The 715 newfound planets, which scientists announced today (Feb. 26), boost the total alien-world tally to between 1,500 and 1,800, depending on which of the five main extrasolar planet discovery catalogs is used. The Kepler mission is responsible for more than half of these finds, hauling in 961 exoplanets to date, with thousands more candidates awaiting confirmation by follow-up investigations. ”This is the largest windfall of planets — not exoplanet candidates, mind you, but actually validated exoplanets — that’s ever been announced at one time,” Douglas Hudgins, exoplanet exploration program scientist at NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington, told reporters today.
About 94 percent of the new alien worlds are smaller than Neptune, researchers said, further bolstering earlier Kepler observations that suggested the Milky Way galaxy abounds with rocky planets like Earth. Most of the 715 exoplanets orbit closely to their parent stars, making them too hot to support life as we know it. But four of the worlds are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and reside in the “habitable zone,” that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces.
The United States plans to launch a pair of satellites to keep tabs on spacecraft from other countries orbiting 22,300 miles above the planet, as well as to track space debris, the head of Air Force Space Command said. The previously classified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) will supplement ground-based radars and optical telescopes in tracking thousands of pieces of debris so orbital collisions can be avoided, General William Shelton said at the Air Force Association meeting in Orlando on Friday.
He called it a “neighborhood watch program” that will provide a more detailed perspective on space activities. He said the satellites, scheduled to be launched this year, also will be used to ferret out potential threats from other spacecraft. The program “will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes,” Shelton said in the speech, which also was posted on the Air Force Association’s website.
Humankind’s quest to visit Mars suffered a setback this week, when Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against setting up home on the red planet. A group called the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment, based in the United Arab Emirates, has ruled that an attempt to dwell on the planet would be so hazardous as to be suicidal – and killing oneself is not permitted by Islam.
The ruling came in response to an announcement by the Dutch-based Mars One project, which proposes to send people on one-way trips to colonize the planet, according to the Khaleej Times, an English-language newspaper published in the UAE. ”Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: ‘Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful,’ “the authority said. ”Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam. There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”
Recently, a not-for-profit organization known as Mars One released the list of 1,058 applicants who could be selected for colonization on Mars. Over 200,000 applications were said to have been received by the organization, which aims to “establish human life on Martian soil.”
“We’re extremely appreciative and impressed with the sheer number of people who submitted their applications,” Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp was quoted as saying in a press release. “However, the challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously.”
Those in the former category may want to read a new report regarding the effects of outer space on the human body, however, which states that being in outer space could cause long-term health problems. The report, which was first published in the New York Times, cites multiple negative effects of outer space on the human body, including the swelling that occurs in the human head - due in part to the fact that humans did not evolve outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Scientists are saying that the Sun is in a phase of “solar lull” – meaning that it has fallen asleep – and it is baffling them. History suggests that periods of unusual “solar lull” coincide with bitterly cold winters. Rebecca Morelle reports for BBC Newsnight on the effect this inactivity could have on our current climate, and what the implications might be for global warming. (BBC News)
[...] Donald Bradley’s method of foreseeing changes in the market involved assigning a numerical value to the position of the planets and stars and plotting the values on a graph. The peaks and troughs of that line should, in theory, plot “turns” in the fortunes of stocks, bonds and commodities. It sounds utterly mad, but the model has been described by market watcher Peter Eliades as “eerily accurate”.
I wanted to do a statistical analysis of his method and use it if it worked,” says Crawford. Back in the library, Crawford found records of the Dow Jones going back to 1885 and a book outlining the details of planetary positions. After comparing the two, he was impressed.
So Crawford began using astrology alongside his technical analysis. Over the years, Crawford found his predictions working out so well that, in 1977, he set up business as a full-time astrological adviser. He’s since been named “Wall Street’s best-known astrologer” by Barron’s.
Today around 2,000 traders from the United States, Britain, Australia and Japan pay to receive his subscription newsletter. He says, “I’ve got major traders from all the Wall Street companies.” And Crawford’s not the only one. The newsletter of Michigan “astro-finance consultancy” MMA Cycles claims 7,000 subscribers. Commodities trader Henry Weingarten charges up to $1,000 a session at his New York Astrology Center.
In Britain, soothsayers such as Christeen Skinner offer the same service to City traders, entrepreneurs and private investors. According to the Financial Times, financial astrology is “growing in popularity and complexity”.
A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection.
In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.
Maldacena’s idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a ‘duality’, that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa. But although the validity of Maldacena’s ideas has pretty much been taken for granted ever since, a rigorous proof has been elusive.
A giant planet that has been found orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance has stirred immense confusion in the minds of US astronomers, making them question planet formation theories.
The planet – currently known as HD 106906 b – weighs in at 11 times the mass of Jupiter and is orbiting its star at a massive distance of 60 billion miles – a much further distance than any planet has ever previously been seen orbiting its star.
The planet has been described as unlike anything astronomers have ever seen before.
“This system is especially fascinating because no model of either planet or star formation fully explains what we see,” said Vanessa Bailey, the team’s lead researcher with the University of Arizona’s astronomy department in a news release.
Moon Express, a company competing for a piece of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, revealed images and blueprints for a lunar probe it plans to launch in 2015 in a steps towards commercializing this country’s access to outer space.
Moon Express’s MX-1 will apparently be able to do a lot of things, and has been described in a number of ways. Fox News said it “is big enough to scoop up some rocks and dirt, store them in an internal compartment, and return it to Earth,” and that it “looks for all the world like a pair of donuts wearing an ice cream cone.” Moon Express CEO and co-founder Bob Richards said ”we call it the iPhone of space,” adding that it is “very small.” Small like an iPhone? No, small like “You and I could put our arms around it.”
Fast Company described it as ”a futuristic machine that looked to be part hovercraft, part Mars rover.” According to Fast Company, an engineer said that MX-1 is a lunar lander, clarifying ““Well, like, it goes to the moon.”
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided your multicolored space distraction of the day: images of a swirling, six-sided weather feature on the surface of Saturn.
Scientists say the “Hexagon,” the formation’s working title at NASA, is unlike anything they’ve seen elsewhere.
They say the feature is “turbulent and unstable,” packing 200-mph winds. That’s nearly 50 mph stronger than the wind speed required for a Category 5 hurricane.
“A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades — and who knows — maybe centuries,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini team member at the California Institute of Technology.
A Taiwan newspaper called the Want China Times ran an article on December 2, 2013 to the effect that officials in the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army would like to make the moon a military base. The article speaks of China desiring to turn the moon into a “Death Star” from which ballistic missiles could be lobbed at Earth.
The Want China Times is owned by the Want Want Group, a Taiwanese conglomerate in turned owned byTsai Eng Meng, a billionaire who favors closer economic and political ties between China and Taiwan. China regards Taiwan as a rebel province which it would like to one day regain control of. Taiwan has been a separate country since the Communist takeover of China in the late 1940s.
The article’s description of a Chinese military base on the moon sounds remarkably like an American plan hatched in the 1950s called “Project Horizon.” The plan was abandoned because of the great expense and the fact that missiles launched from the moon would take days to reach targets on Earth.
In any case the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibits the construction of military bases on the moon. China would have to withdraw from that treaty should it choose to do what the Want China Times suggests some elements in the PLA want.
It sounds like a tale from a science fiction novel, but a team of Japanese engineers really is hoping to turn the moon into a giant solar panel.
Shimizu, a giant civil engineering and construction firm, plans to install a ‘solar belt’ around the moon’s equator.
To be built almost entirely by remote-controlled robots, the Luna Ring would run around the 6,800 mile lunar equator and be 248 miles in width.
The solar energy collected would converted and beamed back to earth as microwaves and laser, where it would then be converted into electricity and then potentially supplied to the national grid.
Shimizu says the Luna Ring could generate a massive 13,000 terra watts of energy. The Sizewell B nuclear reactor in Suffolk produces 1,198 megawatts (MW).
NASA is bravely venturing into new scientific territory with a plan to start growing plants on the moon no later than 2015. The experiment is designed to yield important knowledge about life’s long-term chances in space – including for us.
The initiative comes courtesy of the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team – a small group of scientists, students, volunteers and contractors – who plan to install specially-designed containers about the size of a coffee can, in which the plants will be encased, complete with sensors, cameras and other devices that will be relaying information down to Earth.
This is to be the first life sciences project conducted on another world and is ambitious about exploring opportunities for future human life support, apart from the obvious benefits of learning more about growing life in extreme temperatures.
The dream is to be able to freely live on the moon for decades on end – instead of hours. Follow-up experiments are already in the making.
We know Mars as a dusty seemingly dead planet. But there is growing evidence that it was not always so.
Most planetary scientists believe the Red Planet was once not unlike the Earth. There is evidence that it was once habitable – a world that had a thick atmosphere and water that flowed across its surface.
But around four billion years ago, it is thought that Mars lost its magnetic field – possibly due to a massive asteroid impact.
The field acted as a protective shield against the Sun’s corrosive solar wind and without it, the Martian atmosphere was gradually ripped away. So the theory goes.
Malware made its way aboard the International Space Station (ISS) causing “virus epidemics” in space, according to security expert Eugene Kaspersky.
Kaspersky, head of security firm Kaspersky labs, revealed at the Canberra Press Club 2013 in Australia that before the ISS switched from Windows XP to Linux computers, Russian cosmonauts managed to carry infected USB storage devices aboard the station spreading computer viruses to the connected computers.
The damage done by the malware to the computer systems of the ISS is unknown. However, Kaspersky said virus epidemics took hold of the space-based computers, including dozens of laptops.
Like our Milky Way, every known large galaxy has at its center a supermassive black hole, some of which are surrounded by a super-bright disk of hot gas called a quasar—but now a research team that includes Penn State astronomers has discovered a surprising new class of quasars in distant galaxies that even the most current theories had not predicted.
“The gas in this new type of quasar is moving in two directions: some is moving toward Earth but most of it is moving at high velocities away from us, possibly toward the quasar’s black hole,” said study co-author Niel Brandt, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University.
The object in these photographs captured by Hubble is not a comet. It’s something that no astronomer has ever seen before, according to NASA: An asteroid with six comet-like tails that isn’t moving like a comet and it’s not made of ice. It’s just hanging up there, rotating like a crazy space spider.
About 4.4 billion planets are similar to Earth in size and temperature, suggesting they may be able to host life, according to a survey of the galaxy using telescopes operating in space and on the ground.
The number is an estimate based on information taken from 42,000 stars similar to the Earth’s sun and their surrounding planets by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kepler Space Telescope, as well as telescopes in Hawaii. Ideal planet climate — not too hot or too cold — was determined by how far they were away from their stars, according to the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The scientists, including Geoffrey Marcy at the University of California at Berkeley, used those findings to extrapolate how many similar planets might exist across the galaxy. That number suggests Earth may not be so unique after all, he said.
India has launched a rocket it hopes will allow it to join an elite group of space explorers to Mars.
The country’s space research organization (ISRO) launched its orbiter to the Red Planet on Tuesday — only NASA, the former Soviet Union and the Europeans have previously been successful in operating probes from Mars.
Japan made an attempt with the Nozomi orbiter in 1998 but it failed to reach the planet and a Chinese probe was lost along with the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission in January 2012. The UK’s Beagle 2 probe separated from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter in 2003 but nothing was ever heard from the lander.
It will take 10 months for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission to reach the Red Planet after lifting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre near Chennai. The probe will explore the planet’s surface features, minerals and atmosphere.
George Bush has staked out a bold claim to the final frontier, asserting vigorously America’s right to deny access to space to any adversary hostile to US interests, it emerged yesterday.
In a muscular overhaul of policy, the US president outlines the importance of space to the national interest, saying its domination is as crucial to America’s defences as air or sea power.
The order also opposes the establishment of arms control treaties that would restrict US access to space, or set limits on its use of space. It calls for the development of space capabilities to support US intelligence and defence initiatives.
The document, first reported in yesterday’s Washington Post, amounted to the first overhaul of US space policy in nearly a decade, but it comes two years after the publication of an air force doctrine on protecting US satellites and spacecraft. The defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has also favoured the development of systems to protect satellites and space stations.
The Pentagon just made its biggest investment yet into a project to build new satellites in space by reusing the parts of dead satellites.
The Defense Department relies on satellites to do everything from passing secret messages around the globe to giving troops navigation information and intelligence. The problem is, getting brand-new satellites into space can be an incredibly expensive and time-consuming effort.
To remedy this, the Pentagon wants to harvest parts from the roughly $300 billion worth of dead satellites that sit in a heavenly “graveyard or disposal orbit” and use their spare parts to build new ones, Frankenstein style, under a project called Phoenix. A roughly $40 million Phoenix contract was handed out earlier this week to a California company called NovaWurks.
While the Pentagon says the tech being developed for Phoenix is meant to save money, tech that allows a satellite to tear an old satellite apart could just as easily be used to attack a new one.
If you think any of this sounds far-fetched, it’s worth noting that China is suspected to have used a satellite to grab at least one other in space last week. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force’s secret X-37B robot space plane is believed by many to be used to get up close and personal with orbiting satellites. The X-37B stays aloft for months at a time, and amateur satellite trackers have seen it dramatically changing its orbits in space. Such maneuvers could point to the craft cozying up to various foreign satellites with the purpose of spying on them, according to some observers.
Despite being called Russia’s space troops, they are not ready to deal with invasions by aliens from outer space, according to a statement by a Russian defense official.
In a surprising move, an apparently serious journalist raised this question of extraterrestrial security during a media conference at the Titov Main Test and Space Systems Control Center near Moscow, Russia’s main satellite control center.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Russia’s State Atomic Energy Organization (ROSATOM) recently signed an agreement that provides for cooperation in a number of areas, including safeguards against nuclear proliferation, nuclear reactors, and defense from asteroids.
Defense from asteroids? What?
Let’s be clear about one thing: When DOE and ROSATOM talk about “defense” against asteroids, that means they are going to discuss nuking rocks in space. (What do you think the ATOM stands for anyway?) Recently, a labbie at Los Alamos National Laboratory modeled a one-megaton explosion against an asteroid in space — about 50 times the size of the device used in Hiroshima. The Russians think it “will take a nuclear device much bigger than one megaton to intercept” the sort of asteroids that interest them, according to Oleg Shubin. He should know: He’s ROSATOM’s deputy director of the development and testing of nuclear munitions. Boys will be boys.
In 1881, Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard Observatory, had a problem: the volume of data coming into his observatory was exceeding his staff’s ability to analyze it. He also had doubts about his staff’s competence–especially that of his assistant, who Pickering dubbed inefficient at cataloging. So he did what any scientist of the latter 19th century would have done: he fired his male assistant and replaced him with his maid, Williamina Fleming. Fleming proved so adept at computing and copying that she would work at Harvard for 34 years–eventually managing a large staff of assistants.
So began an era in Harvard Observatory history where women—more than 80 during Pickering’s tenure, from 1877 to his death in 1919— worked for the director, computing and cataloging data. Some of these women would produce significant work on their own; some would even earn a certain level of fame among followers of female scientists. But the majority are remembered not individually but collectively, by the moniker Pickering’s Harem.
The less-than-enlightened nickname reflects the status of women at a time when they were–with rare exception–expected to devote their energies to breeding and homemaking or to bettering their odds of attracting a husband. Education for its own sake was uncommon and work outside the home almost unheard of. Contemporary science actually warned against women and education, in the belief that women were too frail to handle the stress. As doctor and Harvard professor Edward Clarke wrote in his 1873 book Sex in Education, “A woman’s body could only handle a limited number of developmental tasks at one time—that girls who spent to much energy developing their minds during puberty would end up with undeveloped or diseased reproductive systems.”
Something big is about to happen on the sun. According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.
“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal,” says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”
The sun’s magnetic field changes polarity approximately every 11 years. It happens at the peak of each solar cycle as the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo re-organizes itself. The coming reversal will mark the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24. Half of ‘Solar Max’ will be behind us, with half yet to come.
Hoeksema is the director of Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, one of the few observatories in the world that monitor the sun’s polar magnetic fields. The poles are a herald of change. Just as Earth scientists watch our planet’s polar regions for signs of climate change, solar physicists do the same thing for the sun. Magnetograms at Wilcox have been tracking the sun’s polar magnetism since 1976, and they have recorded three grand reversals—with a fourth in the offing.
A meteorite from Mars at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum has changed the way scientists view the seemingly cold, dormant Red Planet, revealing that it was still hot and bubbly in places when the first mammals scampered on Earth.
“This paints a picture of a more geologically active planet — lots of volcanoes, lots of lava,” said Brendt Hyde, a mineralogy research technician at the museum who helped analyze the meteorite, in an interview with The National‘s Ron Charles.
“It just paints a picture of a nice, vibrant planet, not a cold dead planet like we often envision other planets in the solar system.”