Voyager 1 & SpaceX | SciByte 136

Voyager 1 & SpaceX | SciByte 136

Hello everyone and welcome back to SciByte!

We take a look at Voyager 1 reading a tsunami wave from the sun, SpaceX launching satellites into space and testing new reusable systems, story and spacecraft updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Voyager 1 Sees Another Interstellar Tsunami

  • NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a new “tsunami wave” from the sun as it sails through interstellar space
  • Such waves are what led scientists to the conclusion, in the fall of 2013, that Voyager had indeed left our sun’s bubble, entering a new frontier
  • Interstellar Tsunami
  • “Normally, interstellar space is like a quiet lake,But when our sun has a burst, it sends a shock wave outward that reaches Voyager about a year later. The wave causes the plasma surrounding the spacecraft to sing.” | Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology
  • Data from this newest tsunami wave generated by our sun confirm that Voyager is in interstellar space
  • Coronal Mass Ejection
  • Our sun goes through periods of increased activity, where it explosively ejects material from its surface, flinging it outward
  • These events, called coronal mass ejections, generate shock, or pressure, waves.
  • Three such waves have reached Voyager 1 since it entered interstellar space in 2012
  • The first was too small to be noticed when it occurred and was only discovered later, but the second was clearly registered by the spacecraft’s cosmic ray instrument in March of 2013
  • In 2013, thanks to the second tsunami wave, the team acquired evidence that Voyager had been flying for more than a year through plasma that was 40 times denser than measured before – a telltale indicator of interstellar space
  • Now, the team has new readings from a third wave from the sun, first registered in March of this year
  • Frequency
  • The plasma wave instrument can detect oscillations of the plasma electrons
  • “The tsunami wave rings the plasma like a bell … While the plasma wave instrument lets us measure the frequency of this ringing, the cosmic ray instrument reveals what struck the bell – the shock wave from the sun.” | Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology
  • This ringing of the plasma bell is what led to the key evidence showing Voyager had entered interstellar space, denser plasma oscillates faster, the team was able to figure out the density of the plasma
  • Of Note
  • These data show that the density of the plasma is similar to what was measured previously, confirming the spacecraft is in interstellar space
  • The mission has not left the solar system, it has yet to reach a final halo of comets surrounding our sun, but it broke through the wind-blown bubble, or heliosphere, encasing our sun
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Sun sends more ‘tsunami waves’ to Voyager 1 |


SpaceX Launches Telecom Satellites

  • SpaceX successfully launched six ORBCOMM advanced telecommunications satellites into orbit on Monday, July 14, to significantly upgrade the speed and capacity of their existing data relay network.
  • Testing the Rocket Booster Reentry
  • They also used this launch opportunity to try and test the reusability of the Falcon 9′s first stage and its landing system while splashing down in the ocean
  • However, the booster did not survive the splashdown. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported that the rocket booster reentry, landing burn and leg deployment worked well, the hull of the first stage “lost integrity right after splashdown
  • Musk tweeted. “Detailed review of rocket telemetry needed to tell if due to initial splashdown or subsequent tip over and body slam.”
  • SpaceX wanted to test the “flyback” ability to the rocket, slowing down the descent of the rocket with thrusters and deploying the landing legs for future launches so the first stage can be reused
  • The previous test of the landing system was successful, but the choppy seas destroyed the stage and prevented recovery
  • The Future
  • The six satellites launched are the first part of what the company hopes will be a 17-satellite constellation. They hope to have all 17 satellites in orbit by the end of the 2014
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Orbcomm OG2 | Falcon 9 Satellite Launch | Launch
  • YouTube | Orbcomm OG2 | Falcon 9 Satellite Launch | Seperation
  • YouTube | Orbcomm OG2 | Falcon 9 Satellite Launch | In Space
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • SpaceX Launches Six Commercial Satellites on Falcon 9; Landing Test Ends in “Kaboom” |


How Many Scientists Publish Papers?

  • A new study finds that very few scientists – fewer than 1% manage to publish a paper every year.
  • But these scientists dominate the research journals, having their names on 41% of all papers.
  • They looked at papers published between 1996 and 2011 by 15 million scientists worldwide in many disciplines
  • This research, published on 9 July in PLOS ONE, was led by epidemiologist John Ioannidis of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, with analysis of Elsevier’s Scopus database by colleagues Kevin Boyack and Richard Klavans at SciTech Strategies
  • By The Numbers
  • The ranks of scientists who repeatedly published more than one paper per year thin out dramatically
  • Two or more: 68,221
  • Three or more: 37,953
  • Four or more: 23,342
  • Five or more: 15,464
  • 10 or more: 3269
  • How Does That Make Sense?
  • Many of these prolific scientists are likely the heads of laboratories or research groups; they bring in funding, supervise research, and add their names to the numerous papers that result
  • Others may be scientists with enough job security and time to do copious research themselves from highly productive labs
  • There is also a lot of grunt work behind these papers, for example doctoral students may be enrolled in high numbers, offering a cheap workforce
  • Those doctoral students might only get their name published on only one or a few papers and may spend years on research that yields
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • The 1% of scientific publishing | Science/AAAS | News

— Updates —

HIV Detected in ‘Cured’ ‘Mississippi Baby

  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • SciByte 84 | HIV & SpaceX Troubles | March 5, 2013
  • SciByte 123 | HIV Treatment & European Dinosaur | March 11, 2014](
  • The child known as the ‘Mississippi baby’ — an infant seemingly cured of HIV that was reported as a case study of a prolonged remission of HIV infection now has detectable levels of HIV after more than two years of not taking antiretroviral therapy without evidence of virus
  • History
  • The child was born prematurely in a Mississippi clinic in 2010 to an HIV-infected mother who did not receive antiretroviral medication during pregnancy and was not diagnosed with HIV infection until the time of delivery
  • Because of the high risk of HIV exposure, the infant was started at 30 hours of age on liquid, triple-drug antiretroviral treatment.
  • Testing confirmed within several days that the baby had been infected with HIV. At two weeks of age, the baby was discharged from the hospital and continued on liquid antiretroviral therapy
  • The baby continued on antiretroviral treatment until 18 months of age, when the child was lost to follow up and no longer received treatment
  • When the child was again seen by medical staff five months later, blood samples revealed undetectable HIV levels (less than 20 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (copies/mL)) and no HIV-specific antibodies
  • The child continued to do well in the absence of antiretroviral medicines and was free of detectable HIV for more than two years
  • Unfortunate New Findings
  • During a routine clinical care visit earlier this month, the child, now nearly 4 years of age, was found to have detectable HIV levels in the blood
  • Repeat viral load blood testing performed 72 hours later confirmed this finding
  • Additionally, the child had decreased levels of a key component of a normal immune system, and the presence of HIV antibodies — signals of an actively replicating pool of virus in the body.
  • Based on these results, the child was again started on antiretroviral therapy.
  • To date, the child is tolerating the medication with no side effects and treatment is decreasing virus levels
  • Genetic sequencing of the virus indicated that the child’s HIV infection was the same strain acquired from the mother
  • What This Means
  • In light of the new findings, researchers must now work to better understand what enabled the child to remain off treatment for more than two years without detectable virus or measurable immunologic response
  • Researchers are hoping to find out what might be done to extend the period of sustained HIV remission in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. Since typically, when treatment is stopped, HIV levels rebound within weeks, not years
  • “The prolonged lack of viral rebound, in the absence of HIV-specific immune responses, suggests that the very early therapy not only kept this child clinically well, but also restricted the number of cells harboring HIV infection,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, M.D., professor of molecular medicine, pediatrics and medicine at the University of Massachusetts
  • The results to indicate that early antiretroviral treatment in this HIV-infected infant did not completely eliminate the reservoir of HIV-infected cells that was established upon infection
  • The Clinical Trial
  • At the same time the results were announced in March, a clinical study was announced that would follow a similar treatment
  • The researchers planning the clinical trial will now need to take this new development into account, the case may have considerably limited its development and averted the need for antiretroviral medication over a considerable period
  • “Scientifically, this development reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body. The NIH remains committed to moving forward with research on a cure for HIV infection.” | NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • ‘Mississippi Baby’ now has detectable HIV, researchers find | ScienceDaily
  • Researchers Describe First ‘Functional HIV Cure’ in an Infant |


ISEE3 Reboot Project

  • The Low Down
  • The previous ‘problems’ with the propulsion tanks were turned loose upon the internet looking for experts in various fields to help come up with ideas and solutions
  • One idea that came up was that that there would have been some ‘vapor lock’ where come fuel gasified in the lines
  • The team then used those experts to come up with a plan to heat and pulse the propulsion systems to hopefully clear the lines.
  • The current window of opportunity to test this is Wed, July 16
  • [Recently in ISEE-3 Reboot Project Category |
  • Twitter | ISEE3 Reboot Project ‏@ISEE3Reboot
  • 10 Jul 2014 | We have spent the day consulting with world class propulsion experts and have some solid plans for tackling our #ISEE3 propulsion issues.
  • 11 Jul 2014 | Now focusing on more heating of hydrazine tanks & long sequences of thruster firing attempts to (possibly) clear #ISEE3 prop system
  • 11 Jul 2014 | We did not have a successful #DSN ranging session today. DSN was unable to get a consistent lock on #ISEE3 – updates later today.
  • 11 Jul 2014 | #ISEE3 is in Science Mode and is broadcasting telemetry which you can view in near real-time at
  • 11 Jul 11 2014 | Our propulsion experts say it is unlikely that we’ve lost Nitrogen &/or Hydrazine reserves. Most likely some gas in the lines #ISEE3 1/2
  • 11 Jul 2014 | Some additional heating and a few hundred thruster pulse firings might clear the lines. Working up a plan now for next week #ISEE3 2/2
  • 12 Jun 2014 | the Voyager team reprogrammed both spacecraft billions of miles away. Nearby space plumbing on #ISEE3 is easy by comparison
  • 12 Jun 2014 | we want to heat the fuel tanks and then fire the engines several hundred times to clear gas out of the lines. #ISEE3
  • 13 Jul 2014| We’re focusing on heating hydrazine tanks & then making long series of thruster firing attempts to clear the lines. More info soon. #ISEE3
  • 14 Jul 2014 | We’re putting final touches on #ISEE3 propulsion repair process to be implemented this week. We think there is still plenty of fuel for TCM
  • 14 Jul 2014 | All we are waiting for now is a confirmed window from our friends at Arecibo & we’re ready to do some deep space plumbing repairs on #ISEE3
  • 15 Jul 2014 | If you’ve ever had to clean out your car’s carburetor & fuel line then you have an idea of what our plan is to try & fix #ISEE3 tomorrow


  • Mission Info
  • Curiosity still has about another 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) to go to reach the entry way at a gap in the dunes at the foothills of Mount Sharp sometime later this year
  • To date, Curiosity’s odometer totals over 5.1 miles (8.4 kilometers) since landing inside Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012. She has taken over 162,000 images
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Curiosity Rover Report JPLnews
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News


Looking back

  • July 17, 709 BC : 2723 years ago : Earliest Record Solar Eclipse. : In 709 BC, the earliest record of a confirmed total solar eclipse was written in China. From: Ch’un-ch’iu, book I: “Duke Huan, 3rd year, 7th month, day jen-ch’en, the first day (of the month). The Sun was eclipsed and it was total.” This is the earliest direct allusion to a complete obscuration of the Sun in any civilisation. The recorded date, when reduced to the Julian calendar, agrees exactly with that of a computed solar eclipse. Reference to the same eclipse appears in the Han-shu (‘History of the Former Han Dynasty’) (Chinese, 1st century AD): “…the eclipse threaded centrally through the Sun; above and below it was yellow.” Earlier Chinese writings that refer to an eclipse do so without noting totality.

Looking up this week

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