Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to release first results

The AMS was taken up to the ISS in 2011

The AMS was taken up to the ISS in 2011

By Jonathan Amos
The scientist leading one of the most expensive experiments ever put into space says the project is ready to come forward with its first results.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was put on the International Space Station to survey the skies for high-energy particles, or cosmic rays.

Nobel Laureate Sam Ting said the scholarly paper to be published in a few weeks would concern dark matter.

This is the unseen material whose gravity holds galaxies together.

Researchers do not know what form this mysterious cosmic component takes, but one theory points to it being some very weakly interacting massive particle (or Wimp for short).

Although telescopes cannot detect the Wimp, there are high hopes that AMS can confirm its existence and describe some of its properties from indirect measures.

The imminent publication in an as yet undetermined journal will detail the progress of that investigation.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor said the project he first proposed back in the mid-1990s had now reached an important milestone.

“We’ve waited 18 years to write this paper, and we’re now making the final check,” he told reporters.

“I would imagine in two or three weeks, we should be able to make an announcement.

“We have six analysis groups to analyse the same results. Physicists as you know – everybody has their own interpretations, and we’re now making sure everyone agrees with each other. And this is pretty much done now.”…

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Ireland and the United Kingdom

ISS030-E-177670 (28 March 2012) — One of the Expedition 30 crew members photographed this nighttime scene while the International Space Station was flying at an altitude approximately 240 miles over the eastern North Atlantic. The view looks northeastward. Center point coordinates are 46.8 degrees north latitude and 14.3 degrees west longitude. The night lights of the cities of Ireland, in the foreground, and the United Kingdom, in the back and to the right, are contrasted by the bright sunrise in the background. The greens and purples of the Aurora Borealis are seen along the rest of the horizon.
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Yeast Rising to the Space Station

Chefs across the globe may not know it yet, but their baker’s yeast just left the kitchen and blasted off into low Earth orbit. Hitching a ride on the space shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011, the samples will be grown on the International Space Station as part of the Genotypic and Phenotypic Changes in Yeast Related to Selective Growth Pressures Unique to Microgravity or Micro-4 investigation. Capable of raising more than just breads, this useful organism will help researchers better understand the impact of the space environment on live cells in humans.

Researchers will grow yeast samples in petri dishes like the one pictured above both on the ground and aboard the International Space Station as part of the Micro-4 investigation.(University of Toronto Photo)

This yeast — S. cerevisiae — has been of use since the ancient Egyptians first figured out how to harness it for wine and bread making. In modern times it is still used for baking and was the first organism to have its genome fully sequenced. Scientists hope that by studying the changes of yeast in microgravity, they will better understand the changes human cells may experience during long-duration spaceflight. Gaining better knowledge of genetic alterations by studying yeast growth during this microgravity research may also help in understanding how these changes could manifest in human disease here on Earth.

Sacharomyces cerevisiae cells in differential interference contrast microscopy at room temperature

This investigation is a collaboration with BioServe Space Technologies, Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the University of Toronto. According to Michael Costanzo, Ph.D. and one of the co-investigators for Micro-4 at the University of Toronto, the similarities between human cells and the yeast’s genetic makeup makes it ideal for study in space. “We are examining which genes are important for cell growth and survival in a zero gravity environment. The results of our ‘yeastnaut’ experiments may provide insight into which set of human genes are important and how these genes work together to help organisms/humans deal with extreme environments associated with space travel — such as zero-gravity and elevated radiation.”…. Continue reading Yeast Rising to the Space Station