Why Do Quasars Twinkle? The Answer May Lie Around Hot Stars

The reasons why stars twinkle are well understood. However, astronomers have been puzzled by why a few, but not all,quasars do something similar. A new explanation for this phenomenon still a long way from confirmed mayhave big implications for other areas of astronomy, from star formation to dark matter.

Quasars, or quasi-stellar objects, are the accretion disks around very active supermassive black holes in distant galaxies. Many have been observed to have slow fluctuations in brightness, but a small number change far more rapidly, in ways that cannot be attributed to variation in the quasars themselves. Instead, astronomers suspect that something in the line of sight between these quasars and Earth is getting in the way, but only erratically. The effect is similar to that seen when starlight is bent by variations in the temperature or density of the atmosphere.

However, the question of what it is that is doing the bending has remained a mystery, until a team of astronomers noticed that the fast-twinkling quasar PKS 1322-110 lies very close in the sky to the bright star Spica. Spica is only a 250 light-years away, while PKS 1322-110’s distance is measured in the billions of light-years. However,the light from PKS 1322-110 has to travel very close to Spica to get to Earth.

Dr Mark Walker of Manly Astrophysics, a charitably funded independent research entity, remembered that another small group of strongly twinkling quasars, J1819+3845, is similarly close to Vega in the sky. He thought this seemed an unlikely coincidence. Further investigation revealed that a third twinkler, PKS 1257-326, is within minutes of a degree of Alhakim, another, albeit less famous, hot star.

In a paper in the Astrophysical Journal,Walker and co-authors calculate that the chances of the twinkling quasars being so close to hot stars is less than one in 10million.

“We have very detailed observations of these two sources,” said co-author Dr Hayley Bignall of Australia’s CSIRO in a statement. “They show that the twinkling is caused by long, thin structures.” The authors conclude that hot stars that are A-type and brighter are surrounded by filaments of hydrogen gas that get ionized by the powerful ultraviolet radiation these stars put out.

We have seen these filaments around very old stars, such as in the Helix Nebula, where globules of gas the size of the Solar System and with long comet-like tails are observed. It had been thought that these globules were a product of the end of the stars’ lives, but the authors propose they exist much earlier in a star’s evolution, but only get illuminated so we can see them when the star reaches old age.

Bignall told IFLScience we still don’t know the source of these globules. They might be emitted by the star during formation, be associated with stellar winds, or form independently until being shaped by the star’s radiation. Most intriguingly, the paper raises the possibility that they represent a significant portion of the galaxy’s mass, possibly partly explaining the nature of dark matter.

The authors think very hot stars may have filaments extending out as far as sixlight-years, further than the distance between the Sun and the nearest stars. Bignall added that patches of hydrogen this size are so hard to detect, it is not surprising we have not seen them until now, but this won’t stop the team trying to find ways to confirm their existence.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/why-do-quasars-twinkle-the-answer-may-lie-around-hot-stars/

Are Aliens Trying To Tell Us Something? Brightest Burst Of Radio Waves Detected

The ConversationThe search for mysterious fast radio bursts very brief but intense pulses of radio waves from outer space is heating up. Nobody knows what causes these powerful bursts, but some have even speculated that the signals could be transmitted by distant alien civilisations. In fact, astronomers are so perplexed by the phenomenon that it is driving a renaissance in radio astronomy.

Now an international team of astronomers has detected the brightest ever fast radio burst. Dubbed FRB 150807 after its discovery date, the burst of intense radio waves lasted less than half a millisecond that is 0.1% of the time it takes a human to blink. And the study, published in Science, has come closer than any before it to pinning down where the blip came from. The research comes just days after another study reported having seen a fast radio burst together with an outburst of gamma rays, extremely energetic electromagnetic radiation.

Despite their intensity, the nature and origin of fast radio bursts is still hotly debated. Some astronomers have suggested these brief, intense flashes are flares produced in the atmospheres of certain stars in our own Milky Way galaxy a process similar to solar flares. Others argue they are caused by cosmic collisions such as a neutron star (a collapsed core of a large star) colliding with a black hole in a distant galaxy, or speculated that they could be alien signals.

Huge flare from small star. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

The first fast radio burst the Lorimer burst was discovered serendipitously by radio astronomers using Australias Parkes telescope to search for pulsed radio emissions from spinning neutron stars called pulsars. The Lorimer burst remained a curiosity until other fast radio bursts at different positions in the sky were discovered by other telescopes such as the giant Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and the 100-metre Greenbank dish in the US.

But progress in understanding this enigmatic phenomenon has been slow. This is partly down to the short duration of the bursts, the limited resolution provided by the telescopes and the uncertainty of the sky positions of the bursts. Trying to discover a burst and, at exactly the same time, pinpoint accurately where in the sky it comes from is difficult. If a radio signal could be backed up by telescopes that are searching for other kinds of electromagnetic radiation (such as X-rays or the kind of optical light that we can see), we could measure the distance and understand the physics processes driving these events. If the processes driving these bursts are similar to those responsible for other cosmic explosions, such as gamma ray bursts, astronomers suspect that radiation at other wavelengths is likely to be emitted in the same event that caused the fast radio bursts. But its proven difficult to catch.

Indirect estimates of distances have been made by measuring how the radio signal is smeared out. This can help infer the amount of material the light has travelled through. From this, the distance of the fast radio burst from Earth can be estimated, using a variety of assumptions such as the amount of matter between us. Such measurements have indicated that the origins of fast radio bursts lie far beyond our galaxy.

Tracing the blip

FRB 150807 is remarkable for its short duration, radio brightness and high degree of linear polarisation a property describing the plane of the vibrations that make up the waves. Combining these properties, the new study suggests that the burst occurred in a galaxy over a billion light years away, identified by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) Hemisphere Survey. This is the closest weve ever got to pinpointing where a fast radio burst came from.

The polarisation of light is affected by magnetic fields surrounding it. So knowing that helped the researchers estimate the magnetic properties of the plasma through which the radio waves travelled. Their analysis suggests that theres only negligible magnetisation of plasma close to the burst site. Interestingly, if this is correct, it would rule out strongly magnetised objects such as young neutron stars, magnetars or other objects causing it favoured models so far.

Artists impression of the 5km diameter central core of antennas of the Square Kilometre Array, which will help shed light on fast radio bursts. Swinburne Astronomy Productions for SKA Project Development

This study shows that as the small number of recorded fast radio bursts grows and their properties become better known, the exciting prospect of understanding what produces them becomes increasingly feasible. They could also be used to map out the magnetic fields in the universe something we know little about. The next breakthrough may come with the first detection of a visible counterpart or optical afterglow, from which we can measure an accurate distance.

It may happen sooner than you think, given the other recent studys tantalising report of possibly the first detection of a gamma-rays burst coinciding with a fast radio burst with NASAs Swift satellite. If the two bursts do indeed come from the same source that would be very exciting it could mean this source is lot more energetic than we had anticipated.

Analysis of FRB 150807 predicts that these events should not be rare with 190 occurring across the sky per day. Future facilities such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope which will survey the entire night sky every few days at optical wavelengths and the radio equivalent and the Square Kilometre Array will revolutionise our view and understanding of these mysterious blips and the violent, ever-changing universe in which they live.

Carole Mundell, Head of Physics, University of Bath

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/are-aliens-trying-to-tell-us-something-brightest-burst-of-radio-waves-detected/

Drone Beat: Amazon Drones in India, National Parks Bans and More


Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan talks on the phone as a camera-equipped drone hovers outside a parliament in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Aug. 21, 2014.
Image: B.K. Bangash/Associated Press


The U.S. government uses them to bomb alleged terrorists in far-away places. Tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are all toying with the idea of incorporating them into their businesses, and now they’re a photographer’s secret weapon.

Drones are a big part of our lives, whether we see them or not. Drone Beat collects the best and most important stories every week.

If you want more on Drones, subscribe to the Center for the Study of the Drone’s Weekly Roundup, which features news, commentary, analysis and updates on drone technology.

Drone Beat’s coverage areas this week

Last update: August 22, 11:45 a.m. ET

Will India be the launchpad for Amazon’s drones?

The cities of Mumbai and Bagalore in India might become the test sites for Amazon’s much hyped drone delivery program, known as Prime Air, according to a report by India’s newspaper the Economic Times.

In the United States, drone regulations are thorny and not business friendly for now. In late June, the Federal Aviation Administration specifically called out delivery by flying robot as something that is not allowed. India, on the other hand, would be an ideal candidate for Amazon because the country has no rules regarding the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

“Amazon will not be breaking any laws in India,” Bharat Malkani, an aviation expert and CEO of Mumbai-based Max Aerospace, told Quartz.

Amazon could be planning to start delivering packages via drone as early as October, taking advantage of the days ahead of the shopping-friendly festivity of Diwali.

More U.S. national parks ban drones

In June, the National Park Service issued a memorandum to ban drones from parks across the U.S. But that was just the first step, each park then needed to issue its own ban for it to be effective. Zion National Park in Utah and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona were the first ones to do so.

This week, more have joined in. The National Park Service’s office in Moab, Utah, officially banned drones in the Arches and Canyonlands national parks and in the Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments.

The National Park Service also banned drones from flying over the entire Appalachian Trail.

Yosemite National Park was the first to attempt to ban the flying robots, even before the rule was issued by the National Park Service.

It seems it’s just a matter of time before others join in. As a result, we might miss out on videos like these.

Rescuers use drones in aftermath of earthquake in China

First responders used drones to survey the areas hit by a 6.1-magnitude earthquake earlier this month in China’s Yunnan province.

After the quake, rescuers from the China Association for Disaster and Emergency Response Medicine got some help from a team of pilots at DJI, a large manufacturer of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles based in Hong Kong, as Motherboard reported.

“Aerial images captured by the team were used by workers in the epicenter area of Longtoushan, where most of the traditional buildings in the area collapsed,” the company told Motherboard. “The dense rubble and vegetation have made ground surveying extremely difficult, so using aerial images has helped identify where relief teams can focus on searching for survivors.”

Australian football team uses drones to film trainings

A team in the Australian Football League (AFL) has bought two small drones to film its training from above, according to local newspaper The Age.

The Hawthorn Football Club, also known as the Hawks, bought the drones in an attempt “to find an edge in technology to improve its on-field performance.”

There aren’t a lot of details on how the team plans to use its drones, but the newspaper said they’ll use them to analyze their strategies and plays from a better vantage point.

How will drone photography change society? A look into the past can help predict the future

In a fascinating, must-read article, author Clive Thompson opined that drones — with their high-resolution photo and video cameras — might change photography and society just as much as the first personal camera and the rise of the so-called “snapshot” in the late 19th century.

Drones “allow for entirely new forms of voyeurism: peering into windows, over fences or zooming above public crowds to pick out individuals,” but they are also “creating new aesthetics for picture-taking by everyday people — some of which are strikingly lovely and useful,” Thompson wrote in the Smithsonian article.

“For good and ill, photography is being born anew,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/08/25/drone-beat-amazon-parks/

How Can Anyone POSSIBLY Still Believe The Earth Is Flat?

The Earth isnt flat. This presumably doesnt come as news to you, and why should it? Earths roughly spherical nature has been known about since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Its bewildering, then, to see various “celebrities”declaring online that Earth is indeed flat, claiming that NASA has been keeping this secret from us for decades. So what exactly is going on here?

Most recently, B.o.B, an American rapper, has effused a series of utterly ridiculous claims on Twitter. Although he began with talk of human cloning centers, he quickly turned his focus to the idea that we are all resting on a relatively two-dimensional world drifting through space like a cosmic Frisbee. Famed astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson was quick to respond.

At present, the two are engaged in a rap battle for either side, which should give you some insight as to how absurd the entire conversation is. While it’s pretty effortless to prove Earth isnt flat, that hasnt stopped madcap conspiracy theories cropping up B.o.B is just another peon in the ranks of the International Flat Earth Society.

The Draw of Conspiracy Theories

Norse mythology often spoke of the edge of the world. Vuk Kostic/Shutterstock

This organization, founded in the 19thcentury, claims to know the truth about our planet, and regards scientists as witch doctors pulling off a gigantic hoax. In 2010, its president said that he accepts the science of both man-made climate change and evolution, but when it comes to Earth, hes convinced its flat.

The societys members, who also believe that the Sun and Moon are just 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) above us, have never quite explained the motives behind a huge conspiracy theory to hide the fact that Earth is flat. Who would benefit from such a comprehensive cover-up?

People are drawn to conspiracy theories, though, and the Internet has only helped to accelerate their spread. They give certain people a sense of security, control and comfort that they havent found in the natural world around them. By only conversing with others that agree with them in echo chambers, any opposing views are filtered out, and they become increasingly entrenched in their own views. Perhaps this is what drives contemporary Flat Earthers.

Shadows and Stars

Earthrise, as seen from just above the lunar surface. NASA

Today, NASA and other space agencies have built up a beautiful library of images of Earth, clearly showing that it is round or technically a bumpy spheroid, an uneven sphere with a bulge at its Equator. Naturally, Flat Earthers always assume that these images are photoshopped. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to demonstrate the Earths sphericalness.

A Greek astronomer by the name of Eratosthenes clearly showed Earth was round just over 2,000 years ago. He realized that rays of sunlight are hitting Earth at the same degree, but because Earth has a curvature, the length of shadows at different locations across Earth arent the same.

By calculating this shadow length change between two cities Alexandria and Syene he gave an estimate for the circumference of the Earth: 46,620 kilometers (28,970 miles), which is only 16 percent larger than the actual value.

Flat Earthers often say that access to Antarctica is restricted for our own safety; if we crossed over this icy ring around the edge of the flat disk, wed fall off into space. Of course, humanity has circumnavigated the globe plenty of times, and no-ones fallen off into infinite darkness just yet.

If you look up into the sky and spot a star, you can track its position every night. If you then begin to move forwards towards the horizon, youll notice the star appearing further behind you each and every night. If Earth was flat, youd be able to always see it. SInce Earth is round, this star will eventually sink and disappear below the horizon.

It’s Fundamental Physics

A lunar eclipse shows the curved edges of the Earth. NASA/Rami Daud

All planets in our Solar System and the thousands of exoplanets weve discovered far beyond our little corner of the galaxy are roughly spherical. Its a fundamental feature of physics; celestial bodies of a significant mass are spherical due to the effect of gravity, which acts in all directions to pull objects towards the center of mass.

And if any more proof was needed, we also have seasons and ice ages. The amount of sunlight hitting parts of the planet changes from season to season, fromicehouse world to greenhouse world, and this is entirely dependent on thedegree of tilta spherical Earth has with respect to the Sun.

Ultimately, it is probably due to the fact that it is so self-evident that Earth is not flat that people are talking so much about B.o.Bs recent epiphany. That, and the fact that Neil deGrasse Tyson responded using the medium of rap.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/why-are-there-still-flat-earthers-around-today

Google Internet Service May Actually Bring U.S. Up to Speed


Google’s effort to install a blazingly fast, gigabit-per-second fiber Internet service in the two-state metropolis of Kansas City — a speed 100 times faster than the national average — is a radical new business direction for the company, and perhaps provides an unorthodox model for how to rewire parts of the United States.

At one level, the project reflects Google’s desire to keep developing new businesses by giving people ultrafast speeds and then offering experimental services like Google TV. But if Google’s business model for actually getting fiber built pans out, it may usher in a new era for privately built broadband.

Compared to many countries, the United States has slow and patchy Internet service. While a few areas enjoy very fast service, overall the United States ranks 24th worldwide in speed, with consumers receiving an average of 11.6-megabits-per-second download speeds.

An affordable service that is nearly two orders of magnitude faster began in one neighborhood in Kansas City last Tuesday.

In planning the deployment, Google carved the metropolis into 202 neighborhoods, and asked interested residents and businesses to pay $10 to pre-register for the service. Once a critical mass did so — ranging from 5-25% per neighborhood (Google calls them fiberhoods), depending on the population density — Google went ahead with the street-level installation. If people reneged on their pledge to subscribe, they’d lose the $10.

The actual service is a bargain compared to many services that provide much slower speeds. Google’s gigabit Internet service is priced at $70 per month. When bundled with TV, the price rises to $120 — and Google is certainly pushing that additional service. Users subscribing for a TV service get a two-terabyte storage box for recorded shows and a Nexus 7 Android tablet to use as a remote control. (As a budget alternative, Internet at five megabits per second is available for a one-time fee of $300.)

While some people who preregistered have expressed irritation at having to wait in line, so far it seems to be working, says Jenna Wandres, a spokeswoman for Google Fiber. “We’re pleased with how many people in Hanover Heights have fiber,” she says, referring to the neighborhood that got the service on Tuesday.

Some industry veterans have expressed skepticism that Google can make the installation economics work, with some saying that it can cost between $850 and $1,250 per customer to get fiber installed— far more than the one-time fee of $300 that Google is charging for basic service.

While Google won’t disclose any numbers about costs or numbers of subscribers, Wandres insists that the strategy is economical. “This is not a beta program or an experiment. Efficiency is a huge focus for us as we build out Kansas City. And efficiency can cut costs,” she says.

The entry of superfast Internet may aid local entrepreneurship. An effort called Homes for Hackers is trying to get Kansas City homeowners with Google Fiber service to give free rooms to developers for three months, and a collection of local startups is betting the service will attract new companies.

W. Russell Neuman, professor of media technology at the University of Michigan, says Google’s effort is certainly novel, but that it is an open question whether it could change the economics of Internet service overnight. “Laying fiber is so far out of the scope of what Google normally does. But does Google know something that Verizon doesn’t know?” He says.

Major telecoms like AT&T and Verizon are taking a different path. They’ve focused on upgrading service in areas that they are already providing with wireline DSL service. Verizon has built out a fiber optic network over the past eight years — a $23 billion investment that has made the new service, called FiOS, available to 18 million U.S. households. And then it went about trying to sell the service plans. “Our business model does not call for FiOS to be built out into areas where we have not historically provided wireline service,” says Bill Kula, a Verizon spokesman.

The approach of those two giants has made high-speed Internet available to millions. (In Verizon’s case, the company generally charges $99 per month with a two-year contract for service of up to 300 megabits per second for downloads and 65 megabits per second for uploads). But it hasn’t extended the reach of the network. “Google Fiber is the most niche community approach that has been taken to date, but it remains to be seen how sustainable that approach is,” Kula says. “The question also is whether there will be a consumer demand and need for such speeds.”

Another route to juicing Internet speeds to gigabit-per-second levels is government investment. Chattanooga, Tenn., received such a boost when the local power utility got a $111 million U.S. Department of Energy grant as part of federal stimulus efforts that built out the city’s smart grid.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/19/google-fiber-us-internet/

Inside Mitt Romney’s Digital Campaign


Mitt Romney’s social media guru does not quantify success in his candidate’s number of Facebook followers, but by their level of activity.

Despite a recent Pew report that pegs President Obama as winning the battle for digital audiences, Zac Moffatt, the head of the Romney campaign’s digital operation, says the Republican candidate is ahead of Obama in terms of building an engaged and dedicated online following.

The raw numbers lean Obama’s way. He has more than 27 million “Likes” on his Facebook page, for example, versus fewer than 5 million for Romney. But according to Moffatt, Romney’s followers are more likely to share information, post and spread the word about their candidate.

He cites June 28, the day of the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act as an example. On that day, he says, the Romney campaign saw activity in the form of comments or sharing from 27% of its list of followers, compared to 1.7% for Obama. “That’s how I’d define success for us,” Moffatt says.

This is a tough sell. Obama’s campaign team is legendary for its online prowess and its data-driven digital outreach. The Obama campaign appears to have raised the bar yet again, with the release of a mobile app that integrates digital outreach with the door-to-door shoe-leather efforts of volunteers, providing canvassers with voter-registration lists, neighborhood maps, campaign talking points and a fundraising interface.

According to Moffatt, the release of this app so late in the game points to the challenges of leveraging digital assets in the real world.

“The Obama folks knew they were going to be running for president three years ago,” he says. “It took them 100 days to build out this app that does all these pieces. You should look at that as realistic of how difficult it is to build a multipurpose, integrated app.”

The Romney campaign “still has millions of doors being hit every month, whether or not we have an app,” Moffatt says.”That just reduces some of the barriers, but it’s not going to stop us from doing what we do every day.”

The Romney campaign does have a couple of apps, including one that was built to deliver advance news of the candidate’s vice presidential pick. Although the app failed to scoop the press on the news about Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., it did generate 100,000 “Likes” on the Romney campaign’s Facebook page, Moffatt says, while gathering email addresses and other data on potential supporters.

The campaign has been mum on how it is going to retool Mitt’s VP app for the general-election drive, but Moffatt says he has a plan. “I wouldn’t be much of a digital director otherwise,” he says.

Using search and other online media as a conduit to more standard advertising fare is an important part of the online media mix. Moffatt’s research has shown that in a given week, there are one in three voters who don’t watch live television other than sports. “That just means they live on DVR, Netflix and Hulu. If we ran our entire campaign predicated on TV, that’s a lot of voters we’re missing,” he says.

And in Ohio, that figure could be 2 million voters. “The election will be won or lost most likely in that group,” Moffatt says.

In the Nevada caucuses, for example, the Romney team placed an ad on Google that directed people searching for information on Newt Gingrich to an ad that criticized the former House Speaker for taking consulting fees from federally backed mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In the 2012 cycle, Moffatt says, digital has seen a transformation from a “base list-building and fundraising effort” to “becoming a persuasion and mobilization tool.” In 2008, digital strategy was not a major piece of Romney’s primary election bid. Now, Moffatt says, the numbers make it impossible to ignore.

Romney’s immediate family is more engaged on digital than in the past, and this has meant greater exposure for the candidate to social media. Ann Romney was an early adopter of the photo-sharing site Pinterest. Romney’s sons are active on Twitter and Facebook.

Presumptive vice presidential nominee Ryan has a lot of everyday, hands-on experience with social media. “Whenever it breaks into your peer groups, it makes a difference,” Moffatt says.

Where the election won’t be won or lost is on Twitter. Moffatt says he’s a little irate about the Pew report, which gives the Romney campaign low marks for use of Twitter, and criticizes both campaigns for failing to engage ordinary users via retweets.

“We try to keep the Twitter account in Mitt’s voice, and have him be a part of it. It limits the amount we do. We’re not able to tweet 25 times a day like the Obama folks have.”

That’s not to say that the candidate is tapping out his own tweets, or even dictating them to staff. “It’s more often that something will occur, and he’s like, ‘We should get that out on Twitter,'” Moffatt says.

Image courtesy of Mitt Romney on Facebook.

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/22/mitt-romney-zac-moffatt/

New Horizons Next Target Might Have A Moon

It’s just a little bit more than a year until NASA’s New Horizons will fly past 2014 MU69, its next target, and astronomers are combing the data to understand as much as possible about the object before the fateful encounter.

Just a few months ago, NASA announced that MU69 might actually be two objects orbiting really close to each other, or one peanut-shaped object, and a new analysis suggests that it might have a small moon. Over the summer, the space rock passed in front of a star and researchers used this event, called occultation, to learn more about MU69.

“We really won’t know what MU69 looks like until we fly past it, or even gain a full understanding of it until after the encounter,” New Horizons science team member Marc Buie, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, said in a statement. “But even from afar, the more we examine it, the more interesting and amazing this little world becomes.”

The data suggesting a potential moon come from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a telescope mounted inside an airplane. SOFIA observed the object on July 10 and among the observations, there was a “blip” in starlight. Analysis showed that the blip was another object around MU69.

“A binary with a smaller moon might also help explain the shifts we see in the position of MU69 during these various occultations,” Buie added. “It’s all very suggestive, but another step in our work to get a clear picture of MU69 before New Horizons flies by, just over a year from now.”

New Horizons has already recorded the most distant flyby on record when it flew past Pluto in 2015, and it will surpass that on January 1, 2019, when it reaches MU69, 6.5 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) from Earth. MU69 is estimated to be around 30 kilometers (20 miles) long.

“The occultation effort that Marc Buie and his team led for New Horizons has been invaluable in opening our eyes to the very real possibilities that MU69 is both a lot more complex than anyone suspected, and that it holds many surprises for us at flyby on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019,” added New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, also from the Southwest Research Institute. “The allure of its exploration is becoming stronger and stronger as we learn more and more about it. It’s just fantastic!”

While 2019 is getting closer, you can tide yourselves over by voting for a nickname for MU69.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/new-horizons-next-target-might-have-a-moon/

Astronomers Produce Detailed Map Of Hydrogen In The Milky Way

An international group of astronomers has used two of the worlds largest telescopes to create the most detailed map yet of the distribution of hydrogen in our galaxy.

The project, called HI4PI, required more than 1million individual observations of the sky and about 10 billion data points. Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and the main component of stars, it is detectable only viaradio waves, where theres plenty of interference from devices like mobile phones and broadcast stations.

Besides a careful calibration of the data, we also had to remove man-made noise from the data, explains Benjamin Winkel oftheMax Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, and part of theHI4PI project,in a statement.This so-called radio frequency interference (RFI) is, for example, produced by telecommunication and broadcast stations, or military radarand pollutes the faint emission of the astronomical sources. The computational effort for the data processing was huge, adding to the thousands of hours of observations [and] thousands of hours of computing time.

The map shows the filaments and regions of neutral hydrogen, with the colors reflecting the movement of the gas: that moving towards us is purple/blue, while that moving away from us is orange/green. The brightness traces its amount, and in the lower corner it is possible to see the Large and Small Magellanic Cloudstwo of the Milky Way’s neighboringgalaxies.

The data is going to be publicly available and freely accessible, withtheir findings tobe published in the journalAstronomy & Astrophysics. Among those findings, theres the discovery of fine structures between the stars of the Milky Way.

Pilot studies of the HI4PI data show a wealth of filamentary structures never seen before, said co-author Professor Lister Staveley-Smith, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, in a separatestatement.Tiny clouds become visible that appear to have fuelled star formation in the Milky Way for billions of years. These objects are too dim and too small to be detected even in the other galaxies closest to us.

The project will also help with extragalactic observations.

Like the clouds at the sky, all observations we receive from the distant universe have to pass through hydrogen in our own Milky Way, said Winkel.The HI4PI data allows us to correct accurately for all these hydrogen clouds and clean the window we are watching through.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/astronomers-produce-detailed-map-of-hydrogen-in-the-milky-way/

Remote Control Helicopter Tour Of Las Vegas

Using a simple GoPro camera attached to a remote control quadrocopter, Team Black Sheep made this very sweet tour of the Las Vegas strip. The first person view video stands with 30,000 views, and is featured on MPViral.  


Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/04/09/remote-control-helicopter-tour-of-las-vegas/

40+ Events in 3D Printing, Entertainment Tech and More


Mashable‘s Events Board is a great place to find the leading conferences in your industry — whether that’s advertising, technology, media or public relations. This week, we’re highlighting five events that we think can help move your career forward. Our picks below include events in New York, Chicago and London. If you don’t find something that’s a fit for you, you can check out more than 40 events in our complete listings.

On the Events Board, you can sort listings by date added, get discount codes for Mashable readers and, in some cases, watch a video of a past event so you can know what to expect. You can also follow our events account on Twitter so you’ll catch the best events before they sell out.

Inside Bitcoins
Date: July 30
Location: New Yorker, New York City

Virtual currencies are taking off, as platform and processing systems become more reliable and traditional merchants begin to adopt new forms of payment. The Inside Bitcoins conference and expo on July 30 will explore key issues including the future of currency, FinTech business trends, investment strategies and opportunities, and more. The program is designed to provide an overview of where the virtual currency industry is today and what business opportunities are on the horizon.

Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo
Date: July 10 – July 11
Location: McCormick Place Convention Center, Chicago

Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo has rapidly become the B2B tradeshow for the 3D printing industry. The recent New York City conference attracted more than 3,000 attendees and had significant 3D printing organizations as exhibitors, including 3D Systems, MakerBot, and Stratasys. The summer edition, programmed by Hod Lipson, takes place in Chicago. The program is geared to provide attendees with a strong foundation and understanding of where the 3D printing industry is today and what business opportunities are on the horizon.

Augmented Reality Summit (AR Summit)
Date: June 20
Location: Altitude London, London

Now in its 3rd year, the AR Summit, a one day conference & expo is set to return in 2013, providing a unique insight into the capabilities, innovations, successes and future direction of AR. This platform is designed to bring together the industry advocates, leading technology providers and innovative companies/brands looking to discover, explore and embrace the concepts AR brings.

Content Summit for PR, Social Media and Marketing Professionals
Date: June 24 – June 26
Location: Gleacher Center, Chicago

Master the most critical element in PR and marketing today: Content. 17 speakers will discuss the ROI of developing irresistible content, and how to get your staff excited about writing narratives that help employees and customers solve problems and share knowledge.

Mashable readers save $200 by using the code MASH12.

Entertainment Technology in the Internet Age
Date: June 18 – June 19
Location: Stanford Graduate School of Business, Knight Management Center, Stanford

Through a series of panel discussions and presentations, with ample opportunity for audience participation, the ETIA conference will examine topics within the areas of Internet-focused content creation, distribution, and monetization, as well as technical tools and solutions for shaping the user experience.

Visit our full list of upcoming conferences and events here.

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/05/30/events-3d-printing-entertainment/