‘For the past 8 years, NASA astronomers have been monitoring the Moon for signs of explosions caused by meteoroids hitting the lunar surface. “Lunar meteor showers” have turned out to be more common than anyone expected, with hundreds of detectable impacts occurring every year.
They’ve just seen the biggest explosion in the history of the program.
“On March 17, 2013, an object about the size of a small boulder hit the lunar surface in Mare Imbrium,” says Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before.”
Anyone looking at the Moon at the moment of impact could have seen the explosion–no telescope required. For about one second, the impact site was glowing like a 4th magnitude star.
Ron Suggs, an analyst at the Marshall Space Flight Center, was the first to notice the impact in a digital video recorded by one of the monitoring program’s 14-inch telescopes. “It jumped right out at me, it was so bright,” he recalls.
The 40 kg meteoroid measuring 0.3 to 0.4 meters wide hit the Moon traveling 56,000 mph. The resulting explosion1 packed as much punch as 5 tons of TNT.
Cooke believes the lunar impact might have been part of a much larger event.’
by Marc Lallanilla
‘[...] The ability of quantum computing to solve problems thousands of times faster than traditional computers is attracting attention from some of the world’s largest and most powerful institutions.
Search engine giant Google announced today (May 16) it was teaming with NASA Ames Research Center and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) to create the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, to be housed later this year at the NASA Ames facility in Moffett Field, Calif., northwest of San Jose.
Their new computing system, dubbed D-Wave Two, is D-Wave’s second quantum computer and the second to be installed in California. Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest aerospace and defense company, purchased a D-Wave quantum computer in 2011 and installed it at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, according toNature.com.’
by Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
‘Even as most Americans wonder what planet politicians are from, is it possible that the government is squelching evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth? One former presidential hopeful says yes – and that the conspiracy goes all the way to the top.
Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) says the White House has helped keep the truth about the “extraterrestrial influence that is investigating our planet” from the public.
“It goes right to the White House, and of course, once the White House takes a position, ‘well there’s nothing going on’…it just goes down the chain of command, everyone stands toe,” Gravel tells Top Line.’
by Marc Kaufman
‘The notion of landing astronauts on Mars has long been more fantasy than reality: The planet is, on average, 140 million miles from Earth, and its atmosphere isn’t hospitable to human life.
But a human voyage to the planet is now, for the first time, within the realm of possibility, according to space advocates inside and outside government. As a result, plans for a mission around the planet, and ultimately for lengthier stays, have been sprouting like springtime flowers.
The new momentum, some space experts say, comes from the successful landing of the large rover Curiosity in a Martian crater last year, the growing eagerness of space entrepreneurs to mount and fund missions to Mars and encouraging new data about the radiation risks of such an expedition.’
by Mo Xinhai
‘Many people have heard the story of when Newton sat under an apple tree to think, and suddenly an apple fell on his head and he conceived the theory of gravity. But after a long time, physicists knew gravity was a very strange physical law. Compared to other basic interaction forces, gravity was very difficult to deal with. Now the reasons for this peculiarity may have been explained: gravity is not a fundamental interaction force, but instead may be the derivative of another more fundamental power.
Professor Eric Verlinde, 48, a respected string theorist and a professor of physics at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Amsterdam, proposed a new theory of gravity as reported by the New York Times on July 12, 2010. He argued in a recent paper, titled “On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton” that gravity is a consequence of the laws of thermodynamics. Reversing the logic of 300 years of science, his contention is that gravity is an illusion that has caused continued turmoil among physicists, or at least among those who profess to understand it.’
Editors Note: A brilliant antidote to the efforts of some politicians who wish to see the reading of religious texts mandated in schools. Also a great way to stimulate imaginations, improve maths and science skills along with our thinking about the effects of emerging technologies.
by Dave Maass
‘…a Republican legislator in West Virginia is proposing this session with a bill that would require the State Board of Education to integrate “grade-appropriate science fiction literature” into middle-school and high-school reading curricula. Delegate Ray Canterbury, who represents Greenbrier County in southern West Virginia, originally introduced the legislation last year. It received next to no attention, but this session he’s bringing back the bill, recruiting co-sponsors and preparing editorials with the hope that even if it doesn’t pass it will pressure the Board of Education to adopt science fiction on its own.
“I’m not interested in fantasy novels about dragons,” Canterbury said in an interview with Blastr. “I’m primarily interested in things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers.”
Canterbury cites Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne as early influences in his own youth that lead him to earn a degree in mathematics. He’s nostalgic for the 1960s and 1970s, when the space program combined with popular science fiction (such as Gene Roddenberry’sStar Trek) helped inspire a generation of technologists.
These days, West Virginia students are falling behind in math and science. Although students are fascinated by emerging technology like tablets and smartphones, he says very few want to become the scientists and engineers who develop new technologies. He believes that science fiction, particularly hard science fiction such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, may be the key to encouraging students.’
by Ryan Donnelly
by SHAUN WALKER
President Vladimir Putin used the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic space flight to announce billions of pounds of investment for an ambitious new Russian space programme, in a bid to return the country to the forefront of exploring the Universe.
The Russian President travelled to the site of a planned new launchpad, in the far east of Russia, near the Chinese border. He promised that at least 1.6 trillion roubles (more than £30bn) would be ploughed into the space programme before the end of the decade. He also said he was considering setting up a special ministry to deal with space travel.
Mr Putin spoke by video-link to astronauts on the International Space Station, in honour of Cosmonaut Day, a holiday marked in Russia to celebrate the anniversary of Gagarin’s launch into space in 1961. “I want to congratulate the crew on this holiday,” Mr Putin said. “These are greetings from the construction site of our future.”
Russia still uses Baikonur cosmodrome to launch flights, the same place where Gagarin first left for space 52 years ago. But the former Soviet space-hub is now located inside Kazakhstan, and is leased from the country by Russia. The city, isolated in the Central Asian steppe, was the hub of Soviet space travel and now functions as a small exclave of Russia in the middle of Kazakhstan.
Mr Putin insisted that despite the launch of the new complex, named Vostochny, Russia would continue to rent Baikonur until the lease expires in 2050. Vostochny is expected to open in two years and will give the country the opportunity to launch spacecraft from its own territory. It will be able to handle manned space-flights from 2018, and Russian officials have said that the project cost around £6bn. Mr Putin told the astronauts on the International Space Station that the new launchpad would be open to cooperation with US and European space agencies. Currently, all astronauts headed for the International Space Station blast off from Baikonur following the end of the NASA space shuttle programme in 2011.
by Arturo Garcia
President Barack Obama’s administration will seek $100 million in funding for a mission to tow an asteroid closer to Earth for the purpose of helping future expeditions to Mars, NBC News reported on Saturday.
This corroborates an announcement made by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Friday. As the Associated Press reported, Nelson, who chairs the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee, said the request would be made in Obama’s proposed budget for 2014, with $78 million set aside for the mission to grab the asteroid and $27 million for helping NASA identify asteroids that could endanger the planet, a $7 million increase from current spending.
NASA’s mission proposal, adapted from a scenario (PDF) designed by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, calls for a robotic probe to grab an asteroid measuring approximately 500 tons and 25 to 35 feet in width in 2019 and bringing it into orbit near the moon, which would shorten future asteroid expeditions by months, on top of providing access to the asteroid’s natural resources.
From Cosmos, episode 12 “The Encyclopaedia Galactica”
Astrophysicists have witnessed the rare event of a black hole awakening from its slumber to snack on a planet-sized object in a galaxy 47 million light years away, the University of Geneva said Tuesday.
The observation made using the European Space Agency’s INTEGRAL satellite project, revealed a black hole that had been slumbering for years chomping on a giant, low-mass object that had come too close.
Scientists at the Swiss university analyse the data collected by INTEGRAL, launched in 2002 to study gamma rays and throw light on events far from Earth’s galaxy.
by BEN WALDRON
A Dutch start-up named Mars One is hoping to send a select group of brave astronauts on a one-way trip to the Red Planet in the year 2023 with the aim of establishing a permanent human colony.
If all proceeds as planned, Mars One would launch four astronauts on the interplanetary voyage in 2022, landing the team on the surface of Mars in 2023, after which they would begin constructing the colony. Every two years, a team of four additional astronauts would arrive to reinforce the existing colony.
Founded in 2010 by 36-year-old engineer Bas Lansdorp, Mars One says it has developed a road map and financing plan for the project, and that the mission is perfectly feasible. “Mars One has developed a precise, realistic plan based entirely upon existing technologies,” the website says. “It is both economically and logically feasible, in motion through the integration of existing suppliers and experts in space exploration.”
Lansdorp told ABC News the primary colony, which will consist of several interlocked modules, will include small bedrooms, a larger common room, and areas for computer and research work. “It will look a lot like an Arctic station,” said Lansdorp.
In the years leading up to the astronauts’ landing, several cargo missions will take place to prepare the settlement. “Two rovers will move the equipment to the right location to the settlement, which will be habitable before they depart from earth,” said Lansdorp. “After they land they will have to do a lot of construction work to make it their new home.”
In order to raise the estimated $6 billion required to fund such an ambitious project, Lansdorp says that it hopes to capitalize on vast public interest in a manned mission to Mars by selling global broadcasting rights to the mission.
The Turkish army has prepared a “space road map” as part of a new project in which a Space Group Command will be established under the direction of the Turkish Air Force.
The road map is based on the concept of using the space for peaceful and defense aims. The road map’s targets are to establish a reconnaissance and surveillance unit which will receive visual intelligence without being affected by obstacles caused by geography or climate – enabling secure communication – provide an early-warning system which will predetermine ballistic missile threats and provide sufficient time to take defense measures against the threat and finally to provide electronic support for the analysis of the electronic war order of the operation area.
The road map also aims to develop the skills to put satellites into orbit.
All the operations will be conducted under the command of a new unit, the Space Group Command. The command will also operate the satellites that will be among the Turkish military’s inventory.
The military’s target is to make an air-space force structure as part of the Turkish Air Force in order to keep up with the latest developments in the defense sector. A new satellite command will also be established that will work under the Space Group Command whenever a satellite is put into orbit.
As such, a Reconnaissance Satellite Command will first be established. This command is already operating the GÖKTÜRK-2 satellite, which was put into orbit on Dec. 18, 2012.
This satellite will be fully operational by the end of the next month and will serve the Turkish Armed Forces.
The rocky object that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago may have been a comet, rather than an asteroid, scientists say.
The 112-mile (180 kilometers) Chicxulub crater in Mexico was made by the impact that caused the extinction of dinosaurs and about 70 percent of all species on Earth, many scientists believe. A new study suggests the crater was probably blasted out by a faster, smaller object than previously thought, according to research presented this week at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.
Evidence of the space rock’s impact comes from a worldwide layer of sediments containing high levels of the element iridium, dubbed the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary, which could not have occurred on Earth naturally.
The new research suggests the often-cited iridium values are incorrect, however. The scientists compared these values with levels of osmium, another element delivered by the impact.
Their calculations suggested the space rock generated less debris than previously thought, implying the space rock was a smaller object. In order for the smaller rock to have created the giant Chicxulub crater, it had to have been going exceedingly fast, the researchers concluded.
In the high desert of the Chilean Andes, 16,500 feet above sea level, a $1.5 billion international telescope was brought to full power on Wednesday, enabling mankind to peer deeper into space and further back in time than ever before.
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, is a group of 66 interconnected radio telescopes and is heralded as the world’s largest ground-based array and humanity’s most powerful telescope. Operating through a supercomputer in extreme synchronicity, ALMA will be exponentially more powerful than any of its predecessors and about 10 times more powerful than NASA’s Hubble telescope.
The project is jointly funded by the United States, Canada, the European Union, Japan and Taiwan and done in collaboration with Chile.
The project, estimated to cost $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion, has been under way for a decade, with construction starting in 2005. Before becoming fully operational, ALMA has already made a range of discoveries, including a molecular building block of life around a young star and new observations of dust clouds near failed stars. Wednesday marked ALMA’s official inauguration to become a fully operational observation center.
When its full potential is reached, the telescope will be able to observe cosmic phenomena dating to the early universe—to just several million years after the Big Bang— allowing scientists to directly observe events from further in the past than ever before. The Big Bang, the leading theory about the origin of our universe, is estimated to have occurred approximately 13.77 billion years ago.
Bo Jiang, the Chinese national scientist employed by a NASA contractor for work at the space agency’s Langley Research Center, was arrested Sunday by the FBI at Dulles International Airport as he tried to flee to China, according to Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA.
Wolf said during a Capitol Hill news conference today that Jiang’s work at the NASA facility had given him access to information that “would be of the greatest interest to foreign spies, including China.”
Wolf is chairman of a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee that has budget oversight authority for NASA.
He made Jiang’s name public for the first time last week during a subcommittee hearing where he also charged that Jiang had taken “voluminous sensitive” NASA documents back to China on a trip in 2012.
Jiang was employed by the National Institute of Aerospace, a Hampton, VA-based NASA contractor. The position afforded Jiang virtually unlimited, unescorted access to the NASA Langley facility, which is the location for classified research programs related to U.S. space defense technologies.
Ronda Squizzero, an FBI Special Agent said in documents Wolf made available today concerning Jiang’s arrest that he “was leaving the United States abruptly to return to China on a one-way ticket.”
The FBI is “investigating conspiracies and substantive violations of the Arms Export Control Act,” according to the FBI’s arrest warrant.
Jiang also is charged with making a false statement to federal law enforcement agents, including his attempt to conceal a “laptop, and old hard drive and a SIM card,” according to the FBI agent.
Cardiff University astrobiologists say “fossilized biological structures” in a Sri Lankan meteorite are extra-terrestrial in origin. Critics demand more credible tests, telling ET and panspermia fans it’s too early to celebrate.
The UK researchers say that tiny algae-like fossils found in meteorite fragments that landed in Sri Lanka last year can’t have originated on our planet, according to the study published in the Journal of Science. The fragments were found after sightings of a fireball in the Sri Lankan province of Polonnaruwa in December 2012, and were subsequently analyzed by local scientists.
The initial microscopic observations revealed so-called diatoms inside the meteorite fragments, which scientists found to be similar to an ancient and largely extinct type of marine algae.
Cardiff University was asked to proof-check and analyze the findings, which it did, concluding that the samples were “unequivocally meteorites” and that the analysis of the material structure showed algae-like fossils were native to it.
Ruling out “recent terrestrial contamination” was critical for the research. It has typically destroyed all the previous hopes of proving the panspermia theory, which says life on Earth could have arrived in a meteorite.
To support the first-ever evidence of the extraterrestrial life found in a celestial body, the researchers used sophisticated methods such as X-ray diffraction, triple oxygen isotope analysis and scanning electron microscopy.
The results immediately received wide coverage in blogs and the mass media, and have been interpreted as a long-awaited proof of that “we’re not alone.”
But critics have doubted the credibility of such conclusions, saying that not all the necessary tests have been carried out, and thus there’s still possibility that the diatoms got inside the rock on Earth.
Two asteroids, one of them bigger in size than the celestial body that burst over Russia last month, will fly by the Earth on Saturday, though not as close as to threaten collision.
The 2013 EC20 was discovered on Thursday by the Catalina Sky Survey project, which estimated it size at between 3 and 12 meters. At 5:57 am Moscow time (1:57 UTC) on Saturday, the asteroid will pass about 169,000 kilometers (105,000 miles) from the Earth, according to the Massachusetts-based Minor Planet Center.
About 9.5 hours later the same day, the 2013 ET, sized between 45 and 140 meters, will pass 972,000 kilometers (604,000 miles) close to the planet. It will be monitored by a NASA radar in Goldstone, California.
A still bigger 2009 EM1, estimated at 49-160 meters in size, is also heading the Earth’s way, but its flyby distance at 22:04 Moscow time (18:04 UTC) on Friday will be 18 million kilometers (11 million miles), or 48 times the lunar distance.
Crop Circles Are No Hoax, Concludes Historian After Studying Google Earth’s New 1945 Overlay ~ Huffington Post
Crop circles dating back to 1945 are proof the phenomenon is no modern hoax, a Tasmanian historian claims.
The mystery of the increasingly intricate patterns was supposedly solved after several high-profile cases were revealed to be the work of artists and mischief-makers armed with barrels, planks of wood and plenty of spare time.
Credit for the hoaxes has been laid largely at the feet of pranksters Dave Chorley and Doug Bower, who in 1991 announced they had been pulling the wool over people’s eyes since 1978.
(FYI, crop circles have also been blamed on unusual weather patterns, top secret military experiments and, er, stoned wallabies.)
But research by Greg Jefferys has revealed evidence of the strange circles in the English countryside at least 33 years before Chorley and Bower took credit for the phenomena – which until then had been attributed to UFOs and alien activity.
Jefferys, who has a degree in archaeology, was prompted to research the matter after reading a report on crop circles in an 1880 edition of the science journal Nature.
by Jonathan Amos
Scientists say they may be able to determine the eventual fate of the cosmos as they probe the properties of the Higgs boson.
A concept known as vacuum instability could result, billions of years from now, in a new universe opening up in the present one and replacing it.
It all depends on some precise numbers related to the Higgs that researchers are currently trying to pin down.
A “Higgs-like” particle was first seen at the Large Hadron Collider last year.
Associated with an energy field that pervades all space, the boson helps explain the existence of mass in the cosmos. In other words, it underpins the workings of all the matter we see around us.
Since detecting the particle in their accelerator experiments, researchers at the Geneva lab and at related institutions around the world have begun to theorise on the Higgs’ implications for physics.
One idea that it throws up is the possibility of a cyclical universe, in which every so often all of space is renewed.
by Irene Klotz
A nonprofit foundation wants to recruit a man and a woman – possibly a married couple – for a bare-bones, 501-day journey to Mars and back that would start in less than five years, project organizers said on Wednesday.
The mission, expected to cost upwards of $1 billion, would be privately financed by donations and sponsorships.
Project founder Dennis Tito, a multimillionaire who in 2001 paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station, said he will pay start-up costs for two years to begin development of life-support systems and other critical technologies.
Currently, there are no U.S. human spaceships in operation, but several are under development and expected to be flying by 2017.
That leaves little time to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment that would allow a craft to loop around Mars, coming as close as about 150 miles to the planet’s surface, before returning to Earth.
The launch window for the mission opens on January 5, 2018. The next opportunity is not until 2031.
“If we don’t make 2018, we’re going to have some competition in 2031,” Tito told Reuters.
“By that time, there will be many others that will be reaching for this low-hanging fruit, and it really is low-hanging fruit,” said Tito, who set up the nonprofit Inspiration Mars Foundation to organize the mission.
For the first time ever, scientists have been able to measure the precise spin rate of a ‘supermassive black hole’. The findings will provide some clue as to how some of the most mysterious objects in our universe began to form.
The black hole is located in the NGC 1365 galaxy, located 56 billion light years away from us, and two million times the mass of the Sun.
By its very nature, a black hole is an object so dense that its gravity is strong enough to absorb the space around it. But in the process, as the incoming objects create friction and heat up, it emits x-rays.
It is these x-rays that astronomers measured, using the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), launched by NASA last year, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.
“We can trace matter as it swirls into a black hole using X-rays emitted from regions very close to the black hole,” said the co-author of the new study just published in Nature magazine, Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
“The radiation we see is warped and distorted by the motions of particles and the black hole’s incredibly strong gravity.“
It turns out the supermassive black hole is rotating at approximately 84 percent of the speed allowed by the Theory of Relativity – close to the speed of light.
But the data has thrown up even more interesting discoveries.
“The black hole’s spin is a memory, a record, of the past history of the galaxy as a whole,” said the study’s lead author, Guido Risaliti of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics.
Confirming that black holes move at such speed allows us to discover just how they were formed, from their original small size to giant status over billions of years.
If they had been produced by randomly pulling objects around them, it would not be able to develop such a fast, smooth rate of spin. So scientists are now sure that black holes expand evenly, through a process known as “ordered accretion”, as gas and stars are gradually sucked into the hole.
The data will now be applied to other black holes, whose spin had tentatively been measured, but which was previously explained by alternative theories.
And since mass and spin are the only information an outsider can make about a black hole (since objects only travel one way into it) astronomers are coming close to understanding the phenomena, and can use them to study the Theory of Relativity (of which they are a perfect example) more closely.
“This is hugely important to the field of black hole science,” summed up Lou Kaluzienski, a NuSTAR program scientist at NASA Headquarters.
A team of astronomers have tracked down the origin of a meteorite which injured more than 1,000 people in Russia.
The rock smashed into Lake Chebarkul, near the Ural Mountains and the city of Chelyabinsk, smashing windows and causing havoc as it ripped through the sky.
But its passage was also captured in astonishing detail and clarity, largely thanks to the Russian trend to have CCTV cameras installed in cars.
Using this video footage, a team from Colombia have managed to work out where it came from - not only the direction in the sky but also its orbit around the Sun.
Jorge Zuluaga and Ignacio Ferrin said thatthey used relatively basic physics and maths to work out how fast the rock fell, and in which direction.
From there they were able to build a picture of its trajectory in space in an elliptical orbit around the sun, and traced its origin the the Apollo asteroid cluster.
Rocks from that region regularly cross Earth’s orbit. Of the 9,700 near-Earth space rocks discovered by astronomers, more than 5,000 originate from this region.
Unfortunately, this likely means that it won’t be the last threatening space rock to pass nearby – in fact it’s certain than more will strike the Earth relatively soon (in cosmic terms).