Arp 286: Trio in Virgo
Arp 286: Trio in Virgo
Meanwhile, 300 million light-years away, a huge galaxy in the constellation of Pavo (The Peacock) interacts with the smaller galaxy that can be seen just above. Image is from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
NGC 6302 HST Hubble Legacy Archive
Credit: Paolo Pinciaroli
With all the hype generated from the recent Nobel Prize in physiology regarding the progress we’ve made in neuroscience, it’s important to note that the International Space Station is an orbiting research lab for physiology.
Since 1984, Thomas Jefferson University’s ‘Light Research Program’ has been studying the effects of light on neuroendocrine physiology and circadian regulation in humans. Through the techniques of photobiology, radioimmunoassay, and performance testing, the group has documented how various visible/non-visible light sources influence both hormonal balance and behavior.
If we’re serious about becoming a spacefaring civilization, it’s imperative we understand our own physiology as well as possible before making any lengthy trips.“An astronaut here on Earth experiences a 24-hour day/night cycle just like you and I, Now when they’re on the space station, they’re circling the planet every 90 minutes. So they’ve gone from a 24-hour day to a 90-minute day. Every one of us has probably done an all-nighter or two in our lives. You feel crummy the next day, but you bounce back. And you also get your recovery sleep. [Astronauts] are not getting their recovery sleep. That’s the problem. Day in, day out, they’re missing the ingredients for best health and best behavioral regulation." (Brainard)
Recent/ongoing studies involve elucidating the action spectrum of melatonin regulation, inquiring into the phase shifting capacities of light, analyzing the influence of light on tumor progression, and experimenting with new light treatment for winter depression.
Led by George C. Brainard, who directs the program, the program has expanded 230+ miles up on board the International Space Station, where lights are being sent to NASA with three distinct color temperatures to assist in easing the astronauts into the morning, evening, and working mode.
Brainard engaged NASA on this research when hearing that the space agency would be replacing the fluorescent bulbs with LEDs.
From the Wired (UK) article ‘Neuroscientist keeps astronauts awake with ISS lighting tweaks’:Brainard was one of several experts in the field that approached NASA after receiving word that the Station’s old and unforgiving fluorescent lights would be replaced by LED bulbs. Whatever is used to replace the lamps would have to be tailored to an exacting 17.8cm by 66cm fit, so it’s not a job that is done often and, since lighting has been shown to affect sleep, cognitive performance and mood, tailoring the lamps further could mean a more productive, happy workforce aboard the ISS.
From his studies, Brainard already knew that a certain blue light could be used to suppress melatonin levels in the body — the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep cycle. He decided to test out the affect of different light tones, including this blue tone, on astronauts in a rather novel way, building confined sleeping quarters that replicate those on the space station and asking volunteers to spend hours in the closet-sized spaces. He measured the levels of melatonin present in the candidates after they were exposed to different lamps and found that pure blue light suppresses melatonin-production more than white light, so would be useful in waking the astronauts. He is now testing how it affects alertness in relation to this.
“If an astronaut is wakened up out of sleep and there has to be a spacewalk for emergency purposes, you want that astronaut at their peak alertness," explained Brainard.
A pretty significant flaw in the work initially was that astronauts cannot work in an environment with colored lights, as they need to distinguish colors when working on the space station — cutting the white wire instead of the blue could prove disastrous when repairing the electrics. The compromise is that the all the lights fall under the white spectrum, with different subtle tones — when the astronauts wake, the light will turn brighter with cool blue tones and in the evening, warmer with heavier red tones.
The lamps need to undergo further testing to ensure they are robust enough to withstand space travel, but otherwise the team at NASA and the collaborators at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and Boeing are ready to move forward with the plan.
NGC 772 (also known as Arp 78) is an unbarred spiral galaxy approximately 130 million light-years away in the constellation Aries.
Credits: Data obtained using the MegaCam camera on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Image by Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT) & Giovanni Anselmi (Coelum)
New observations from a spacecraft orbiting Mercury have revealed that the tiny, pockmarked planet harbors a highly unusual interior — and the craft’s glimpse of Mercury’s surface topography suggests the planet has had a very dynamic history.
The Bubble Nebula, The Lobster Claw Nebula and The M52 Cluster by Terry Hancock www.downunderobservatory.com on Flickr.
Last night was one for the books!
Candidate Landing Site for 2020 Mission in Oyama Crater
Oyama Crater itself is a huge ancient impact crater, well outside the view of the HiRISE camera to view it all.