Learn more about NASA’s Van Allen Probes:

Learn more about plasma waves:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Mara Johnson-Groh.


vendredi 21 juillet 2017

Crew Conducts Research to Mitigate the Human Body’s Response to Spaceflight

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

July 21, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The crew of Expedition 52 wrapped up an intensive week of research on Friday, concentrating on studies in the field of human health and performance.

On Thursday, the crew conducted their second ultrasound for the Sprint investigation, which studies the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training to minimize the loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular fitness during long-duration space excursions. Using meticulous thigh and calf scans through remote guidance from the ground team, these results will help determine what changes astronauts are experiencing in microgravity and how best to manage those fluctuations for future missions.

Image above: Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer assess spaceflight-induced changes in muscle volume with the Sprint study.

Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer today will gather and transfer Fluid Shifts hardware to the station’s Russian segment in preparation for Fluid Shifts Chibis (Lower Body Negative Pressure) operations that begin on Monday. Fluid Shifts investigates the causes for lasting physical changes to astronaut’s eyes—a side effect of human space exploration in a microgravity environment. It’s theorized that the headward fluid shift in space-faring explorers contributes to these changes. In response, a lower body negative pressure device is being evaluated to see if it can perhaps reverse this fluid shift. As an added bonus, what investigators glean from this study may contribute to the development of countermeasures against lasting changes in vision and prevention of eye damage.

The Expedition 52-53 crew that will lift off to the International Space Station within a week is finalizing preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, along with astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli, are slated to launch July 28 at 11:41 a.m. EDT for a six-hour journey to the orbiting laboratory. NASA TV will cover all the activities, so tune in.

Related links:



Fluid Shifts:

Expedition 52:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams.


Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist, week of July 17, 2017

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

July 21, 2017

(Highlights: Week of July 17, 2017) - Crew members on the International Space Station spend a lot of time studying human physiology to keep future space travelers safe on long journeys and improve life for people on Earth.

Astronauts completed a session for the Effects of Long-Duration Microgravity on Fine Motor Skills (Fine Motor Skills) investigation. Fine motor skills are crucial for successfully interacting with touch-based technologies, repairing sensitive equipment and a variety of other tasks. The investigation is the first fine motor skills study to measure long-term microgravity exposure, different phases of microgravity adaptation, and sensorimotor recovery after returning to Earth’s gravity. The investigation involves a series of interactive tasks on a touchscreen tablet and may have wide-reaching benefits for elderly patients, people with motor disorders or patients with brain injuries on Earth undergoing rehabilitation for conditions that impair fine motor control.

Image above: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson posted this image to her Twitter account (@AstroPeggy) of her storing blood samples in the International Space Station's ultra-cold freezer for eventual return to Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA is studying how spaceflight changes the body's shape and size while in orbit. The Quantification of In-Flight Physical Changes – Anthropometry and Neutral Body Posture (Body Measures) investigation collects photos and videos as well as measurements of all body segments (i.e., chest, waist, hip, arms, legs, etc.) from astronauts before, during and after visits to the space station. Body mass is also recorded.

Long-term changes in crewmembers’ bodies could require new designs for suits, clothing, and work stations to maximize health and efficiency during future space missions. The investigation also could help scientists understand the effects of prolonged bed rest, which produces physiological changes similar to those experienced in microgravity. Results could improve the Neutral Body Posture template, based on the normal curvature of the spine, which is used in a wide range of design standards for ergonomic equipment and medical care.

Space station astronauts continued more research into bone health, completing a set of ultrasounds for the Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study (Sprint). This NASA Human Research Program study evaluates the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training to maintain the health of crew members -- minimizing muscle and bone loss and maintaining cardiovascular function during long-duration missions.

Image above: NASA astronaut Jack Fischer takes an ultrasound of his eyes during a routine medical check. Image Credit: NASA.

Ultrasound scans are used to evaluate spaceflight-induced changes in the muscle volume. When the study is complete, investigators expect to provide an integrated resistance and aerobic exercise training protocol capable of maintaining muscle, bone, and cardiovascular health while reducing total exercise time over the course of a long-duration spaceflight. This will provide valuable information in support of the long-term goal of protecting human fitness for even longer space exploration missions. Data gathered from the investigation also may help scientists develop treatments to aid in muscle, bone and heart health on Earth.

Space to Ground: A Giant Leap: 07/21/2017

Video above: NASA's Space to Ground is a weekly update on what is happening on the International Space Station. Social media users can post with #spacetoground to ask questions or make a comment. Video Credit: NASA.

Other investigations showing progress this week included Magnetic 3D Cell Culture for Biological Research in Microgravity (Magnetic 3D Cell Culturing), Capillary Structures for Exploration Life Support (Capillary Structures), Cardio Ox, MELFI-2, ISS-Ham Radio, Dose Tracker and Rodent Research-5.

Related links:

Fine Motor Skills:

Body Measures:


Magnetic 3D Cell Culturing:

Capillary Structures:

Cardio Ox:


ISS-Ham Radio:

Dose Tracker:

Rodent Research-5:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 51 & 52.

Best regards,

Hubble’s Hunting Dog Galaxy

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 21, 2017

Tucked away in the small northern constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs) is the galaxy NGC 4242, shown here as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy lies some 30 million light-years from us. At this distance from Earth, actually not all that far on a cosmic scale, NGC 4242 is visible to anyone armed with even a basic telescope, as British astronomer William Herschel found when he discovered the galaxy in 1788.

This image shows the galaxy’s bright center and the surrounding dimmer and more diffuse “fuzz.” Despite appearing to be relatively bright in this image, studies have found that NGC 4242 is actually relatively dim (it has a moderate-to-low surface brightness and low luminosity) and also supports a low rate of star formation. The galaxy also seems to have a weak bar of stars cutting through its asymmetric center, and a very faint and poorly-defined spiral structure throughout its disk. But if NGC 4242 is not all that remarkable, as with much of the Universe, it is still a beautiful and ethereal sight.

Hubble Space Telescope

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

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

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