To the delight of the science team, the images visually support the theoretical predictions by showing a very large increase in the size of the fluctuations. Data analysis has also shown that the amplitude of the fluctuations in temperature and concentration greatly increased.
It is a rare event when a space mission is able to confirm a theoretical prediction in such record time, said Olivier Minster, Head of ESAs Physical Sciences Unit. These results are important because they are the first verification of the effects forecast a decade ago.
The availability of these images from the spacecraft has enabled us to change what we are doing so that we can optimise the scientific return from the mission, said Professor David Cannell of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). We will also have many thousands of images to analyse back in our labs after the experiment returns to Earth. This will keep us busy for quite a while.
It may be that our results will influence other types of microgravity research, such as the growth of crystals. Our research may even lead to some new technological spin-offs, said Professor Giglio.
GRADFLEX is one of 43 ESA scientific and technological experiments on board the 12-day Foton-M3 mission. The mission is scheduled to end on 26 September, when the re-entry capsule will return to Earth in Kazakhstan. The onboard experiments will be returned to their home institutions where the data will be carefully analysed over the coming months.
|Contact: Olivier Minster|
European Space Agency