Massimo Luciani

Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft blasting off atop an Atlas V rocket starting its Orb-4 mission (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago the Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft blasted off atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. After about twenty minutes it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and got in route. This is its fourth official mission, Orbital-4 or simply Orb-4 as well as CRS OA-4, to transport supplies to the International Space Station for NASA.

One of the very high resolution pictures of Sputnik Planum on Pluto (Image NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

NASA released the first very high resolution photographs showing close-ups of ​​the dwarf planet Pluto’s surface. These are images captured by the New Horizons space probe during its extraordinary July 14, 2015 flyby. In recent months, NASA already received high-resolution photographs but these ones are part of a series of shots that was intended to capture the details of Pluto’s surface, in this case the area called Sputnik Planum.

The galaxy cluster MACSJ0416.1-2403 observed by the Hubble Space Telescope with the galaxy nicknamed Tayna in the inset (Image NASA, ESA, and L. Infante (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile))

An article published in the journal “Astrophysical Journal” describes the discovery of the faintest galaxy in the early universe. According to this study, this galaxy was born when the universe was “only” about 400 million years old and for this reason was nicknamed Tayna, which means “first born” in the Aymara language. To detect its light the gravitational lensing effect of a galaxy cluster was used. That allowed to capture the extremely dim light of a total of 22 ancient galaxies using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.

The LISA Pathfinder space probe blasting off atop a Vega rocket (Photo ESA–Stephane Corvaja)

A few hours ago ESA’s LISA Pathfinder space probe was successfully launched atop a Vega rocket from the Kourou space center in French Guiana. After about an hour and 45 minutes it separated from the rocket’s upper stage and activated to begin its long journey thanks to its propulsion module.

LISA Pathfinder entered an elliptical orbit where it will make a series of maneuvers that within a few weeks will take it to the area called L1, where the gravity of the Earth and the Sun get balanced with the other forces acting on the probe. The propulsion module will be disconnected after exhausting its function and the probe will remain in the L1 area, about 1.5 million kilometers (about 900,000 miles) from Earth.

The Orions spacecraft's service module built by ESA moved in the USA (Photo NASA)

NASA provided some new information about the first flight test for its Space Launch System (SLS) with the Orion spacecraft, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The agency did it in the occasion of the arrival to the Space Power Facility (SPF) in Sandusky, Ohio, of the test version of the Orion’s service module built by ESA known as European Service Module (ESM). This will allow NASA to begin testing the new spacecraft in its full configuration, a crucial step in the preparation of the EM-1 mission.