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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:17 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2020 11:31 am 
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in local space news

Weather forecast fine to see first supermoon of the decade
on Sunday night

Denise Piper·16:44
February 8th, 2020


The weather forecast is looking good for most Kiwis to see the first supermoon of the decade on Sunday evening.

Also known as a Super Snow Moon for the US winter, the supermoon will appear more than
10% brighter than a usual full moon.

Met Service meteorologist Andrew James said the weather should be fine and clear for the phenomenon, with a ridge of high pressure across the country.

Image
GRANT SHEEHAN/THE NIGHT WATCHERS
February 2019's supermoon silhouettes the Castlepoint lighthouse.

"There will be a bit of cloud around in the morning but fine conditions for almost all of New Zealand by evening," James said.

"There will be some clouds around the far south and near East Cape but it is mostly clear skies so most Kiwis will be able to look."

Image
Josh Kirkley
Stardome educator Josh Kirkley captured a supermoon rising over thhti Auckland on December 3rd, 2017.

The moon will rise in the east-northeast around 9:00pm and will look biggest and brightest when sitting just off the horizon.

WHAT IS A SUPERMOON?

Although it is not an official astronomical term, a supermoon is when a full moon aligns with the moon being at perigee, or closest to the earth.

Other supermoons will occur in 2020 on March 10th, April 8th (the biggest moon this year) and May 7th.

Image
ANTHONY PETERS
February 2019's supermoon is captured rising behind thhti Auckland's Sky Tower.

There will also be a penumbral eclipse of the moon - when the earth partially blocks the sun's light from the moon - on June 6th.

Send us your supermoon pictures at newstips@stuff.co.nz

The February full moon is also known as the Storm Moon, Hunger Moon, Magha Purnima, Magha Puja, the Mahamuni Pagoda Festival Moon, the Chinese Lantern Festival Moon and the Full Moon of Tu B'Shevat, according to NASA.

Image
ALEX CAIRNS
February 2019's supermoon had an array of colours as it set over thhti Auckland's Bean Rock lighthouse.

WHAT TIME WILL THE SUPERMOON RISE?

The moon will rise between 8:37pm and 9:28pm on Sunday, depending on where in New Zealand you live, although viewers will need to set aside 30 minutes to see the moon rise, according to Forbes Science.

Key times are:
• 8:37pm: Moon rises in Kerikeri, thhti Auckland and Hamilton
• 8:47pm: Moon rises in Wellington
• 8:53pm: Moon rises in Nelson
• 9:02pm: Moon rises in Christchurch
• 9:28pm: Moon rises in Invercargill.

Image
NASA/Bill Ingalls via Getty Images
A supermoon is captured rising over Washington DC on December 3rd, 2017.

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO SEE THE SUPERMOON?

Apart from the far south of New Zealand and around East Cape, all places across the country are expected to have fine weather.

However, you want a clear view of the northeastern horizon to get the best view.

In thhti Auckland, volcanic peaks Maungawhau/Mt Eden, Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill and
Mt Victoria will offer good viewing platforms, while the Dark Sky Sanctuary on Aotea/Great Barrier Island also offers spectacular night sky viewing.

In Wellington, the Pariwhero/Red Rocks beach offers a clear view of the sky.

In the South Island, south of Amberley and north of Christchurch, Leithfield beach offers panoramic views of the sky.

In the South Island, Leithfield beach and Oamaru's Cape Wanbrow offer unobstructed sky viewing.


Stuff

https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/1193682 ... nday-night

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2020 5:39 am 
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Powerful Radio Signal From Deep Space Appears to Be Repeating in a 16-Day Cycle
MICHELLE STARR
10 FEB 2020

https://www.sciencealert.com/periodicity-has-been-detected-in-a-repeating-fast-radio-burst

One of the defining characteristics of the mysterious deep-space signals we call fast radio bursts is that they are unpredictable. They belch out across the cosmos without rhyme or reason, with no discernible pattern, making them incredibly hard to study.

Now, for the first time, astronomers have found a fast radio burst (FRB) that repeats on a regular cycle.

Every 16.35 days, the signal named FRB 180916.J0158+65 follows a similar pattern. For four days, it will spit out a burst or two every hour. Then it falls silent for 12 days. Then the whole thing repeats.

Astronomers with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) Collaboration in Canada observed this cycle for a total of 409 days. We don't yet know what it means; but it could be another piece in the complicated conundrum of FRBs. The research has been uploaded to pre-print server arXiv, where it awaits scrutiny from other experts in the field.

It's easy to become somewhat obsessed with fast radio bursts, a fascinating space mystery that has so far defied any attempts at a comprehensive explanation.

To recap, FRBs are hugely energetic flares of radiation in the radio spectrum that last just a few milliseconds at most. In that timeframe, they can discharge as much power as hundreds of millions of Suns.

Most of them spark once, and we have never detected them again. This makes it rather difficult to track these bursts down to a source galaxy. Some FRBs spit out repeating radio flares, but wildly unpredictably. These are easier to track to a galaxy, but so far, that hasn't brought us a great deal closer to an explanation.

Last year, the CHIME collaboration announced they had detected a whopping eight new repeating fast radio bursts, bringing the then-total of repeaters to 10 out of over 150 FRB sources. (Another paper recently brought that total up to 11.)

FRB 180916.J0158+65 was among the eight repeaters included in last year's haul; apart from its repeat bursts, initially it didn't appear to be anything special. But as the CHIME experiment continued to stare at the sky, a pattern emerged.

This is exciting, because it offers new information that can be used to try and model what could be causing FRB 180916.J0158+65.

"The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object," the researchers wrote in their paper.

Other objects that demonstrate periodicity tend to be binary systems - stars and black holes. The 16.35-day period could be the orbital period, with the FRB object only facing Earth during a certain part of the orbit.

FRB 180916.J0158+65 is one of the handful of FRBs that have been traced back to a galaxy. It's on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy 500 million light-years away, in a star-forming region. This means a supermassive black hole is unlikely, but a stellar-mass black hole is possible.

"The single constraint on the orbital period still allows several orders of magnitude range in companion mass amongst known stellar-mass compact object binaries: from so-called 'black widow' binary systems, consisting of a low-mass star and a powerful millisecond pulsar whose wind ablates the companion (albeit typically with few-hour orbital periods), to massive O/B stars with highly eccentric companion pulsar orbits," the researchers wrote.

Alternatively, winds from the companion object, or tidal disruptions from a black hole, may periodically somehow block the FRB radiation.

It also can't be ruled out that the FRB source is a single, lone object such as a magnetar or X-ray pulsar, although the researchers note this explanation is a little harder to reconcile with the data. That's because those objects have a wobbling rotation that produces periodicity, and none are known to wobble that slowly.

And radio pulsars that do have periodic intervals of several days are orders of magnitude fainter than FRBs. So it's still a mystery.

But remember that 11th repeater we mentioned earlier? It was found coming from an FRB astronomers had thought was a one-off; its repeats were simply too faint for the equipment that had initially been used to look for them.

This suggests that many more FRBs could be repeating, but outside our detection range. And the fact that FRB 180916.J0158+65 seemed more or less the same as other FRBs could mean that other repeating FRBs are also on a cycle - we just haven't detected those cycles yet.

So, the next step would be, of course, to continue staring at FRB 180916.J0158+65 for a bit. But it also would be pretty interesting to try and see if periodicity can be detected in other bursts as well.

"Future observations, both intensity and polarimetric, and at all wavebands, could distinguish among models and are strongly encouraged," the researchers wrote, "as are searches for periodicities in other repeaters, to see if the phenomenon is generic."

The research is available on arXiv ahead of peer review:
https://arxiv.org/abs/2001.10275

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:29 pm 
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Nasa's New Horizons images of Arrokoth show building blocks for planets
Joel Achenbach·13:10, February 14th, 2020

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Nasa/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/
It’s red and it’s cold. Nasa data from Arrokoth reveals ‘profound truths’ about the solar system.

Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft zoomed past a city-sized object just over a year ago. The most distant object ever explored, since named Arrokoth, was a "planetesimal" lurking quietly in the outer solar system a billion miles past Pluto. The spacecraft beamed back images of what looked like two lumpy, reddish snowballs, one larger than the other, gently pressed together to form an extraterrestrial snowperson.

On Thursday the New Horizons scientists published their full analysis and high-resolution images of Arrokoth in three voluminous reports in the journal Science. They contend this quirky object provides compelling evidence for how planets in our solar system, including Earth, formed four and a half billion years ago from a primordial cloud of dust. The reports suggest planet formation is not as violent and chaotic a process as once assumed.

Arrokoth is a fossil. It has not changed for billions of years. It has been immaculately preserved, like an insect trapped in amber, in a cold, dim, stupendously serene realm of the solar system where nothing much happens, ever.

"This is the best archaeological dig we've ever found into the history of the solar system," enthused Alan Stern, the scientific leader of the New Horizons team.

"We have a lot of thoughts about how the solar system formed, but we really need a lot more actual data and direct evidence in order to see which of those models are correct. We just could not have gotten this information any other way," said Kelsi Singer, deputy project scientist for the mission.

The striking feature of Arrokoth is the two lobes. Originally they were separate, but mutually attracted by gravity. They slowly spiralled together and gently merged like two spaceships docking in low Earth orbit. They became a "contact binary."

"Sometimes we call it the head and the body," said Singer, noting the snowperson-like shape of the object. "And it's got a neck," she added.

Image
Nasa/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/
Beyond Pluto, an immaculate 4.5 billion-year-old fossil suggests gentler origins for solar system objects.

The New Horizon team ran computer simulations that suggest the "collision" of the so-called head and body occurred at a brisk walking pace. There are no signs of compression fractures, no snowball-smushing.

That suggests the two lobes formed close to one another in individual clouds of dust and gas that coalesced due to gravity. The new papers suggest this "local" cloud collapse was the norm in the embryonic solar system. The result of the process was the creation of Arrokoth-like objects that served as fundamental building blocks for larger planetesimals, dwarf planets, full-blown planets like Earth and eventually giant planets - with a couple of them, Jupiter and Saturn, so big they became gas giants.

This model for planet formation rejects an older theory of "hierarchical accretion" in which there is no gentle building-block stage but rather a wild and woolly process in which particles, pebbles and boulders of all sizes gradually come together amid many violent collisions to form a planet.

"To build planets, you don't just start with small grains and gradually they build up to larger and larger objects progressively, but instead you have local gravitational collapse of clusters of material in the solar nebula, that come together to form medium-size objects," said John Spencer, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of one of the new papers.

One scientist outside of the New Horizons team, Anders Johanson of Lund University in Sweden, applauded the Arrokoth findings, having spent many years developing the local cloud collapse model for planet formation.

"There was a previous picture that planetesimals formed 'bottom-up' as larger and larger chunks of rock would collide to form increasingly massive bodies. But this picture does not agree with Arrokoth, since that body has very few craters and since the collision of the two components must have been very slow," he said Thursday. "This then also implies that the Solar System planets formed by gentle pebble accretion and not by violent collisions."

Arrokoth is one of billions of small bodies orbiting the sun at a distance of several billion kilometres, out beyond the orbit of Neptune, in a chilly region known as the Kuiper belt. To be more precise, Arrokoth is part of the "Cold Classical" Kuiper belt, which is distinguished by how remarkably well-preserved everything is.

The objects do not get disturbed gravitationally by nearby planets. They never make a dash toward the sun and turn into a comet, as do many Kuiper belt objects with orbits that wander outside the Cold Classical region. They do nothing, for eons, bathed in a dim light of the distant sun, a bright point of light with just enough candlepower to read a book if such a thing could be located.

Only two interesting things appear to have happened to Arrokoth in four and a half billion years. The first was the merger of the larger lobe with the smaller lobe. The second was the visit by a spaceship from Earth.

Arrokoth happened to be roughly in the path of New Horizons after it made its historic flyby of Pluto in 2015. It was spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope in a search for something New Horizons could visit as it exited the more familiar realms of the solar system. The spacecraft burned some fuel to adjust its trajectory, and on January 1, 2019, passed by the planetesimal at a distance of 3537 kilometres.

During the flyby the spacecraft had to be oriented precisely, via remote-control instructions sent far in advance, lest the cameras miss the shot. They did not miss.

"It's kind of amazing that we can target this tiny thing, 43 times farther from the sun than Earth is, and actually go there and see what it's like," Singer said. "Pluto was obviously hard to top, but this was pretty darn cool too."

Arrokoth was briefly dubbed "Ultima Thule" before the New Horizons team learned the term was used by white supremacists to refer to a mythological Ayran homeland. Instead, with the endorsement of Powhatan elders, scientists gave it a name meaning "sky" in the Powhatan/Algonquian language.

The trio of papers published Thursday represent a massive download of data from the distant spacecraft, combined with computer modeling in the months since the flyby.

New Horizons is not dead yet. The spacecraft is continuing on its journey into what is clearly not quite a void.

Later this year, Stern said, telescopes on Earth will examine that part of the sky to see if there is another target for observation somewhere in the path of the spacecraft. The spacecraft has enough power to operate for another 15 to 20 years, he said.

The Washington Post

https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/119524931 ... or-planets

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2020 10:05 pm 
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The Moon Will Make Mars Disappear Next Week
Ellen Gutoskey
2 days ago

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© Pitris/iStock via Getty Images
On Tuesday, February 18, the moon will float right in front of Mars, completely obscuring it from view.

The moon covers Mars relatively often—according to Sky & Telescope, it will happen five times this year alone—but we don’t always get to see it from Earth. Next week, however, residents of North America can look up to see what’s called a lunar occultation in action. The moon's orbit will bring it between Earth and Mars, allowing the moon to "swallow" the Red Planet over the course of 14 seconds. Mars will stay hidden for just under 90 minutes, and then reemerge from behind the moon.

Depending on where you live, you might have to set your alarm quite a bit earlier than you usually do in order to catch the show. In general, people in eastern parts of the country will see Mars disappear a little later; in Phoenix, for example, it’ll happen at 4:37:27 a.m., Chicagoans can watch it at 6:07:10 a.m., and New Yorkers might even already be awake when the moon swallows Mars at 7:36:37 a.m.

If you can’t help but hit the snooze button, you can skip the disappearing act (also called immersion) and wait for Mars to reappear on the other side of the moon (called emersion). Emersion times vary based on location, too, but they’re around an hour and a half later than immersion times on average. You can check the specific times for hundreds of cities across the country here [PDF].

Since it takes only 14 seconds for Mars to fully vanish (or reemerge), punctuality is a necessity—and so is optical aid. Mars won’t be bright enough for you to see it with your naked eye, so Sky & Telescope recommends looking skyward through binoculars or a telescope.

Thinking of holding an early-morning viewing party on Tuesday? Here are 10 riveting facts about Mars that you can use to impress your guests.


h/t Sky & Telescope

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techandsc ... ocid=ientp

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2020 3:04 pm 
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Astronomers Detect a Doomed 'Hot Jupiter' With an Insane 18-Hour-Short Orbit
Michelle Starr
1 hour ago


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© NASA, ESA and G. Bacon Artist's impression of a transiting gas giant.

We have a new record. Perhaps 1,060 light-years away, a gas giant called NGTS-10b is whipping around its star so closely, it completes an entire orbit in just 18.4 hours.

That's nearly as close as the planet can get to the host star without being ripped apart by gravitational forces. But it will get closer.

Astronomers have estimated that the exoplanet is spiralling in towards the star, and will cross that ripping-apart point - called the Roche limit - in just 38 million years. It's utterly doomed.

The finding makes this solar system an incredible laboratory for studying tidal interactions between a star and a perilously close giant exoplanet, which belongs to the 'hot Jupiter' type.

Hot Jupiters are fascinating exoplanets. As the name suggests, they are gas giants like Jupiter; unlike Jupiter, however, they orbit very closely to their host stars, with orbital periods of less than 10 days. This is what makes them "hot" (and here you were thinking it was the swimsuits).

According to current models of planet formation, technically hot Jupiters shouldn't exist. A gas giant can't form that close to their star, because the gravity, radiation, and intense stellar winds ought to keep the gas from clumping together.

However, they do exist; of the over 4,000 confirmed exoplanets discovered to date, up to 337 could be hot Jupiters. It's thought that they form farther out in their planetary systems, then migrate inwards towards the star.

We may not know much about their mysterious births, but hot Jupiters that are particularly close to their stars can tell us a lot about star-planet tidal interactions. Hence, they are among the most studied exoplanets in the galaxy.

Until this latest breakneck discovery, only six of these enigmatic gas giants had ever been detected with an orbital period of less than one day - WASP-18b (22.6 hours), WASP-19b (18.9 hours), WASP-43b (19.5 hours), WASP-103b (22.2 hours), HATS-18b (20.1 hours) and KELT-16b (23.3 hours).

NGTS-10b, discovered using the ground-based Next-Generation Transit Survey in Paranal, Chile, marks the seventh of these ultra-close hot Jupiters, and it has the shortest orbital period of them all.

Between 21 September 2015 and 14 May 2016, a single telescope observed the star now known as NGTS-10 over 237 nights. The survey wasn't officially operational yet, but it captured 220,918 10-second exposures of the star during this commissioning phase.

It seemed like a relatively unremarkable main sequence star - around 10 billion years old K-type orange star, just under 70 percent of the Sun's size and mass.

But a closer look at those images revealed that the star was dimming slightly every 18.4 hours. So an international team of astronomers led by James McCormac of the University of Warwick set to work, using that data and additional observations to characterise the exoplanet responsible for the dimming.

They determined that NGTS-10b is just over 1.2 times the size of Jupiter, and just over 2.1 times its mass. And it's orbiting the star at 1.46 times the Roche radius - meaning it's right on the verge (in cosmic time) of tidal devastation.

At such proximity to the star, even though it's not yet close enough to pull NGTS-10b apart, the exoplanet will be flattened at the poles as the star's gravity pulls it out of shape, an oblate spheroid rather than a nice, plump round sphere.

The team was careful to rule out a binary companion of the host star as a cause of the dimming. So, we are as sure as we can be that the exoplanet exists. The problem is that the light from the neighbouring stars has made it somewhat difficult to calculate an accurate distance to NGTS-10.

The 1,060 light-year distance was calculated based on Gaia data, the most accurate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way galaxy to date, but there's still a margin for error. If the distance is incorrect, that may mean some of the size and mass data is slightly incorrect, too.

That issue can be resolved by studying the next release of Gaia data, due to drop in batches in 2020 and 2021.

Meanwhile, continued observations of the system could reveal the exoplanet's orbital decay. The team predicts that the orbit will shorten by 7 seconds over the next 10 years. If astronomers can obtain precise enough measurements of the system, they may be able to see it happening.

The research has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

A version of this article was originally published in October 2019, when the study was available in pre-print.

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/ast ... ocid=ientp

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 1:32 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2020 12:08 am 
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No Signs of Alien Tech Found by SETI Scans of Our Interstellar Visitor 2I/Borisov
Peter Dockrill
3 hrs ago

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© Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA 2I/Borisov captured by the Gemini North telescope.

A mysterious comet identified last year as only the second-ever known interstellar object in our Solar System inevitably prompted some big scientific questions. Chief among them: what, if anything, can it tell us about the hypothesised existence of extraterrestrial intelligence out there in space?

Well, if the object known as 2I/Borisov holds alien secrets, they're staying secrets for now. A recent announcement by scientists behind the Breakthrough Listen project reveals that scans of the comet reveal no signs of technosignatures we can identify that would indicate the presence of advanced, intelligent life.

The news, revealed by SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) scientists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this month, highlights the almost overwhelming amount of unknowns and variables that challenge SETI researchers.

"If interstellar travel is possible, which we don't know, and if other civilisations are out there, which we don't know, and if they are motivated to build an interstellar probe, then some fraction greater than zero of the objects that are out there are artificial interstellar devices," explains astronomer Steve Croft UC Berkeley's SETI Research Centre.

"Just as we do with our measurements of transmitters on extrasolar planets, we want to put a limit on what that number is."

Scanning objects like 2I/Borisov to look for evidence of alien technology might seem like a decidedly sci-fi premise, but scientists are entirely open-minded when it comes to investigating these mysterious interstellar interlopers.

Before the world became aware of 2I/Borisov, another interstellar object, 'Oumuamua, made history, becoming the first-ever known interstellar visitor scientists had observed in our Solar System.

Amidst the excitement and curiosity, it didn't take long for some researchers to speculate as to whether 'Oumuamua could be an alien spacecraft of some description. Subsequent analyses suggested otherwise, though.

An attempt by SETI researchers to find alien technosignatures produced by 'Oumuamua – in the form of radio signals that might be emitted from the object – turned up nothing.

"We were looking for a signal that would prove that this object incorporates some technology – that it was of artificial origin," astrophysicist Gerry Harp from the SETI Institute explained in 2018.

"We didn't find any such emissions, despite a quite sensitive search."

Now, the same methods have also failed to find technosignatures coming from 2I/Borisov.

That doesn't necessarily mean there is no technology of any sort functioning on these interstellar objects; just that we can't identify evidence of the kind of electromagnetic radiation we would expect to see from Earth-based technology that emits radio signals.

Of course, 2I/Borisov, as intriguing as it may be, is just a tiny target in the much greater SETI hunt.

At the AAAS meeting this month, Breakthrough Listen researchers publicly released almost 2 petabytes of radio telescope survey data gleaned from observatories in the US and Australia. 2I/Borisov might not show any hits as yet, but there's no knowing for sure just what this giant data dump could reveal, which is why scientists are encouraging the public to help sift through said data.

"It is our hope that these data sets will reveal something new and interesting, be it other intelligent life in the Universe or an as-yet-undiscovered natural astronomical phenomenon," says Breakthrough Listen lead system administrator Matt Lebofsky.

In a new paper, one subset of the data provides a focus on radio emissions from 20 nearby star systems in what's known as the Earth Transit Zone, the region of the sky from which an observer would see the Earth transit the Sun.

"This is a unique geometry," lead researcher Sofia Sheikh from Penn State University explains.

"It is how we discovered other exoplanets, so it kind of makes sense to extrapolate and say that that might be how other intelligent species find planets, as well."

So far, there's no evidence of alien technosignatures in the data subset either, but there's no dampening the enthusiasm of the SETI community, especially as their own technological capabilities are only getting ever stronger.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) simultaneously announced this month it will be collaborating with the SETI Institute to add SETI capabilities to NRAO radio telescopes.

Whether those new powers will finally help reveal the existence of a distant alien technology – or simply provide more examples of where ET isn't – it's impossible to say right now. But if the truth is out there, there's never been a better time to go looking for it.

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techandsc ... ocid=ientp

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2020 7:51 am 
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Scientists Claim to Have Found The First Known Extraterrestrial Protein in a Meteorite
MICHELLE STARR
2 MAR 2020

https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-claim-to-have-found-the-first-known-extraterrestrial-protein-in-a-meteorite

A new discovery could be a clue for us to see if life could emerge elsewhere in the Solar System. Using a new analysis technique, scientists think they have found an extraterrestrial protein, tucked inside a meteorite that fell to Earth 30 years ago.

If their results can be replicated, it will be the first protein ever identified that didn't originate here on Earth.

"This paper characterises the first protein to be discovered in a meteorite," the researchers wrote in a paper uploaded to preprint server arXiv. Their work is yet to be peer reviewed, but the implications of this finding are noteworthy.

Over the last few years, meteorites from the wider Solar System have been yielding some building blocks for life as we know it. Cyanide, which could play a role in building molecules necessary for life; ribose, a type of sugar that is found in RNA; and amino acids, organic compounds that combine to form proteins.

Researchers have now revisited the meteorites that yielded the latter. Led by physicist Malcolm McGeoch of superconductor X-ray source supplier PLEX Corporation, the team focussed their search for something more.

Using "state-of-the-art" mass spectrometry, they found what they believe to be protein in a meteorite called Acfer 086, found in Algeria in 1990.

While not proof of extraterrestrial living creatures, this protein discovery makes for yet another of life's building blocks to be found in a space rock. There are many processes that can produce protein, but life, as far as we know, can't exist without it.

"In general, they're taking a meteor that has been preserved by a museum and has been analysed previously. And they are modifying the techniques that they're using in order to be able to detect amino acid inside of this meteor, but in a higher signal ratio," astronomer and chemist Chenoa Tremblay of CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science in Australia, who was not involved in the research, told ScienceAlert.

Not only did the team find the glycine amino acid with a stronger signal than previous analysis, they found that it was bound with other elements, such as iron and lithium. When they performed modelling to see what was occurring, they found that the glycine wasn't isolated; it was part of a protein.

The researchers are calling this newly discovered protein hemolithin. While hemolithin is structurally similar to terrestrial proteins, its ratio of deuterium to hydrogen was not matched by anything on Earth. It is, however, consistent with long-period comets.

This suggests, the researchers argue, that the structure they have identified as protein is of extraterrestrial origin, and possibly formed in the proto-solar disc, over 4.6 billion years ago.

But, they also note that there's a possibility what they found might not be protein. Although the team thinks it's the most likely explanation, it's also possible that their finding is actually a polymer - a broad class of molecules, of which proteins are only one.

So it's a little too early to get too carried away. But, overall, Tremblay is impressed with the work.

"I think this is really exciting," she said. "I think that it's got a lot of really interesting implications and a lot of compelling arguments. And I think it's a really great step forward."

There are several next steps that the research could take. Other scientists can take the spectra, and use modelling software to try to replicate structures that produce the same or similar spectra. That could help determine whether we're looking at protein or a different kind of polymer.

Similar techniques could now be used on other meteorites in which amino acids have been found, to see if similar structures can be found.

As Tremblay explains, recent studies on the International Space Station have indicated that "protein should be easier to make in space because of the reduced gravity", and astronaut scientists have actually managed to produce quite large protein molecules, stable enough to bring down to Earth.

"So we're pretty sure that proteins are likely to exist in space," she says. "But if we can actually start finding evidence of their existence, and what some of the structures and the common structures might be, I think that's really interesting and exciting."

The research is currently available on arXiv.

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2020 10:40 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2020 11:54 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Is Uranus Leaking?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:51 pm 
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Is Uranus leaking into space? Data hidden in the Voyager 2 spacecraft since 1986 reveals the planet's twisted magnetic field is releasing bits of its atmosphere

Stacy Liberatore For Dailymail.com 8 minutes ago

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A startling discovery has been by NASA after analyzing data from the Voyager 2's 1986 visit to Uranus - the magnetic bubble surrounding the planet is funneling the atmosphere out into space.

A startling discovery has been by NASA after analysing data from the Voyager 2's 1986 visit to Uranus - the magnetic bubble surrounding the planet is funneling its atmosphere out into space.

The atmospheric loss is due to the planet's twisted magnetic field that causes the magnetosphere to wobble 'like a poorly-thrown football.'

This results in parts of Uranus' atmosphere leaking out in charged bubbles of plasma, called plasmoids, which pinch off from the magnetic field as it moves around by the Sun.

Scientists have determined that the plasmoid around Uranus measures about 127,000 miles (204,387 kilometres) by 250,000 miles (402,336 kilometres) and has pulled between 15 to 55 percent of Uranus' atmosphere out from the planet.

Scientists have long theorized that magnetic fields protect the planet by keeping solar winds at bay.

However, NASA explains that they can also create funnels for the atmosphere to escape.

This event has been observed to occur in both Saturn and Jupiter, and leaves experts to think Mars had once experienced a loss in its atmosphere.

Gina DiBraccio, space physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and project scientist for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN mission, said: 'Mars used to be a wet planet with a thick atmosphere.'

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© Provided by Daily Mail
The planet's twisted magnetic field causes the magnetosphere to wobble 'like a poorly-thrown football, allowing bubbles of plasma to escape that hold parts of the atmosphere. Pictured is a concept drawing of the Voyager 2 spacecraft

'It evolved over time' — 4 billion years of leakage to space — 'to become the dry planet we see today.'

However, unlike most planets, Uranus seems to beat to its own drum when it rotates – it sits almost perfectly on its side.

'Its magnetic field axis points 60 degrees away from that spin axis, so as the planet spins, its magnetosphere — the space carved out by its magnetic field — wobbles like a poorly-thrown football, NASA explains in a statement.

This movement is so unique, it caught the attention of DiBraccio and her team, who extracted 34 years of data from Voyager 2's magnetometer readings.

This information shows the strength and direction of the magnetic fields near Uranus the craft flew by.

The plasmoid DiBraccio and coauthor Dan Gershman, a fellow Goddard space physicist to the project, found appeared during just 60 seconds of Voyager 2’s 45-hour-long flight passed the giant planet.

The magnetic looked like a quick up-down blip in the magnetometer data, Gershman said that when recreated in 3D it appears more like a cylinder.

Comparing their results to plasmoids observed at Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury, they estimated a cylindrical shape at least 127,000 miles (204,387 kilometres) long, and up to roughly 250,000 miles (402,336 kilometres) across.

And the team believes this plasmoid, like others in space, contains charged particles — mostly ionised hydrogen.

Whereas some plasmoids have a twisted internal magnetic field, DiBraccio and Gershman observed smooth, closed magnetic loops.

Such loop-like plasmoids are typically formed as a spinning planet flings bits of its atmosphere to space.

'Centrifugal forces take over, and the plasmoid pinches off,' Gershman said.

According to their estimates, plasmoids like that one could account for between 15 and 55 percent of atmospheric mass loss at Uranus, a greater proportion than either Jupiter or Saturn.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techands ... id=BHEA000

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2020 4:12 pm 
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Cloudy weather forecast might hinder views of biggest, brightest supermoon
Brittney Deguara·12:01, April, 7th, 2020.

Stargazers are set to be treated to one of the biggest and brightest full moons of the year on Tuesday night.

The supermoon's orbit is nearing Earth and set to peak above New Zealand on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

Astronomy guide Akihiro Tamura explained that New Zealand won't be able to see the moon when it is at its closest - around 2.35pm on Wednesday - but "we have a chance to enjoy a brighter and bigger moon than usual whenever that moon is in the night sky tonight".

Supermoon isn't an official astronomical term, but it is the name given when a full moon occurs at the same time as it being at perigee - the point on the orbit that's closest to the Earth. At its closest, it will be approximately 357,042 kilometres away, but visibility on Tuesday night is reliant on the weather forecast.

The outlook isn't looking too great for most of the country to see it. Overnight the forecast is set to be quite cloudy and wet in thhti Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, according to the MetService website.

These conditions are expected to continue on Wednesday. Meteorologist Tahlia Crabtree says a front moving over the North Island is expected to bring cloud cover for most of the day.

In the South Island, the upper and lower regions are forecast to be relatively fine, but those on the east coast in the Canterbury region might not be as lucky.

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Craig Shearer/Supplied
A shot of the supermoon from February 9th, 2019, over Hobsonville, thhti Auckland.

To have the best view of the phenomenon, Tamura suggests heading out at moonset (just before 6am) to enjoy the supermoon and the sunrise. A telescope isn't necessary to view it, just "eyes and pure heart".

"Everyone who lives under the sky is able to see [it]."

It is the second supermoon for the year - the first was on March 10th, and the last will be on May 7th.

If you snap a photo of the supermoon, send your pictures through to newstips@stuff.co.nz.


Stuff

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/weathe ... -supermoon

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
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Here's the view from ESA's BepiColombo spacecraft, as it prepares to use a gravity-assist from the Earth to propel it toward the planet Mercury...
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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2020 9:40 pm 
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^^^^^ awesome! ^^^^^

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2020 1:16 am 
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Has Nasa discovered another Earth?
Perhaps

Doyle Rice·17:29, April 16th, 2020.

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NASA/AMES RESEARCH CENTER/DANIEL RUTTER
An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star.

Astronomers have discovered a planet nearly the same size as Earth that orbits in its star's habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface, a new study said.

The presence of liquid water also indicates the planet could support life.

This newly found world, Kepler-1649c, is 300 light-years away from Earth and orbits a star that is about one-fourth the size of our sun.

What's exciting is that out of all the 2,000+ exoplanets that have been discovered using observations from the Kepler Space Telescope, this world is most similar to Earth both in size and estimated temperature, Nasa said.

An exoplanet is a planet that's outside of our solar system.

"This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa's science mission directorate in Washington, DC in the US.

Although Nasa said that there are other exoplanets estimated to be closer to Earth in size - and others may be closer to Earth in temperature - there is no other exoplanet that's closer to Earth in both of these values that also lies in the habitable zone of its system.

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NASA/AMES RESEARCH CENTER/DANIEL RUTTER
A comparison of Earth and Kepler-1649c, an exoplanet only 1.06 times Earth's radius.

This newly revealed world is only 1.06 times larger than our own planet. Also, the amount of starlight it receives from its host star is 75 per cent of the amount of light Earth receives from our sun - meaning the exoplanet's temperature may be similar to our planet's, as well.

But unlike Earth, it orbits a red dwarf. Though none have been observed in this system, this type of star is known for stellar flare-ups that may make a planet's environment challenging for any potential life.

Scientists discovered this planet when looking through old observations from the Kepler Space Telescope, which the agency retired in 2018. (Although Nasa's Kepler mission ended in 2018 when it ran out of fuel, scientists are still making discoveries as they continue to examine the information that Kepler sent back to Earth.)

"The more data we get, the more signs we see pointing to the notion that potentially habitable and Earth-size exoplanets are common around these kinds of stars," said study lead author Andrew Vanderburg, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.

"With red dwarfs almost everywhere around our galaxy, and these small, potentially habitable and rocky planets around them, the chance one of them isn't too different than our Earth looks a bit brighter," he said.

The new study was published this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

- USA Today

https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/1210656 ... th-perhaps

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2020 10:49 pm 
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Solar Winds Hitting Earth Are Hotter Than They Should Be,
And We May Finally Know Why

Mike McRae
3 hours ago

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© NASA/SDO

Our planet is constantly bathed in the winds coming off the blistering sphere at the centre of our Solar System. But even though the Sun itself is so ridiculously hot, once the solar winds reach Earth, they are hotter than they should be - and we might finally know why.

We know that particles making up the plasma of the Sun's heliosphere cool as they spread out. The problem is that they seem to take their sweet time doing so, dropping in temperature far slower than models predict.

"People have been studying the solar wind since its discovery in 1959, but there are many important properties of this plasma which are still not well understood," says physicist Stas Boldyrev from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

"Initially, researchers thought the solar wind has to cool down very rapidly as it expands from the Sun, but satellite measurements show that as it reaches the Earth, its temperature is 10 times larger than expected."

The research team used laboratory equipment to study moving plasma, and now think the answer to the problem lies in a trapped sea of electrons that just can't seem to escape the Sun's grip.

The expansion process itself has long been assumed to be subject to adiabatic laws, a term that simply means heat energy isn't added or removed from a system. This keeps the numbers nice and simple, but assumes there aren't places where energy slips in or out of the flow of particles.

Unfortunately, an electron's journey is anything but simple, shoved around at the mercy of vast magnetic fields like a roller coaster from Hell. This chaos leaves plenty of opportunity for heat to be passed back and forth.

Just to complicate matters further, thanks to its tiny mass, electrons get a good head start over heavier ions as they shoot forth from the Sun's atmosphere, leaving a largely positive cloud of particles in their wake.

Eventually the growing attraction between the two opposing charges takes over the inertia of those flying electrons, pulling them back to the starting line where magnetic fields once again play havoc with their paths.

"Such returning electrons are reflected so that they stream away from the Sun, but again they cannot escape because of the attractive electric force of the Sun," says Boldyrev.

"So, their destiny is to bounce back and forth, creating a large population of so-called trapped electrons."

Boldyrev and his crew recognised a similar game of electron ping-pong playing out in their own laboratory, inside an apparatus commonly used to study plasma called a mirror machine.

Mirror machines don't actually contain any mirrors. At least, not the familiar shiny kind. Also known as magnetic mirrors or magnetic traps, these linear fusion devices are little more than long tubes with a bottle-neck at either end.

Their reflective nature is created as streams of plasma passing through the bottle pinch in at either end, altering the surrounding magnetic fields in such a way that particles within the stream reflect back inside again.

"But some particles can escape, and when they do, they stream along expanding magnetic field lines outside the bottle," Boldyrev says.

"Because the physicists want to keep this plasma very hot, they want to figure out how the temperature of the electrons that escape the bottle declines outside this opening."

Or if you're Boldyrev and his team, those leaking electrons can be studied to better understand what's happening with our very own solar wind.

He and his colleagues suggest the population of trapped electrons that yo-yo back and forth play a major role in the way electrons distribute their heat energy, changing the typical distributions of particle velocities and temperatures in predictable ways.

"It turns out that our results agree very well with measurements of the temperature profile of the solar wind and they may explain why the electron temperature declines with the distance so slowly," says Boldyrev.

Finding such a good match between the mirror machine's figures and what we see in space suggests there could be other solar phenomena worth studying this way.

This research was published in PNAS.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/so ... id=BHEA000

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 1:26 am 
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Earth's Core Could Be Leaking Heavy Iron Isotopes,
New Study Reveals

Carly Cassella
10 hours ago

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© Arctic-Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images
What goes down at the very center of our planet is largely a mystery, and so is what goes up.

The truth is, no human has ever made it past the crust, or dug deep enough to penetrate Earth's rocky mantle, let alone its liquid iron core, so we don't know what type of interactions take place here. And that's not for a lack of trying.

Sitting at a depth of roughly 2,900 kilometres (1,800 miles), our planet's core lies far beyond our technological reach - at least for now - and yet through educated guesswork and clever theoretical models, scientists have drawn a window into some of the enigmas lying beneath our feet.

New research now suggests Earth's molten core may actually be leaking iron into the upper mantle, which is more than a thousand degrees cooler than the liquid nucleus.

For decades, scientists have debated whether or not the core and the mantle exchange physical material.

Earth's powerful magnetic field and its electric currents certainly imply there's lots of iron down in the core. Plus, samples of mantle rocks brought to the surface show a significant chunk of iron as well, leading some to speculate the material is coming all the way from the core.

To gain some insight into whether this could be possible, researchers have drawn on experiments in the lab showing how iron isotopes move between areas of different temperatures under high pressure and temperature.

Image
L. O'Dwyer Brown, Aarhus University

Using this information to create a model, the team's results suggest that heavy iron isotopes could be migrating from the Earth's hot core out to the cooler mantle. While the light iron isotopes would do the opposite and move from cool to hot back down into the core.

These results are still theoretical, but they could teach us something important about how our planet's interior works.

"If correct, this stands to improve our understanding of core-mantle interaction," says geologist and petrologist Charles Lesher from Aarhus University in Denmark.

And that sort of knowledge is really important. It can help us interpret seismic images in the deep mantle and allow us to model how chemicals and heat rise and fall between Earth's layers.

Using computer simulations, the authors were even able to show how this core material can make it all the way up to Earth's surface, with heavier isotopes essentially hitching a ride on the upwells of a hot mantle plume, like those found in Samoa and Hawaii - a possible signature of Earth's leaky core.

A study published last year suggested something similar. Its authors found core material - in this case, tungsten isotopes - were also transferred to the surface via ascending mantle plumes and that the core has probably been leaking this material for the past 2.5 billion years or so.

Lesher says his results also suggest iron isotopes from the core have been leaking into the mantle for billions of years. But if exchanges like this are actually happening, the question then becomes: What is the impact over the long run?

Right now, no one really knows. The new simulation only shows that a leak from the core to the mantle under high temperature and pressure is possible, and it could explain why mantle rocks hold so much more iron than meteorites: in short, the iron liquid is coming from the heart.

The authors admit there's considerable uncertainty in some of their model's parameters, like diffusion, thermal conductivity or the amount of core liquid that's actually infiltrating the mantle. The numbers chosen may not represent the reality of the situation.

Nevertheless, the exchange of iron isotopes across the core-mantle barrier by thermodiffusion appears more than capable of iron-ing out our mantle, so to speak.

"This does not preclude other processes but simply shows that thermodiffusion is a plausible agent of isotopic fractionation in the region of the [core-mantle-barrier] on geological timescales," the authors conclude.

The study was published in Nature Geoscience.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/ea ... id=BHEA000

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 5:44 pm 
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Interstellar gatecrasher 2I/Borisov is no ordinary comet
By Will Dunham
1 hour ago
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© Reuters/NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello An artist's impression of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov as it travels through our solar system.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Scientists have discovered that a comet called 2I/Borisov - only the second interstellar object ever detected passing through the solar system - is surprisingly different in its composition from comets hailing from our celestial neighborhood.

Gas coming off 2I/Borisov contained high amounts of carbon monoxide - far more than comets formed in our solar system - indicating the object had large concentrations of carbon monoxide ice, researchers said on Monday.

Carbon monoxide, poisonous to humans, is common as a gas in space and forms as ice only in the most frigid locations. The presence of so much carbon monoxide, the researchers said, suggests 2I/Borisov formed in a different manner than comets in our solar system - in a very cold outer region of its home star system or around a star cooler than the sun.

Comets essentially are dirty snowballs composed of frozen gases, rock and dust that orbit stars.

"We like to refer to 2I/Borisov as a snowman from a dark and cold place," said planetary scientist Dennis Bodewits of Auburn University in Alabama, lead author of one of two 2I/Borisov studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

"Comets are left-over building blocks from the time of planet formation. For the first time, we have been able to measure the chemical composition of such a building block from another planetary system while it flew through our own solar system," Bodewits added.

The comet, detected in August 2019 by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov and estimated to be about six-tenths of a mile (1-km) wide, has zoomed through interstellar space after being ejected from its original star system.

It was born long ago in a rotating disc of gas and dust surrounding a newly formed star in a place that must have been rich in carbon monoxide, Bodewits said. That star may have been what is called an M-dwarf, far smaller and cooler than the sun and the smallest type of star that is known, Bodewits said.

Scientists initially concluded last year that 2I/Borisov was similar to comets from our solar system, but data from the Hubble Space Telescope and an observatory in Chile revealed its differences.

The researchers also found an abundance of hydrogen cyanide at levels similar to comets from our solar system.

"This shows that 2I/Borisov is not a completely alien object, and confirms some similarity with our 'normal' comets, so the processes that shaped it are comparable to the way our own comets formed," said Martin Cordiner, an astrobiologist working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and lead author of the other study.

The only other interstellar visitor discovered in our solar system was a cigar-shaped rocky object called 'Oumuamua spotted in 2017.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techands ... id=BHEA000

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 7:17 pm 
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Quote:
Gas coming off 2I/Borisov contained high amounts of carbon monoxide

Is it an Alien V8 spaceship? Well least the oil price has gone down, maybe there are here to buy up big :mrgreen:


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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 10:54 pm 
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Melania Trump wrote:
Quote:
Gas coming off 2I/Borisov contained high amounts of carbon monoxide

Is it an Alien V8 spaceship? Well least the oil price has gone down, maybe there are here to buy up big :mrgreen:


Better not go anywhere near California, their co2 emissions are tightly controlled :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
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The Hubble Space Telescope just turned 30,
and it’s working better than ever

Charlie Wood
11 hours ago

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© NASA, ESA and STScI
Hubble zooms in for an up-close look at star assembly in one of the galaxies orbiting the Milky Way.

On April 24, 1990, the Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off from Florida with an instrument that would forever divide astronomy into two eras: the time before space telescopes, and the time after.

From its perch above Earth’s fuzzy atmosphere, the Hubble Space Telescope has spent three decades peering into the darkness, indiscriminately collecting whatever stray light beams found their way to its giant mirror. From local moons, to distant planets, exploding stars, and far off galaxies, the world’s first and best-known space telescope has snapped images of them all, producing a voluminous gallery topping 1.4 million observations. Now NASA is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Hubble’s launch with one more picture—and it’s a doozy.

Taken earlier this year specifically to commemorate the observatory’s milestone, the image captures stars being constructed from gas swirling in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy circling our own that can be seen in the skies of the southern hemisphere. The blazing young stars in the center each outweigh our sun by a factor of ten, and the blue cloud (colors indicate different gas types) represents detritus expelled from one star.

“It just reminds us of the beauty of our universe, and the ongoing activity,” says Jennifer Wiseman, a NASA astrophysicist and the senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope.

It’s hard to overstate—or even state—how deeply Hubble has transformed astronomy with its eagle eye. Free from the blurring effects of Earth’s atmosphere, the telescope can do the equivalent of spotting clouds of fireflies in Tokyo from Washington D.C., or seeing an individual human hair from a mile away. Ground-based telescopes struggle to reach a tenth of that precision.

And the telescope has used that vision to observe the universe near and far. Astronomers have used Hubble to discover possible geysers of water on Europa, take videos of auroras on Jupiter, snap pictures of exoplanets around other suns, watch stars and gas whip around black holes, and clock the expansion of the universe. “It's rewritten the textbook in every area you care to look,” says Mark Clampin, NASA’s Director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate.

It’s a remarkable legacy, especially considering that the wunderkind observatory started off its career in ignominious failure.

A nearly eight-foot mirror lies at the heart of the spacecraft, expertly ground to exquisite smoothness. But tragically, it’s the wrong shape. During manufacturing, engineers measured its curvature with two different tools, one older manual instrument and a newer laser-based device. The first indicated that the mirror was flawed while the second suggested it had the right form, and rather than investigate the disagreement the team chose to believe the high-tech doohickey. “If you’re over budget and behind schedule and people are mad at you, there’s a temptation to talk yourself into an answer you like,” said astronaut Kathryn Sullivan during a lecture at the Symphony Space performing arts center in New York City on Dec. 3, 2019.

The one-millimeter “spherical aberration,” as the flaw came to be called, was imperceptible to the human eye, but it wrecked Hubble’s vision. NASA knew immediately that it had a problem when their shiny new space telescope, the product of decades of planning and $4.7 billion at the time of launch, returned pictures with sharp centers but blurry halos. Astronomers ran to mathematics textbooks to find techniques to correct their data and make the best of a bad situation, while the mission became a national laughingstock. A young Jay Leno once joked on late night that the government should “shoot down” Hubble and “put the thing out of its misery.”

But NASA had another idea. Mission planners had entwined the telescope’s design with that of the Space Shuttle program, making the machine serviceable by astronauts. After three years of scrambling, the engineers designed a second mirror that could correct the aberration of the first like a pair of glasses, and a team of astronauts (including Sullivan) launched to slot it into place. The astronauts also installed a new infrared camera, starting a tradition of upgrading Hubble’s components that would span five missions. “That has left us with a new observatory every time they have visited,” Wiseman says.

So even as Hubble aged, many of its parts have gotten facelifts. Clampin says that the mirrors, supports, and many electronics boxes are original, but the solar panels, batteries, instruments, reaction wheels (for pointing), and computers have all been upgraded—some as recently as 2009. The Space Shuttle program has since ended so Hubble now flies beyond our reach. But if the telescope could somehow return to Earth, it would actually weigh 3,000 pounds more than it did at launch.

The astronomical community has put all that hardware to good use. Hubble beams down about 19 gigabytes of data every week—the equivalent of six hours of HD Netflix binging. Data from the telescope has led to more than 17,000 journal articles, with more than 1,000 publications last year. Researchers compete fiercely for access to the machine with roughly 90% of proposals being rejected.

Amongst the essentially innumerable scientific highlights, Wiseman and Clampin both single out two fields that Hubble has particularly revolutionized: exoplanet science and cosmology.

When Hubble launched, five years before the first exoplanet was discovered through indirect means, astronomers debated whether the telescope would be able spot them directly, Clampin recalls. It’s seen a few, mostly hot young worlds still glowing from the heat of formation, but Hubble’s real success lies in capturing light filtering through exoplanet atmospheres as they pass in front of their star. This technique, which didn’t even exist when engineers built Hubble, has since been employed to discover liquid water and perhaps even clouds on alien worlds. “If you asked anybody 30 years ago if they thought that was possible,” Clampin says, “they’d have thought you were nuts.”

But Hubble’s greatest superpower may be its ability to peer into past, because of the way the speed of light yolks distance to time. The telescope’s deep field research program has stared longer and longer at dark patches of space, zooming into tiny spots of sky to resolve the thousands of galaxies each contains. Light from the farthest galaxies took billions of years to reach us, and with intense squinting Hubble has been able to see galaxies that existed a few hundred million years after the big bang. The universe back then, at just a few percent of its current age, was a hot mess. “As you look further and further back in time, you can see more and more violence,” Clampin says. “You don’t have galaxy-looking galaxies anymore. They’re all train wrecks,” tearing through each other at high speeds.

Cosmologists have long understood that getting from the smooth soup produced by the big bang to today’s lumpy universe of stars and planets involved a lot of growing up. But Hubble has been able to produce direct images showing exactly how galaxies have matured over the eons, helping researchers measure the age of the universe and discover the expanding influence of dark energy. It’s the difference between assuming your friend must have had some wild college years, and then getting access to their photo library. “That’s been something Hubble has really helped us understand,” Wiseman says. “How the universe has changed and progressed over time to being the life-friendly place that we enjoy, at least on one planet.”

As astronomers move into the fourth decade of the space telescope era, they look forward to a host of new discoveries from instruments young and old. After its 2009 servicing, Hubble remains at the top of its scientific game, and Wiseman expects that it may live to see its 40th anniversary.

Soon joining Hubble in the sky, possibly even next year, will be the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will complement Hubble’s abilities with more reflecting area to collect light and an ability to see a wider variety of infrared colors. Astronomers expect the JWST will detect new elements in exoplanet atmospheres (including, just maybe, cocktails indicative of alien life), as well as even younger galaxies.

Looking farther ahead, the launch of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFISRT) in the middle of the decade could let cosmologists study the distant past more broadly. “Think of the Hubble deep fields as at little thumbnails,” Clampin says. “WFIRST will give you the full HD TV view of these regions.”

These up and coming space telescopes will build on Hubble’s legacy, but they will also be products of it. Clampin, who has been deeply involved in the assembly of the JWST, says that engineers now insist on getting identical mirror measurements from at least two different tools as to not repeat Hubble’s mistake. They’ve even had to ask companies to build them custom devices just for that purpose.

As NASA’s growing fleet of space telescopes continues to expand our view of the universe, one unforgettable motto of the Hubble era will undoubtedly live on: Measure twice, launch once.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techands ... id=BHEA000

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2020 3:15 pm 
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Astronomers find 'alien' asteroids living in our solar system

By Ashley Strickland, CNN
Updated 1130 GMT (1930 HKT) April 26th, 2020.

(CNN) — Scientists In the last few years have studied the first observed interstellar visitors to our solar system. They include a comet called 2I/Borisov, spotted in 2019 and still passing through, and an asteroid called 'Oumuamua that zipped through quickly in 2017.

Now, astronomers have identified a more permanent outsider presence in our solar system. It's a group of interstellar asteroids that checked in a long time ago and never left. And they've been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, according to a new study published this week in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

These asteroids were likely around when our solar system was forming 4.5 billion years ago. They originated in a different star system. And when our solar system was forming, it was likely closer to other baby star systems as well.

Image
The European Southern Observatory captured this image of the Lobster Nebula, where gas and dust surround young, forming stars. Stars are closer together in nebulae, meaning they can capture objects from each other.

"The close proximity of the stars meant that they felt each others' gravity much more strongly in those early days than they do today," said Fathi Namouni, researcher at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur and lead study author, in a statement. "This enabled asteroids to be pulled from one star system to another."
Namouni and fellow researcher Maria Helena Moreira Morais at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil used numerical modeling to simulate the infancy of our solar system and pinpoint the location of the asteroids billions of years ago.
The simulation placed the asteroids moving in a perpendicular orbit to the plane where the solar system's planets and asteroids orbit the sun. The asteroids were also very distant from the original disk where the planets formed around the sun.
This suggested that the asteroids were actually captured from another star system as the planets were forming in our solar system.

Image
We don't have images of the newly discovered asteroids, but the researchers imagine they look similar to this one, called Mathilde, imaged by NASA's NEAR Shoemaker mission in 1997.

The 19 asteroids have been hiding in plain sight ever since, orbiting the sun along with asteroids called Centaurs that can be found in between Jupiter and Neptune.
Centaurs are unusual because they resemble and act like both asteroids and comets. This dual nature is why they're named centaurs, after half-horse, half-human creatures from mythology. According to NASA estimates, two-thirds of Centaurs came from the freezing outskirts of the solar system.
Centaurs also have orbits that are difficult to understand or predict.

"The discovery of a whole population of asteroids of interstellar origin is an important step in understanding the physical and chemical similarities and differences between solar system-born and interstellar asteroids," Morais said in a statement."This population will give us clues about the sun's early birth cluster, how interstellar asteroid capture occurred and the role that interstellar matter had in chemically enriching the solar system and shaping its evolution."

Alien residents

Morais also identified an interstellar "immigrant" living in our solar system in 2018.
For billions of years, it lived in our solar system without us even knowing it was there. But this object couldn't remain hidden around Jupiter forever. It was just peculiar enough to be noticed by researchers.
The researchers call this exo-asteroid 2015 BZ509. It's known as an exo-asteroid because it originated outside our solar system.

At first glance, 2015 BZ509 is just one of many objects orbiting the gas giant Jupiter in a stable configuration called a resonance. Though all of the planets and most of the objects in our solar system orbit the sun by moving in the same direction, the exo-asteroid is going its own way. With its retrograde orbit, 2015 BZ509 moves in the opposite direction.
"The asteroid and Jupiter take the same amount of time to complete one orbit around the Sun, but one moves clockwise and the other counter-clockwise so they pass by each other twice per each full orbit," Morais wrote in 2018. "This pattern is repeated forever -- it is a stable configuration -- in a simplified model with only the Sun, Jupiter and the asteroid. We saw that when we include the other planets it is still very stable, over the solar system's age."

That orbit is the same path the object has always followed, meaning it could not have formed in our solar system. If it were native to our solar system, it would have inherited the direction from the gas and dust that formed all of the other planets and objects. Morais believed that, like the newly discovered alien asteroids, this one was captured during the early stages of our solar system as well.
The exo-asteroid serves as a warning for objects that may enter our solar system.
"If they pass by then they may also be captured in a stable orbit as it is the case of 2015 BZ509," Morais said.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/26/worl ... index.html

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2020 1:01 am 
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Our Sun Is Surprisingly Weak Compared to Other Stars,
Study Shows

Michelle Starr
1 day ago

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© NASA/SDO
We're pretty familiar with our Sun. We've even sent a probe to go study it; we haven't done that with any other star. Given how closely we study it, it would be tempting to think of it as a typical example of a G-type main-sequence star, or yellow dwarf.

New research suggests that this is not the case. After conducting a survey of stars similar to the Sun, scientists have discovered that our star is unusually subdued, at least at this stage of its life.

Compared to its peers, the Sun fluctuates in brightness much less, and has much lower sunspot activity, than the average. It's a curious result - and one that could have implications for the future of our life on this planet.

We know our Sun varies a little in brightness due to its 11-year cycles. The cycle starts at a quiet period, with the solar magnetic field neatly aligned between the poles. But because the equator spins faster than the poles, it pulls the magnetic field out of shape. This results in heightened activity, sunspots, and variable brightness. Eventually - after about 11 years - the magnetic field snaps back into alignment, the poles flip and it goes back into a quiet period.

Understanding how this activity changes is a powerful tool for predicting the Sun's future. And we actually have a really powerful tool at our disposal for understanding solar activity over the past. That's Earth itself. The concentration of various elements in tree rings, ice cores and the fossil record can be interpreted to understand how the Sun has changed over time.

From these records, we know that the Sun has been more or less as active as it is now for the last 9,000 years. But far back in the distant past, it's harder to gauge whether the Sun behaved differently, and whether its current activity level is temporary.

"Compared to the entire lifespan of the Sun, 9,000 years is like the blink of an eye," said astrophysicist Timo Reinhold of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany.

"After all, our star is almost 4.6 billion years old. It is conceivable that the Sun has been going through a quiet phase for thousands of years and that we therefore have a distorted picture of our star."

This is where other stars come in. We can compare the Sun to others like it to determine whether its behaviour is typical. And thanks to the Kepler space telescope, we have really detailed data. It studied a patch of sky for four years, allowing astronomers to calculate the rotation rates of tens of thousands of stars in its field of view, recording the faint dips in brightness associated with a sunspot appearing and disappearing from view.

This is key - because the rotation rate of a star is thought to contribute to the strength of the magnetic field. "The magnetic field is the driving force responsible for all fluctuations in activity," said astrophysicist Sami Solanki of MPS.

From the Kepler data, the researchers selected stars with rotation periods between 20 and 30 days. (The Sun's rotation period is 24.5 days.) They cross-referenced those stars against the data from the Gaia satellite, and identified 369 stars that are comparable to the Sun in colour, mass, composition, age, temperature and rotation rate.

Image
© MPS/hormesdesign.de

Then, they compared the brightness variability of those stars as recorded by Kepler against the brightness variability of the Sun. The results were clear. The Sun's fluctuations were very weak compared to most of the other stars. Typically, other stars fluctuated by five times as much as the Sun.

"We were very surprised that most of the Sun-like stars are so much more active than the Sun," said astronomer Alexander Shapiro of MPS.

But not all stars have detectable sunspots, and their rotation rates cannot be recorded. For a broader comparison, the team measured the Sun against 2,500 stars with unknown rotation rates - and in this case, the Sun seemed much more normal.

It's difficult to know precisely what this means. It could be that there are fundamental differences between stars with known and stars with unknown rotation rates. As the researchers note, it's likely that the Sun would belong to the latter group if studied at a distance by a Kepler-like telescope.

"For example, it has been proposed that the solar dynamo is in transition to a lower activity regime because of a change in the differential rotation inside the Sun," they wrote in their paper.

"According to this interpretation, the periodic stars are in the high-activity regime, whereas the stars without known periods are either also in transition or are in the low-activity regime."

Another possibility is that stars can fluctuate between activity levels, and the Sun just hasn't exhibited rowdy behaviour recently. That suggests it could do so in the future; given that a rambunctious Sun can negatively impact communications, navigation, satellites and even power grids, that's a worrying thought.

However, since the star has been relatively quiet for at least 9,000 years, the timescales for such fluctuations are probably quite long in human terms.

There's no way, at present, to tell which of these scenarios is more likely. But future observations with even more sensitive instruments could help pony up some answers.

The research has been published in Science.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techands ... id=BHEA000

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