Take that, space junk! Australian scientists to zap debris with lasers
Physicists working with Nasa on project to destroy estimated 300,000 pieces of waste before they smash into satellites
Space junk orbiting the Earth. Scientists estimate there are some 300,000 piece of debris circling the planet. Photograph: European Space Agency/Rex Feat
It may sound like science fiction but an Australian team is working on a project to zap orbital debris with lasers from Earth to reduce the growing amount of space junk that threatens to knock out satellites with a "cascade of collisions".
The project is very realistic and likely to be working in the next 10 years, Matthew Colless, director of Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, told Reuters.
"It's important that it's possible on that scale because there's so much space junk up there," he said. "We're perhaps only a couple of decades away from a catastrophic cascade of collisions ... that takes out all the satellites in low orbit."
Scientists believe there are more than 300,000 pieces of debris in space, made up of everything from tiny screws and bolts to large parts of rockets, mostly moving in low orbits around Earth at tremendous speed.
Australia now has a contract with NASA, the US space agency, to track and map space junk with a telescope equipped with an infra-red laser at Mount Stromlo Observatory.
But $20m from the Australian government and $40m in private investment will help the team set up as the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to develop better lasers to track tiny pieces of debris, importing techniques from astronomy used to remove the blurring of the atmosphere.
The ultimate aim is to increase the power of the lasers to illuminate and zap pieces of junk so they burn up harmlessly as they fall through the upper atmosphere.
"There's no risk of missing and hitting a working satellite," Colless said. "We can target them precisely. We really don't miss."
Colless said he imagines an eventual need for a global network of stations set up under international auspices but, right now, the CRC is doing the research to make it possible.
The CRC is made up of universities, space agencies and companies including Lockheed Martin, Optus and EOS Space System Australia.
Curving sands in Iran's salt desert, Dasht-e Kavir. Summer evaporation in the desert leaves behind a high concentration of minerals, making Iran one of the world's most important mineral producers
Heavy winds blew across the Florida Bay in early January, stirring the waters and contributing to this dazzling array of colour. Clouds of milky blue and green fill the shallower waters; near the southern coast, the waters are distinctly tan from a run-off of particulates from land. Further south, near the Florida Keys, abundant coral reefs mean the water is rich in calcite, which when disturbed lends it a milky appearance
Meteorologists in Mozambique kept a wary eye on tropical cyclone Funso as it made its way down an already drenched coast in late January. The powerful storm was the first major cyclone of 2012, reaching category 4 hurricane status on 25 January with winds of 120 knots (220 km). Funso came on the heels of tropical depression Dando, which came ashore over southern Mozambique on 16 January. Flooding from both storms killed dozens
Central Morocco, from the Atlantic ocean to the west, over the Atlas mountains and into arid inland Algeria. The snow-capped High Atlas range shields Morocco from the Sahara desert's climatic influences in Algeria. The Sahara is constantly expanding southward, rendering large areas of land barren. One of the many benefits of Earth observation satellites is the possibility to monitor changes like desertification and land degradation caused by human activities and climate change
The opening weeks of 2012 were tempestuous ones for the UK, as a major winter storm buffeted much of the country with powerful winds on 3 January. Southern Scotland was the worst affected area, particularly the Central Belt, where winds gusted at well over 70 knots (131km) in what was considered the most severe storm for 13 years
London as seen from space at night
Cloud-free skies reveal a compelling view of the entire length of Baja, California, and the Pacific coast of Mexico. In the midst of the clarity, strong north-easterly winds stirred up a dust storm on the mainland and the peninsula. Nasa processes images like this to help assess the presence of sediment and plankton in the sea. Dust storms interfere with those assessments. They can also disturb human activity on land, but once they blow out over the Gulf of California and Pacific ocean, they help fertilise the waters with nutrients that promote phytoplankton blooms, which in turn attract whales
A phytoplankton bloom swirls a figure-eight in the south Atlantic ocean, about 600km east of the Falkland Islands, on 2 December. Different types and quantities of phytoplankton exhibit different colours. Once a bloom begins, ocean colour sensors can identify its chlorophyll pigment, and therefore its species and toxicity
A silvery filigree of ice decorates the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia. Bitter winter cold sets in early off the western coast of Kamchatka, and the salty Sea of Okhotsk begins to freeze by late October. Throughout the winter, the ice sheets thicken and expand. By March, 80% of the 1,583,000 sq km surface can be covered in free-floating sea ice. Because salt doesn't freeze, the first crystals that form are nearly pure fresh water. The salt becomes concentrated in brine, which is slowly expelled into the adjacent seawater, increasing its salinity as the ice sheet grows
Big, Beautiful Pictures Of 4 New Planets That Could Have Life On Them
MAR. 13, 2014
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Habitable zone planets (from left to right) Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f are shown here to scale relative to Earth.
A total of 715 new planets were recently found in our region of the Milky Way, almost doubling the number of exoplanets we know of. NASA announced the find, made using the Kepler space telescope and a revolutionary new technique, on February 27.
From the launch of the Kepler telescope in 2009 to 2011, scientists detected 3,600 potential planets. They detected the planets by measuring slight dips in the brightness of nearby stars as the planets passed in front of them like below:
This was effective, but left the scientists with a new task - to confirm these are planets and not some other weird space event, they had to figure out how to distinguish the real planets from the fakes.
To do that, they used a new technique that they called "verification by multiplicity," which relies on probability. Here's how NASA explains it:
Kepler observes 150,000 stars, and has found a few thousand of those to have planet candidates. If the candidates were randomly distributed among Kepler's stars, only a handful would have more than one planet candidate. However, Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates. Through a careful study of this sample, these 715 new planets were verified.
Basically, they looked for clusters of candidate planets and stars and then sifted more closely to identify authentic planets. It's pretty brilliant.
Check out the change in the number of planet discoveries since they began using the new method:
In the course of their search, the team found four planets in what they call the "habitable zone" - the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of a planet may be suitable for water. Scientists are now attempting to determine whether the planets are gaseous planets (like Saturn) or water worlds (like Earth).
Here's what they think the †planets look like, which were created based on the size of the planet and how far they think it is from its star:
Kepler-69c is 70% larger than Earth. It completes one orbit around its star every 242 days.
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Kepler-62e is 60% larger than Earth. It completes one orbit around its star every 122 days.
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Kepler-62f is 40 percent larger than Earth. It orbits a star located 1,200 light-years from our planet.
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Kepler-296f orbits a star half the size and 5 percent as bright as our sun. Kepler-296f is twice the size of Earth.
Astrophysicists Plan To Announce A Major Discovery Tomorrow
MAR. 16, 2014,
Scientists will announce a "major discovery" on Monday, March 17 at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, according to a news release from the institution.
The press conference will be streamed live starting at 11:55 a.m. EDT at this link. Business Insider will also be covering the announcement.
Rumors surrounding the topic of the announcement are starting to fly, but at this point it's still anyone's guess.
The Guardian reports on speculation that the discovery has to do with finding of evidence of primordial gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were produced in the early universe. The imprint they left when the universe was born 13.82 billion years ago would give us an idea what the universe was like when it just came into existence.
According to The Guardian: "The signal is rumored to have been found by a specialized telescope called†Bicep (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization)†at the south pole."
Gravitational waves were the last untested prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.
"It's been called the Holy Grail of cosmology," Hiranya Peiris, a cosmologist from University College London told The Guardian. "It would be a real major, major, major discovery."
There are still reasons not to get ahead of ourselves.
Even if they do announce they've discovered these signatures of the early universe, that data will need to be scrutinized by other scientists and confirmed by other experiments.
Phil Plait, who writes Slate's Bad Astronomy blog, said in a Facebook post that he will not speculate on the discovery. "If the rumors are false then I've wasted my time, and that of others," he wrote, "and weakened the overall public appreciation of astronomy."
Legendary moment in Physics history. Apollo 15 astronauts on the moon test Galileo's hypothesis that mass does not affect the falling speed of an object, rather all objects will fall at the same rate in the absence of air resistance. Here they will drop a feather and a hammer at the same time, see which hits the ground first...
Almost as cool as when the Apollo 14 astronauts played golf on the moon.
The Earth's moon is 60 million years younger than previously thought
Photo of the full moon, on August 21, 2013 in Nice, southeastern France.
By HEATHER SAUL
Thursday 03 April 2014
A new study has revealed the moon is 4.47 billion-years-old, after a team of planetary scientists discovered it was formed 95 million years after the birth of the solar system.
This makes the Earth's†moon†up to 60 million years younger than some previous estimates, a study published on Wednesday found.
Researchers used a new way to calculate the birthday of the planet's only natural satellite.
Astronomer John Chambers, with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, said the mega-asteroid that smashed into Earth, launching debris that later became the†moon, occurred about 95 million years after the birth of the solar system.
"We think that the thing that hit Earth and ended up forming the†moon, the lion's share of it stayed on Earth," he explained.
"A small fraction of its mass and some material from Earth was pushed off into space to form the†moon. That was probably the last big event," he added.
The study, published in the journal Nature, is based on 259 computer simulations of how the solar system evolved.
The programs simulate the crashes and mergers of the small bodies until they meld into the rocky planets that exist today.
Earth's last big chuck came from a Mars-sized body that hit about 95 million years after the solar system's formation when measured by that geologic clock, the study showed.
At 99.9 per cent accurate, the study disputes some previous estimates that the moon-forming impact occurred as early as 30 million to 40 million years after the solar system's formation.
China's Jade Rabbit rover sends back its first pictures from the Moon
The results also open another even bigger mystery about why some planets, like Mars, form relatively quickly, while others, like Earth and possibly Venus, take far longer.
Analysis of Martian meteorites and the computer simulations indicate Mars was finished in just a few million years.
Los Angeles (CNN) - Sky gazers caught a glimpse of the "blood moon" crossing the Earth's shadow Tuesday in all its splendor.
The moon took on a reddish hue as it appeared in different phases between 2 and 4:30 a.m. ET.
In North and South America, where the blood moon was most prominent, observers pointed at the spectacle with binoculars, telescopes and cellphones.
Depending on time zones, it started late Monday night or in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Showers and clouds rendered it a bust in some cities, including Atlanta.
In Los Angeles, the chance to view the total lunar eclipse lured thousands to the Griffith Observatory. Families spread out blankets on the grass to take in views from dozens of telescopes set up like a stand of small trees.
Cameras clicked while watchers cheered and pointed at the blushing moon.
"It's energizing. Look around. Everybody is here to see something rare and live," said Gene Ireland, who teaches astronomy to middle school students.
Ireland encouraged those who reached the hilltop observatory grounds to peek through his 12-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope.
"Everyone is always looking down at their phones, their iPads," he said. "We want them looking up. Looking up, you see a whole different world. Getting away from the cities and traffic, and the sky is just beautiful."
Stunning ancient star cluster captured by Nasa Hubble Space Telescope
Image shows multi-coloured cluster of 100,000 stars that are 13 billion years old
Nasa has released a stunning image of a brightly coloured ancient cluster containing more than 100,000 stars captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The image depicts Messier 5, or M5, and includes a quote from 18th century astronomer Charles Messier's catalogue of clusters and other nebulae that begins: "Beautiful Nebula discovered between the Balance [Libra] & the Serpent [Serpens]."
This description suggests Messier believed M5 was a nebula, a cloud of dust, hydrogen and other gases, when developments in observation technology later revealed it was actually a cluster of stars.
Nasa said: "Though it appeared to Messier to be fuzzy and round and without stars, Messier 5 (M5) is now known to be a globular star cluster, 100,000 stars or more."
The globular star cluster is bound by gravity and packed into a region around 165 light-years in diameter. It was discovered by German astronomer Gottfried Kirch in 1702 and lies some 25,000 light-years away from the Earth.
M5 is one of the oldest globulars and its stars are believed to be almost 13 billion years old, making it one of the oldest globulars to be associated with the Milky Way Galaxy.
"Even close to its dense core at the left, the cluster's aging red and blue giant stars and rejuvenated blue stragglers stand out in yellow and blue hues in the sharp color image", Nasa added.
The Hubble Telescope was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre on 25 April, 1990 and celebrated its 24th year in orbit on Friday. The telescope's orbit outside of the Earth's atmosphere allows it to take high resolution images within almost no background light.
There is a new class of planet out there that astronomers are calling the "mega-Earth".
It is an object with a hard surface like our own world but much, much bigger.
The necessity for the new designation follows the discovery of a planet which has a mass some 17 times that of Earth.
Known as Kepler-10c, it orbits a star about 560 light-years away. Scientists described its properties at an American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.
They confess it is something of a head-scratcher.
Theorists had always thought that any planet that large would pull so much hydrogen on to itself that it would look more like a Neptune or a Jupiter.
"The proper way to call it is something bigger than a 'super-Earth, so how about 'mega-Earth," Prof Dimitar Sasselov, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), told reporters. He also used the phrase, "the Godzilla of Earths!".
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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