isuniverse

The Sun is better than art

This incredible image was produced using data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) taken on January 17, 2003. This is the sun photographed as it was building towards a major eruption.

SDO carries imaging instruments that photograph different wavelengths of light released from the sun. If you remember your physics, there is a relationship between the wavelength of light, the frequency of the light, and the energy of the light, so SDO images basically reflect the temperature of the sun.

The colors in this shot are 3 different wavelengths of light. Temperature across the sun’s surface and in its corona varies as gases are moved around by convection and by the sun’s powerful magnetic field. Images like this are both gorgeous and help scientists understand the forces churning beneath the surface of the body at the heart of the solar system.

-JBB

Image credit: NASA Goddard/SDO

A Bubble in Carina

The constellation of Carina (The Keel) is best known as the home of the Carina Nebula, a vast cloud of dust and gas that is a rich star forming region and home to some of the most massive and luminous stars in the Milky Way galaxy. But the little gem shown here is also within the confines of the constellation, and is a nebula in its own right.

The central star here is a Wolf-Rayet (WR) star known as WR 31a, located about 30,000 light-years from Earth. WR stars are big (at least 20 times the mass of the Sun) and hot (25-50,000 Kelvin) and have short life cycles (a few hundred thousand years). WR 31is already well into the latter stages of its cycle, and about 20,000 years ago, it shed its outer shell, exposing its helium core. The force that drove the material out into space to create the Wolf-Rayet nebula we see in blue is an intense stellar wind. That stellar wind stems from nuclear fusion. Having burned through its hydrogen, WR 31a is burning through heavier elements, creating immense amounts of heat and radiation. The winds are expanding the bubble at a rate of around 220,000 kilometers (about 137,000 miles) per hour.

Those runaway nuclear reactions in the star won’t last long. When it runs out of elements to fuse (the process ends at iron), there wont be enough internal pressure in the star to fight off the inward push of gravity. The result of this core collapse will be a spectacular supernova explosion that will seed the surroundings with elements to used in a future generation of stars.

-JF

Image credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA; acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

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How would your voice sound on other planets?

Not just very different, but also unrecognisable. The sound of your voice is dependant on specific factors such as the density of the atmosphere, which influences both the vibration of your vocal cords and the speed with which the sound is transmitted. The denser the atmosphere, the faster sound will travel.

On Venus for example, the atmosphere is of very high density and consists of carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid. Your voice therefore, would sound much deeper there compared to Earth. To anyone listening, you would also appear much smaller, because the human brain is fine-tuned to estimate the size of a subject based on the echoes from the sounds it makes. Due to the density on Venus, the echoes of your very deep voice would subconsciously lead another human standing nearby you to perceive you as smaller in size than you actually are.

In contrast, on Mars the density effect would heighten your pitch, however if you had a friend more than a meter away from you they would not be able to hear you at all. If they were close enough to hear you, they would perceive you as much larger than you are, based on the echoes of your voice.

Scientists have developed a simulation software which not only demonstrates how your voice will sound in various places in the Solar System but also demonstrates how other typical sounds from Earth such as, a thunderstorm or music would sound on other worlds. Follow the links below if you are curious:

Bach on Venus and Mars
Thunderstorm on Venus
Waterfall on Titan (Saturn’s largest Moon)
Human voice on Venus

More information: 1, 2

-MP

Astrophotography Knows No Bounds

This image was submitted to us by a fan of the page, J Rýpar, and is a composite of 309 photos stacked into one image (total of 12,000 seconds exposure).

As a beginning astrophotographer, who is also confined to a wheelchair, J Rýpar comments that taking photographs in difficult terrain is his next big challenge.

Remember that we’re excited to share photos taken from our fans. Our photo submission guidelines can be found here.

-CB

Image Credit and Copyright is retained by J Rýpar
EXIF: Canon EOS 60D 10mm f/2, 309 x 40 sec at ISO 800 (29.10.14)

From Above

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti continues to capture some stunning views of Earth from her lofty perch aboard the International Space Station. This one features a view of the nightside of the planet below, under a thin blanket of clouds. The sheath of our atmosphere encircles the globe like a thin green-yellow bubble.

When she posted this picture, Samantha commented “I feel like we’re navigating on a black sea sprinkled with stars, and Earth with its moving clouds is the sky.”

Cristoforetti, a captain in the Italian Air Force, is a Flight Engineer for Expeditions 42 and 43 on the ISS, and will be in orbit until May 2015. We’re looking forward to sharing many more of her images in the coming months.

-JF

Image credit: ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti

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Mars: The planet that lost an ocean’s worth of water

A new study published today sheds light on what an ancient Mars would look like. Thanks to ESO Astronomy’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), scientists now believe that Mars was once covered in an ocean much like the Atlantic here on Earth.

VLT data was combined with instrument data from the W. M. Keck Observatory and NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility to produce maps of the water in the Martian atmosphere in different regions and over a period of six years.

Approximately four billion years ago, a young Mars would have contained enough water to cover the surface in a layer 140 meters deep. Researchers believe the liquid water pooled to form an ocean that covered nearly half of the northern Martian hemisphere, reaching depths of 5,247 feet (1.6 kilometers).

“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, a scientist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA, and lead author of the new paper. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

The new study is based on observations of two variations of water detected in the Martian atmosphere – H2O and HDO. H2O is the traditional form of water, with two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. HDO is a naturally occurring form of water with one of the hydrogen atoms being replaced with a heavier form of hydrogen called deuterium.

Normal water (H2O) is much lighter than HDO and is more likely to evaporate into space than HDO. The greater the ratio of HDO to H2O shows the more “normal” water was lost through evaporation. To give a sense of perspective, in the oceans here on Earth there are 3,200 molecules of H2O for every one of HDO.

By looking at the data and comparing the amount of HDO to H2O, scientists can see how the amount of HDO increased over time and as a result determine how much H2O was evaporated. From that, they can extrapolate backwards and estimate the amount of water earlier in the planet’s history.

The team mapped the concentration of H2O and HDO over the course of six Earth years, or roughly three Martian years. They took global snapshots and calculated the ratios. The data collected produced maps highlighting seasonal changes and even microclimates on the red planet.

Ulli Kaeufl of ESO, co-author on the paper and builder of one of the instrument essential in this study said, “I am again overwhelmed by how much power there is in remote sensing on other planets using astronomical telescopes: we found an ancient ocean more than 100 million kilometres away!”

Regions near the polar regions were especially intriguing as polar ice caps are the biggest water reservoirs on Mars. Water stores there is estimated to document 3.7 billions years of the evolution of Martian water.

The new study shows atmospheric water near the poles had a concentration of HDO seven times greater than what we see on Earth. Meaning Mars lost a large volume of water estimated to be at least 4,798,255 cubic miles (20 million cubic kilometers). Now that’s a lot of water.

Based on data from the current surface of Mars, this water was likely located in the Northern Plains, an area of low-lying ground, ideal for pooling surface water. The ocean would have covered an estimated 19 percent of the Martian surface. To give a sense of scale, the Atlantic Ocean covers 17 percent of our planet.

“With Mars losing that much water, the planet was very likely wet for a longer period of time than previously thought, suggesting the planet might have been habitable for longer,” said Michael Mumma, a senior scientist at Goddard and the second author on the paper.

It’s possible that mars could have hosted more water, even perhaps, subsurface water deposits. The new maps produced by this study have revealed atmospheric water changes over time, but may also help in the search for any underground water.

Image & Source Credit: ESO

Reach for Your Dreams

This stunning image is part of the press release for a Radiator Film documentary “Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars”. It follows the dreams of a young Iranian girl, Sepideh, who wants to become an astronaut. Fighting against social expectations, Sepideh teams up with Anousheh Ansari, the first female private space explorer.

The trailer is available here.
And a blog entry detailing an interview with the film’s director is here.

-CB

Image: from the film, see Sepideh - Reaching for the Stars

The Dance Magnetic

Magnetic field lines on the Sun sprout from active regions on the solar surface, arcing upwards before reconnecting back to an area with the opposite polarity. Solar material is suspended along these soaring structures, creating the coronal loops seen in so many images of the Sun.

In this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the coronal loops are shown in white. Their arcing traces were captured with the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA). That data was overlaid on information obtained using SDO’s Helioseismic Magnetic Imager (HMI), which shows magnetic fields on the solar surface in false color. The composite image illustrates the swirling magnetic dance playing out on our star.

Captured on 24 October 2014, this image was chosen as one of the favorites of the SDO staff out of the first 100 million shots taken with the AIA.

-JF

Image credit: NASA/SDO/HMI/AIA/LMSAL

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“Colors” of the Sun

The human eye can only see a very small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, less than a billionth of a billionth of the whole thing. Considering the amazing things we can see with our own eyes, what wonders are we missing out on with the rest of it? Fortunately we have developed instruments that can detect much of the rest of it and software that can turn this data intopictures that our eyes can interpret.

The image below represents eleven slices of the electromagnetic spectrum (and two other forms of detection in greyscale), only two of which are normally visible to the human eye. All of these images were taken of the same event and yet look very different. This demonstrates how you can observe many different things from a variety of wavelengths.

Six of the images are depicting the emission spectra of eight different iron ions at various temperatures ranging from 600,000K – 20,000,000K (1,000,000 – 36,000,000°F). These highlight varying parts of the sun’s corona and flares, giving indications as to the local magnetic field lines of the sun. One of them is looking at a piece of helium’s emission spectrum at 50,000K (90,000°F) and tells us about the sun’s chromosphere (upper atmosphere). Another looks at 160nm, belonging to carbon at 10,000K (17,000°F), giving hints about the uppermost portion of the sun’s photosphere (lower atmosphere).

Three of the other images show portions of the spectrum given off by the sun’s black body radiation. Each of them reveals details of the sun’s photosphere (surface) and indicates temperature differentials. One of them is in the ultraviolet, 170nm, another in the visible range, 450nm (blue/purple), and the last is a broad sweep of the visible spectrum, what it would look like to the human eye.

This image only covers pieces from 9.4nm to about 7000nm: low energy x-rays, ultraviolet, and visible light; it doesn’t incorporate gamma rays, high energy x-rays, infrared, microwave, or radio waves, each of which can yield its own fascinating discoveries. Imagine what more there is for us to see and learn by looking at the universe with “wider” eyes!

-LUX

In the next few days I’ll be covering some of these topics in more detail such as the composition and range of temperatures of the sun, how these things produce different wavelengths of light, what the two greyscaled images are, and what different wavelengths reveal about the rest of our universe.

Image Credit
Further Information:
Sun Primer
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
Black Body Radiation
Emission Spectra
Composition of the Sun
Iron in the Sun

World’s Largest Solar Farm

This is an image of the Topaz Solar Farm in California - the largest photovoltaic power station on Earth.

Construction began in 2011 and was completed in November 2014. The surface area of the farm is over 25 square kilometres - about a third the size of Manhattan - and can power 180,000 homes.

From the ground, the rows and rows of solar cells seem to stretch on forever. But this Landsat photo shows the true extent of the farm.

-CB

More Information

Image: Jesse Allen/Earth Observatory/NASA

Equations that changed the world

From calculating financial derivatives to the behaviour of subatomic particles – mathematics reigns supreme. Ian Stuart, author of “17 Equations That Changed the World”, found this handy reference summary table by mathematics blogger Larry Phillips via Twitter.

How many do you use? directly/indirectly? In your job? At school?

The oldest of the seventeen is the Pythagorus’ Theorem – it describes the relationships between the sides of a right-angled triangle on a flat plane. It is a staple of all high-school geometry.

Often the times of “discovery” for these equations are as interesting as the mathematics itself. The scientists and mathematicians that formed these equations were at the forefront of their fields – pushing technology and allowing for future discoveries.

-CB

More Reading
Larry Phillip’s blog

Valles Marineris: the Great Martian Canyon

Lying across the Martian surface, just below the equator, is a colossal feature known as the Valles Marineris. Valles Marineris translates to “Valleys of the Mariner” and stretches over 4,000km across - almost a quarter of the way around the Red Planet. At up to 700km wide and an average of 8km deep, Valles Marineris is made up of a system of canyons known as chasma. Many researchers believe that it formed as a result of ancient tectonic activity which “cracked” the crust as the planet cooled. This feature was altered further through the formation of the Tharsis region to the west, and then widened by powerful winds, flowing water and crumbling walls.

Valles Marineris begins in the west with the Noctis Labyrinthus – a maze-like, almost triangular region of intersecting valleys and canyons. In this area, the smaller depressions and canyons lead to outflow canyons. They once hosted rivers that poured out into the low-lying Chryse Planitia basin. The most prominent chasma of the west is the Ius, while the central area is composed of 3 canyons which run alongside one another: Ophir, Candor and Melas Chasma. The Coprates Chasma extends to the east where it joins the Eos Chasma. Eos in particular shows signs that water once flowed through it before exiting into multiple channels and valleys.

The most prominent theory to explain the formation of Valles Marineris is linked to the Tharsis region. Around 3.5 billion years ago, molten rock swelled upwards to form the colossal volcanoes of the Tharsis region, including Olympus Mons. This caused the crust rise, leading to a strain which resulted in massive fractures across Mars. These fractures grew larger as time passed, transforming large areas into vast canyon systems. The expanding cracks made the ground sink, which in turn provided an opening for subsurface water. As water streamed out, it knocked down the borders of the faults and cracks before escaping into the lowlands where it created a series of channels.

Scientists believe that several factors contributed to the sheer size and intricacy of the Valles Marineris feature, including seeping groundwater, massive landslides, and the lava flows and falling ash from adjacent volcanoes. This ancient scar exhibits many different clues to its formation which, taken together, help researchers understand the geological history of Mars.

~ eKAT

IMAGE CREDIT:
NASA/JPL-Caltech 

SOURCES: 1, 2
Rees, Martin 2012, ‘The Solar System’, Universe, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.

Callisto

Jupiter’s moon Callisto is not the largest moon in the solar system, or even the largest of Jupiter’s natural satellites. But it does rank highest in one category: it is the most heavily cratered body in our solar system.

Callisto’s surface is about as evenly blemished as you could expect it to be from the random impacts it has received over the eons. Made up of equal parts of rock and ice, it’s surface captures the history of the violent past of the solar system. The outermost of Jupiter’s four Galilean satellites, it is nearly the same size as the planet Mercury, though it has only about one-third the mass of the speedy inner planet.

Callisto orbits Jupiter at a distance of nearly 3 million kilometers (1.8 million miles), considerably farther away from the planet than the other Galilean moons. That relative isolation is one of the reasons for the golf ball-like appearance of the moon. At that distance, Jupiter’s strong gravity exerts less force on Callisto than on the other large moons. Io, Europa and Ganymede pay for their proximity to Jupiter with geological processes like volcanism, plate tectonics and other resurfacing events. Callisto’s surface hasn’t had any such recent rejuvenation treatments, and it carries scars from the early solar system, dating back some four billion years.

This is the only complete full-color view of Callisto obtained by the Galileo spacecraft, which studied Jupiter and its moons from 1995 to 2003.

-JF

Image credit: NASA/JPL/DLR

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Once you start getting interested in space and astronomical images, it doesn’t take long before you’ve seen Arp 273:

External image

and the Antennae Galaxies:

External image

roughly one billion zillion katrillion times. These images are beautiful, and there’s no denying they have good reason to be popular, but I thought I’d spread some love for a few lesser-known merging galaxies. Click the photos to see the objects’ name, and explore more here.

The Sky is Falling!

Tasmania, the island, and southernmost, state of Australia has been experiencing a plethora of natural phenomena this week! This image combines the green and red glows of the Aurora Australis with the blue bioluminescence of a plankton called Noctiluca scintillans (aka Sea Sparkle!).

-CB

Used with permission. Image Credit and Copyright is retained by Francois Photography

Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram

Two independent astronomers discovered a basic link between luminosities and temperatures of stars early in the twentieth century. Henry N. Russell (1877-1957) of the U.S. and Ejnar Hertzsprung (1893-1967) of Denmark.

The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram (H-R) diagram is a plot of luminosity versus temperature. Astronomers use the H-R diagram widely to check their theories. Every dot on the H-R diagram represents a star whose temperature (spectral class) is read on the horizontal axis and whose luminosity (absolute magnitude) is read on the vertical axis.

Significantly, when a few thousand stars are chosen randomly and plotted on an H-R diagram, they all fall into definite regions. This pattern indicates that a meaningful connection exists between a star’s luminosity and its temperature. Otherwise, the dots would be scattered randomly all over the graph.

About 90 percent of the stars lie along a band called the ‘main sequence’, which runs from upper left (hot, very luminous blue giants) across the diagram to the lower right (cool, faint dwarfs). Red dwarfs are the most common type of nearby star. Most of the other 10 percent of stars fall into the upper right region (cool, bright giants and supergiants) or in the lower left corner (hot, low-luminosity white dwafs).

A star’s position on the main sequence is determined by its mass, or the amount of matter a star contains. The main sequence is a sequence of stars decreasing mass, from the most massive, most luminous stars at the upper end to the least massive, least luminous stars at the lower end. An empirical mass-luminosity relation for main sequence stars, found from binary stars, says that the more massive a star is, the more luminous it is. The luminosity of a star is approximately proportional to its mass raised to the 3.5 power.

~ JM

Image Credit

More Info:
Introduction to H-R diagram, CSIRO
Interactive H-R diagram
H-R diagram animation, spacetelecsope.org

Francesco Antonucci’s image of the Horsehead and Flame Nebulae demonstrates the beauty that can result with some creative applications of image processing.

The most familiar images of the Horsehead Nebula usually feature deeper reds or even a cooler magenta (read about it here):

By using a bright and warm base color, Antonucci was able to create the beautiful contrast seen here between the hot blue stars and the orange areas denoting emission nebulae. The resulting composite-color image was created with multiple filters and mosaic images.

Technical information:

RA center: 85.055 degrees
DEC center: -2.608 degrees
Pixel scale: 2.505 arcsec/pixel
Orientation: 77.603 degrees
Field radius: 1.664 degrees

Antonucci’s Astrobin gallery is full of striking uses of color, so space lovers looking for more of these vibrant images will want to check for their favorite deep-space items here.

-RLO

Image: Reproduced with permission from Francesco Antonucci.
Annotated image here.

Do Other Planets Have Blue Skies?

Why the sky is blue crosses everyone’s mind at least once while looking up, but do you ever question if other skies could be as blue as ours? Earth’s sky is blue due to the gas molecules, predominantly oxygen and nitrogen, in our atmosphere. Our sun’s light travels in a straight line until it reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, where these gas molecules scatter the light waves in a process called Rayleigh Scattering. In this process, rays of blue light scatter more than the other colors because blue light waves are short and small. Other colors of light become visible, such as orange and red, during the sunsets because the light passes through more of atmosphere. This occurrence causes a majority of the blue light to scatter since sunlight travels a longer distance at sunset. Once all the blue light scatters, red, orange, and yellow light is left which is reflected from clouds and dust particles in our atmosphere.

Although our sky is blue, our atmosphere from space looks blue, white, and green due to the oceans, clouds, and terrain that cover our planet. The other planets in our solar system have different colors due to their chemical compositions, climates, and terrains, so if we could stand on another planet and look up at its sky, what color would its sky be? The general theory would be that the sky is the same color as the view from space, but skies of other planets could vary in color as a result from the chemical composition of the atmosphere and the climate.

For example, Saturn has blue skies and yellow skies. In Saturn’s northern hemisphere, the sky is blue. This area of Saturn is almost cloudless which leads to a Rayleigh Scattering process similar to that on Earth, causing mostly blue light to scatter across the sky. In the southern hemisphere, Saturn’s sky is yellow instead of blue. Astronomers believe that the southern sky could be yellow due to a higher concentration of clouds and dust combined with a colder climate. It is still a mystery why the northern hemisphere has a blue sky rather than a golden-yellow sky; it is possible that the blue sky could fade away or move to the southern hemisphere when the seasons change. These sky colors were discovered in 2005 due to the Cassini spacecraft’s exploration of Saturn’s surface and atmosphere.

Based on photos from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, astronomers can also see that Mars’s atmosphere scatters sunlight differently from both Saturn and Earth. Its atmosphere is a rust color during the day which means that Mars’s atmosphere scatters light differently than Earth’s atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere contains mostly air molecules which easily scatters blue light whereas the atmosphere on Mars contains a large amount of dust particles which easily scatters red light. The process of scattering light on Mars causes red and yellow light move across the sky while the blue light remains closer to the source of light. However, Mars’s sky turns blue during sunset because blue light can penetrate more of the atmosphere which causes the light to scatter across the sky and become more noticeable. Mars’s sunset is another example of Earth not being the only planet with blue skies. As we continue explore our solar system and exoplanets, we may find that Earth-like planets could have blue skies just like Earth.

The photo shows Saturn’s blue sky. Near the bottom you can see Saturn’s moon, Mimas, and the shadowed lines are the shadows of Saturn’s rings.

-AH
Photo Credit: NASA/Cassini
Sources:
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA
NASA

The neutron star.

This bizarre object is the corpse of a massive star whose days of fusing elements ended in one of the most explosive forces in the universe, a supernova. These objects are incredibly dense; its mass can be up to two times the mass of our sun while their radii are only 12-13 km. Think about that for a moment, 2 suns worth of material pressed into a city sized sphere, a density so great a teaspoon of this material would contain the same mass as 900 Great Pyramids of Giza.

To understand how these objects are created in death we must first understand their lives. Stars are in a constant battle between two forces, gravity and nuclear fusion. Gravity works tirelessly to crush the star down into a smaller and smaller space; causing the core to begin fusing elements and releasing energy. This energy provides outward pressure and as long as it sustained the star can maintain equilibrium. However it can’t sustain the reactions forever.

As the star begins burning through heavier and heavier elements it eventually begins trying to fuse iron; the death knell for the star as the fusion of iron consumes more energy than it releases. Once the core of iron reaches a certain mass called the Chandrasekhar limit it can no longer support itself and collapses. Gravity wins.

So, the star explodes with such force that it expels the outer layers into the interstellar medium, seeding the next generation of stars and leaving behind the crushed core.

What is the star now? It’s almost entirely made of neutrons, that part of the atom that used to sit beside a proton. The force of gravity is so strong that the remaining protons and electrons combine into neutrons, neutralizing their charges with the excess energy being released as neutrinos.

If that wasn’t strange enough, neutron stars have some other peculiar properties. First, the gravitational field is so strong that the light emitted is subject to gravitational lensing; radiation that was emitted from the rear of the star is warped around and is visible from the front. In addition, to beat Earth’s escape velocity and stay in orbit we need rockets to break 11.2 km/s, pretty fast, but when you consider a neutron stars escape velocity of between 100,000 and 150,000 km/s it pales in comparison. You’d need to be travelling at least a third the speed of light to escape it.

An impressive remnant.

-AM

Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Further reading
Further reading

First Female Cosmonaut Arrives on Station as Part of Expedition 41/42

The ISS saw the arrival of three new crew members this week. Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova and Alexander Samojutyaev, along with NASA astronaut Bruce Wilmore joined NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev on station. 

Serova is only the fourth female cosmonaut to fly inspace and one of only 18 females to be selected as cosmonauts since 1961. These numbers are in stark contrast to the United States, who has had over 40 women selected as astronauts, and even had two female commanders of the space station – Peggy Whitson (2007-2008) and Sunny Williams (2012). 

Elena tried to make light of her historic mission, by saying she thought of this as just work, her job is space. However, she did recognize its significance and what it means for Russian women. 

Elena is an accomplished engineer and even worked in Russian Mission Control prior to being selected for the cosmonaut corps in 2006. She is a graduate of the esteemed Moscow Aviation Institute and was selected as part of the Expedition 41/42 crew back in 2011.

Serova is described as being the first female cosmonaut selected based on her skills and merits, and boy is she qualified. Hopefully, she will have a long history with the space program. 

Despite being highly qualified, Elena had to suffer through countless questions at pre-launch briefings about what her hair and make-up regime would be on station. She was quick to fire back at reporters, asking them why don’t ask her male comrades what they were going to do with their hair. 

Serova joins a small club of high-flying Russian women. This groups includes the first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova (1963); the first woman to perform a space walk, Sveltlana Savitskaya (1992, 1994); and the first woman to fly a long-duration mission and the only female cosmonaut to fly on shuttle, Yelena Kondakova (1994-1995).

In November, Serova will be joined by another female astronaut, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoferetti. Samantha is Europe’s third female astronaut behind Helen Sharman in 1991, and Claudie Haignere in 2001.

Image & Source Credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos