Category Archives: By Daniel Sternklar

“Stone Circle” Spotted On Mars

Imagine youre an advanced alien life form living on Mars, just beneath the surface. Youre getting a bit lonely down there, so you decide to wave some sort of flag to indicate to humanity or one of its several robot visitors, at least that youre down there and they should come and say hello.

Whats the best way of going about that, do you think? Surely youd just pop up to the surface yourself, reveal your presence, stun the neighboring planet and change the course of human history, right? If you happened to be a particularly shy alien, you could even just send up a machine of your own, or a hologram, or send a text message or something.

But no. According to YouTuber SecureTeam 10, and as reported by the Sun, the best way in which to do this is draw a circle using some rocks at the surface.

Sigh.

This alien hunter has previously boasted that hes exposed the truth behind the longstanding alien cover-up. He claims that alien activity is currently happening on the Moon and throughout space.

Essentially, if he cannot explain something, he resorts to aliens. That earthquake swarm thats taking place in Yellowstone National Park right now? Aliens.

Not aliens. secureteam10 via YouTube

Apparently, the government is stopping people exploring the parks hot springs not because they will melt you into nothingness, but because they dont want you to find out that the earthquakes there are being caused by alien super drills.

Anyway, his latest hypothesis comes courtesy of a NASA photograph showing a circle of rocks on the Red Planets surface. Although its clearly a weathering feature of some kind, SecureTeam 10 apparently has never seen anything like it before and, therefore, it must be aliens.

He then compared the formation to another Stonehenge-like formation on Mars. As the Stonehenge on Earth is still shrouded in its own mystery, then he naturally arrives at the conclusion that aliens are the architects to all of these.

If aliens are so advanced that they could travel from planet to planet and remain completely undetected as they did so, then why are they creating such crappy stone circles? Have they got no imagination whatsoever?

Mind you, they have built giant faces and pyramids on Mars too, apparently so maybe were not giving these aliens enough credit.

Anyway. Joking aside, its really easy to play the game of what alien structure can YOU find on Mars? Just go to Curiositys Twitter feed, pick an image, and interpret the shit out of it. Suggestions in the comments, please!

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/stone-circle-spotted-on-mars/

The Future Of Personal Satellite Technology Is Here Are We Ready For It?

Satellites used to be the exclusive playthings of rich governments and wealthy corporations. But increasingly, as space becomes more democratized, these sophisticated technologies are coming within reach of ordinary people. Just like drones before them, miniature satellites are beginning to fundamentally transform our conceptions of who gets to do what up above our heads.

As a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences highlights, these satellites hold tremendous potential for making satellite-based science more accessible than ever before. However, as the cost of getting your own satellite in orbit plummets, the risks of irresponsible use grow.

The question here is no longer Can we? but Should we? What are the potential downsides of having a slice of space densely populated by equipment built by people not traditionally labeled as professionals? And what would the responsible and beneficial development and use of this technology actually look like?

Some of the answers may come from a nonprofit organization that has been building and launching amateur satellites for nearly 50 years.

Just a few inches across and ready for orbit. Thuvt, CC BY-SA

The Technology Were Talking About

Having your own personal satellite launched into orbit might sound like an idea straight out of science fiction. But over the past few decades a unique class of satellites has been created that fits the bill: CubeSats.

The Cube here simply refers to the satellites shape. The most common CubeSat (the so-called 1U satellite) is a 10 cm (roughly 4 inches) cube, so small that a single CubeSat could easily be mistaken for a paperweight on your desk. These mini, modular satellites can fit in a launch vehicles formerly wasted space. Multiples can be deployed in combination for more complex missions than could be achieved by one CubeSat alone.

Within their compact bodies these minute satellites are able to house sensors and communications receivers/transmitters that enable operators to study the Earth from space, as well as space around the Earth.

Theyre primarily designed for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) an easily accessible region of space from around 200 to 800 miles above the Earth, where human-tended missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station (ISS) hang out. But they can attain more distant orbits; NASA plans for most of its future Earth-escaping payloads (to the moon and Mars especially) to carry CubeSats.

Because theyre so small and light, it costs much less to get a CubeSat into Earth orbit than a traditional communication or GPS satellite. For instance, a research group here at Arizona State University recently claimed their developmental femtosats (especially small CubeSats) could cost as little as US$3,000 to put in orbit. This decrease in cost is allowing researchers, hobbyists and even elementary school groups to put simple instruments into LEO, by piggybacking onto rocket launches, or even having them deployed from the ISS.

The first CubeSat was created in the early 2000s, as a way of enabling CalPoly and Stanford graduate students to design, build, test and operate a spacecraft with similar capabilities to the USSRs Sputnik.

Since then, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office and even Boeing have all launched and operated CubeSats. There are more than 130 currently operational in orbit. The NASA Educational Launch of Nano Satellite (ELaNa) program, which offers free launches for educational groups and science missions, is now open to U.S. nonprofit corporations as well.

Clearly, satellites are not just for rocket scientists anymore.

Pre-K through 8th grade students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia designed, built and tested a CubeSat that was deployed in space. NASA, CC BY

Thinking Inside The Box

The National Academy of Sciences report emphasizes CubeSats’ importance in scientific discovery and the training of future space scientists and engineers. Yet it also acknowledges that widespread deployment of LEO CubeSats isnt risk-free.

The greatest concern the authors raise is space debris pieces of junk that orbit the earth, with the potential to cause serious damage if they collide with operational units, including the ISS.

Currently, there arent many CubeSats and theyre tracked closely. Yet as LEO opens up to more amateur satellites, they may pose an increasing threat. As the report authors point out, even near-misses might lead to the creation of an onerous regulatory framework and affect the future disposition of science CubeSats.

More broadly, the report authors focus on factors that might impede greater use of CubeSat technologies. These include regulations around earth-space radio communications, possible impacts of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (which govern import and export of defense-related articles and services in the U.S.), and potential issues around extra-terrestrial contamination.

But what about the rest of us? How can we be sure that hobbyists and others arent launching their own spy satellites, or (intentionally or not) placing polluting technologies into LEO, or even deploying low-cost CubeSat networks that could be hijacked and used nefariously?

As CubeSat researchers are quick to point out, these are far-fetched scenarios. But they suggest that nows the time to ponder unexpected and unintended possible consequences of more people than ever having access to their own small slice of space. In an era when you can simply buy a CubeSat kit off the shelf, how can we trust the satellites over our heads were developed with good intentions by people who knew what they were doing?

Some expert amateurs in the satellite game could provide some inspiration for how to proceed responsibly.

Modular CubeSats deployed from ISS. NASA Johnson, CC BY-NC

Guidance From Some Experienced Amateurs

In 1969, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) was created in order to foster ham radio enthusiasts’ participation in space research and communication. It continued the efforts, begun in 1961, by Project OSCAR a U.S.-based group that built and launched the very first nongovernmental satellite just four years after Sputnik.

As an organization of volunteers, AMSAT was putting amateur satellites in orbit decades before the current CubeSat craze. And over time, its members have learned a thing or two about responsibility.

Here, open-source development has been a central principle. Within the organization, AMSAT has a philosophy of open sourcing everything making technical data on all aspects of their satellites fully available to everyone in the organization, and when possible, the public. According to a member of the team responsible for FOX 1-A, AMSATs first CubeSat:

This means that it would be incredibly difficult to sneak something by us theres no way to smuggle explosives or an energy emitter into an amateur satellite when everyone has access to the designs and implementation.

However, theyre more cautious about sharing info with nonmembers, as the organization guards against others developing the ability to hijack and take control of their satellites.

This form of self-governance is possible within long-standing amateur organizations that, over time, are able to build a sense of responsibility to community members, as well as society more generally.

AMSAT has a long history as a collaborative community. Jeff Davis, CC BY

How Does Responsible Development Evolve?

But what happens when new players emerge, who dont have deep roots within the existing culture?

Hobbyist and student new kids on the block are gaining access to technologies without being part of a longstanding amateur establishment. They are still constrained by funders, launch providers and a tapestry of regulations all of which rein in what CubeSat developers can and cannot do. But there is a danger theyre ill-equipped to think through potential unintended consequences.

What these unintended consequences might be is admittedly far from clear. Certainly, CubeSat developers would argue its hard to imagine these tiny satellites causing substantial physical harm. Yet we know innovators can be remarkably creative with taking technologies in unexpected directions. Think of something as seemingly benign as the cellphone we have microfinance and text-based social networking at one end of the spectrum, improvised explosive devices at the other.

This is where a culture of social responsibility around CubeSats becomes important not simply for ensuring that physical risks are minimized (and good practices are adhered to), but also to engage with a much larger community in anticipating and managing less obvious consequences of the technology.

This is not an easy task. Yet the evidence from AMSAT and other areas of technology development suggest that responsible amateur communities can and do emerge around novel technologies.

For instance, see the diy-bio community, where hobbyists work in advanced community biotech labs. Their growing community commitment to safety and responsibility is highlighting how amateurs can embrace responsibility in research and innovation. A similar commitment is seen within open-source software and hardware communities, such as the members of the Linux Foundation.

The challenge here, of course, is ensuring that what an amateur community considers to be responsible, actually is. Heres where there needs to be a much wider public conversation that extends beyond government agencies and scientific communities to include students, hobbyists, and anyone who may potentially stand to be affected by the use of CubeSat technology.

Elizabeth Garbee, Ph.D. Student in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology, Arizona State University and Andrew Maynard, Director, Risk Innovation Lab, Arizona State University

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/future-personal-satellite-technology-here-are-we-ready-it

What Does The Solar System Sound Like?

The ConversationIn space, no one can hear you scream was the tagline of the 1979 box office film success Alien. And its true. Sound waves propagate mechanically as a vibration and therefore need a medium solid, liquid or gas to travel through. Although interplanetary (and interstellar) space is not completely empty, gas molecules and dust grains are so sparsely distributed that they do not form a continuous medium that would enable sound waves to be transmitted directly.

But there are many locations in the solar system where it might actually be quite noisy. Such places will have a medium through which sound waves can be transmitted for example, an atmosphere or an ocean. And we have only started to explore what they sound like.

NASA announced that its next mission to Mars, the Mars 2020 lander, will carry a microphone so that the soundscape of the planet can be recorded. This is not the first time that a microphone has been sent to Mars the US Planetary Society sponsored a microphone on the Mars Polar Lander mission in 1999. Unfortunately, the spacecraft crashed before any recordings could be transmitted. A microphone was also part of one of the instruments on the Phoenix Lander of 2008, but because of concerns about an interface problem with the landing system, the instrument was not switched on.

The Tantalising Sounds Of Titan And Comet 67P

Titan in true color. NASA

We do have some recordings of space sound already when the European Space Agencys (ESA) Huygens spacecraft landed on Saturns giant moon Titan in January 2005, the probe recorded its journey down through Titans atmosphere. When you listen to the recording, you get a real impression of the capsule being buffeted by winds as it floated to the surface.

The point of an experiment like this is to use the sound to infer how the pressure of Titans atmosphere changes with depth. This can then be used to build a circulation model for Titan, similar to the ones we use on Earth to forecast the weather and understand changes in climate.

Speeding through Titans haze. ESA443 KB (download)

And, at a time when ESAs Rosetta mission is drawing to a close, we should remember that its target comet, 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was singing out into the void as it approached the sun. We also heard the thud of the comet lander Philaes arrival when it touched down on the comet in November 2014.

There are soundscapes of other solar system bodies including Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. But these are not direct audio recordings they are a conversion of electromagnetic vibrations into audio signals. They sound pretty weird.

Sounds of the planets.

Music Of Mars

You only have to imagine being in a desert to realise the variety of sounds a microphone on the surface of Mars could record and how they can be interpreted. First of all, the wind, whistling across the planetary landscape how fast is it travelling? How often does it vary in speed or direction? What does a dust devil sound like? Or a dust storm? What about the crack of thunder associated with a lightning bolt? Or the variation in pressure during an electric storm? Once the wind drops, the gentle sounds that break the silence can be heard: the settling of dust grains disturbed by the wind.

There are several engineering advantages to having a microphone carried by a rover on Mars. As the vehicle trundles across the landscape, we might hear the noise of crashing gears, and realise that sand had clogged the wheels. This would allow engineers to diagnose problems more efficiently, and work out strategies to ameliorate or avoid them.

We have heard some sounds of a rover on Mars already: NASA released audio from the Opportunity rovers 11-year marathon. But like the sounds of Jupiter and Saturns rings, these sounds were not recorded directly they are a conversion of the vibrations of the rover into audio as it travelled across the surface. The microphone on the Mars 2020 mission will be the first to pick up the sounds of Mars directly and transmit them to Earth.

Rover sounds.

What is interesting about the proposal for the microphone is the instrument into which it will be incorporated. Its not an accelerometer, as on Titan and the previous Mars microphones, but on an instrument that is designed to measure the chemical composition of the rocks and soil by vapourising them: a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer. This works by firing a laser at a target, which explodes as a plasma and creates a very sharp pressure wave the acoustic signal of which is proportional to the mass of sample being destroyed. Using the microphone to set up, calibrate and focus the laser will help improve the instrument. But at the same time, a whole raft of new sounds from the surface of the Red Planet will be picked up.

So where else might it be interesting to listen? Id like to hear Europa or Enceladus, the respective moons of Jupiter and Saturn. They both have an ice-covered surface, below which is a deep ocean. Imagine what a microphone might pick up as a spacecraft penetrated the ice. The groaning of the icebergs as they moved against each other. The suck and pluck of more mushy ice as it percolated up through the cracks. The sudden whoosh of an ice geyser. And then into the ocean below. Waves slapping against the base of the icesheet. Water of different temperatures mixing what does that sound like? Will there be bubbles? And perhaps as the penetrator settles onto the ocean floor, we might hear an unexpected crab scuttle past.

Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences, The Open University

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

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/what-does-the-solar-system-sound-like/

6 Surprising Facts About World’s Most Powerful Radio Telescope

Alma-star-trails-eso

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is the world’s most powerful observatory for studying the universe at the long-wavelength millimeter and submillimeter range of light. It’s designed to spot some of the most distant, ancient galaxies ever seen, and to probe the areas around young stars for planets in the process of forming.

The opening of the $1.3 billiontelescope array is being celebrated in an inauguration ceremony on Wednesday (March 13) at its observation site in Chile’s Atacama desert. Here are six things you should know about the ambitious, not to mention immense, astronomy project.

1. It Is Ginormous

ALMA combines the forces of 66 radio antennas, most almost 40 feet (12 meters) in diameter, to create images comparable to those that could be obtained with a single 46,000-foot-wide (14,000 meters) dish.

The observatory is accurate enough to discern a golf ball 9 miles (15 kilometers) away.

2. It Took a Decade to Build

The telescope is a collaboration of four continents, being sponsored by countries in North America, Europe and East Asia, with the cooperation of Chile. Planning and constructing the observatory took thousands of scientists and engineers from around the world more than 10 years.

3. ALMA Is One High Eye on the Sky

The observatory is among the highest instruments on Earth, at an altitude of 16,570 feet (5,050 meters) above sea level. Its perch high atop the Chajnantor plateau puts it above much of the Earth’s atmosphere, which blurs and distorts light.

4. It’s in the Driest Place on Earth

ALMA’s location in Chile’s Atacama desert, the driest place in the world, means almost every night is clear of clouds and free of light-distorting moisture. Some weather stations in the desert have never received rain, and scientists think the Atacama got no significant rainfall between 1570 and 1971.

5. ALMA Dishes Are Nearly Perfect

The surfaces of its dozens of radio dishes are almost perfect, with none deviating from an exact parabola by more than 20 micrometers (20 millionths of a meter, or about 0.00078 inches). This prevents any incoming radio waves from being lost, so that the resulting picture captures as much distant cosmic light as possible. The radio dishes, which weigh about 100 tons each, are made of ultra-stable CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic) for the reflector base, with reflecting panels of rhodium-coated nickel.

6. This Is One Cool Telescope — Literally

The electronic detector called the “front end” that amplifies and converts the radio signals collected at each ALMA antenna must be kept at a chilling 4 Kelvin ( minus 452 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 269 degrees Celsius), to prevent introducing noise to the signal.

Ultimately, the ground-breaking observatory promises to reveal many new secrets of the cosmos — not to mention some really pretty pictures.

Image courtesy of ESO/B. Tafreshi

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/03/11/facts-chile-radio-telescope/

Latest Mars Photo Shows Curiosity’s Tracks From Space

Latest-mars-photo-shows-curiosity-s-tracks-from-space-510f1e934c

NASA’s newest Mars rover Curiosity is taking its first tentative drives across the Martian surface and leaving tracks that have been spotted all the way from space in a spectacular photo snapped by an orbiting spacecraft.

The newview of Curiosity’s tracks from space was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and released today. It shows the rover as a bright, boxy vehicle at the end of two tracks that create a single zig-zag pattern in the Martian surface.

Another photo from the MRO spacecraft spotted the car-size Curiosity rover’s parachute and protective backshell, which were jettisoned by the rover during its Aug. 5 landing. A previous photo by MRO taken on Curiosity’s actual landing day captured an image of theMars rover hanging from its parachute.

Scientists used the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on the MRO spacecraft to take the new photos, which have created a buzz among the Curiosity rover’s science team.

“The HiRISE camera on MRO continues to take amazing photographs of Mars, and of us on Mars,” said Mike Watkins, Curiosity mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a briefing today.

The photo of Curiosity also includes the rover’s landing spot and shows the scorch marks left behind by the rockets on the sky crane that lowered the rover to the Martian surface.

“It’s a great image of where we stand relative to the touchdown point now,” Watkins said.

This isn’t the first time the MRO spacecraft has captured views of rovers on Mars. The orbiter repeatedly observed NASA’s smaller Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity as they explored the Martian surface following their own landings in January 2004. The Spirit rover’s mission was declared over last year, but Opportunity continues to rover across the Martian plains of Meridiani Planum.

The Mars rover Curiosity took its first drive on Mars on Aug. 22 and completed its longest drive, a 100-foot trek, on Sept. 4. So far, the rover has driven a total of 358 feet on Mars, but is actually just 69 feet away from its landing site due to the turns the rover has performed along the way.

Mission scientists have also tested the rover’s mast-mounted cameras and laser, which is used to study the composition of Martian rocks, and are preparing a weeklong set of tests to calibrate Curiosity’s instrument-tipped robotic arm.

NASA’s $2.5 billion Curiosity rover is designed to spend the next two years exploring the vast Gale Crater on Mars to determine if the area could have once supported microbial life. Mission scientists also plan to send the rover up Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising up from the center of the crater.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/06/nasa-photo-curiosity-tracks/

NASA Unveils Its New Reusable “Dream Chaser” Spaceplane

NASA has unveiled its next generation spaceplane, the “Dream Chaser,” its first space reusable space vehicle since the retirement of the beloved fleet of partially reusable Space Shuttles.

So far, it’s only completed its first run of test flights but NASA plans to use this model to ferry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) within the next few years. Its second round of test flights will hit the skies by the end of this year.

Dream Chaser was designed and built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation and it looks as cool as its name suggests. This privately-owned company was one of three companies awarded contracts with NASA to ship cargo to the ISS between 2019 and 2024. It will also be able to dock into the space station with immediate access to passengers or cargo, as shown in the artist’s impression below.

It’s relatively small at about 9 meters (30 feet) from nose to tail, about a quarter of the size of the now-retired space shuttles. There are two variants of the space plane. One is a manned version that can transport up to seven crew members. The other will be able to travel unmanned and can transport up to 5,500 kilograms (12,120 pounds) of cargo, exceeding NASA’s current cargo requirements.

Artist’s concept of the Dream Chaser at a space station. NASA

Much like NASA’s oldest space shuttles, the Dream Chaser launches vertically on a rocket and lands back down to Earth horizontally on a runway like a conventional airplane. 

Sierra Nevada Corporation says that this vehicle can be reused 15 times with 90 percent component reusability. As SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets are testament to, the use of reusable technology is dramatically cutting the cost of space travel. In theory, it can also be used for other tasks such as satellite servicing and space junk clean ups.

The last partially reusable spacecraft from NASA was the now-iconic fleet of Space Shuttle. These space shuttles flew at least 135 missions between 1981 and 2011. 

“Fly frequently, travel safely, land on (most) runways, and operate economically: such are the guiding principles for 21st-century spaceplanes, cargo-carrying aerospace workhorses routinely launching to low-Earth orbit for space station resupply and crew transfers,” NASA said in its announcement.

“Fans disconsolate after the retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet can take heart: The next generation in reusable space vehicles is set to debut.”

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-unveils-its-new-reusable-dream-chaser-spaceplane/

Dwarf Planets With Ice Volcanoes Are Hiding At The Edge Of The Solar System

Volcanoes don’t always involve magma and lava. In fact, plenty of moons and dwarf planets in our Solar System have ice volcanoes – those that erupt plumes of warmer water, ammonia, hydrogen, and nitrogen compounds, surrounded by a mountain of ice.

Now, it seems that scientists have discovered that there may be far more cryovolcanoes in our galactic neighborhood than we previously thought.

Presenting their work at a gathering of the American Astronomical Society earlier this month, a pair of researchers from the Lowell Observatory and the SETI Institute drew everyone’s attention to Eris and Makemake. These two dwarf planets are found far beyond the orbit of Neptune and are the second and third-largest objects in the Kuiper Belt, respectively.

These chilly worlds are composed of various ices and rocky materials, so you’d expect them to bounce back a fair bit of sunlight even at distances of up to 98 times the Earth-Sun orbital axis. Observations of their surfaces, however, have revealed that they’re incredibly reflective – too reflective, in fact.

Both are coated in shiny methane ice, which evaporates to leave behind a red-tinted, less reflective compound named tholin. Calculations show that this frigid dust makes up about 10 percent of the ice covering Eris, and Makemake is coated in even more, but weirdly, that doesn’t match up to the observations.

Instead of being somewhat dull, they’re like distant mirrors, and the team thinks that additional nitrogen ice is to blame. It’s incredibly reflective, but also – thanks to its weird mechanical properties – it’s stretching as it’s being heated from below, ensuring it covers up more of the tholin-marked surfaces.

This excess vitreous ice must be emerging from volcanic activity; no other geological process could explain it. Unfortunately, this poses a bit of an astronomical problem for researchers.

An Artist’s impression of Makemake and its moon, MK2. Discovered around Easter time in 2005, astronomers named it after Easter Island’s Rapa Nui deity. NASA

Cryovolcanoes, or cryogeysers, are powered much like conventional volcanoes. Whatever the solid or molten component may be (rock and magma, ice and water), the object needs a heat source, which can come from primordial heat leftover from its violent formation, the decay of radioactive elements, or tidal heating caused by the gravitational pull of nearby, fairly massive moons or planets on their innards.

Generally speaking, large objects keep heat trapped for longer, and are more likely to have geologically active surfaces. Both Eris and Makemake are incredibly small compared to most planetary objects, though, and aren’t orbited by anything that would trigger tidal heating.

This all suggests that the internal heat source that would drive anything at the surface, from plate tectonics to cryovolcanism, has been all-but-extinguished. Clearly, this isn’t the case, and no-one at present can confidently explain why.

[H/T: New Scientist]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/dwarf-planets-ice-volcanoes-hiding-edge-solar-system/

Spotting The Solos In The Cosmic Choir Of Black Holes

Supermassive black holes are cosmic powerhouses, continuously emitting X-rays as they pull and feed on matter. NASA scientists have comparedthis cosmic X-ray background to a chorus of a million voicesand, thanks to their latest X-ray observatories like Chandra and NuSTAR, the song is becoming clearer.

The groundbreaking Chandra mission has already spotted many of the “choir singers”, but NuSTAR’s job is to find the most energetic supermassive black holes the sopranos, the high-pitched singers of this universal choir.

We’ve gone from resolving just two percent of the high-energy X-ray background to 35 percent,” said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR at Caltech in Pasadena, in a statement.”We can see the most obscured black holes, hidden in thick gas and dust.”

These findings are described in a new study thatwill be published inThe Astrophysical Journal. Using this new data, the team hopes to understand how black hole feeding mechanisms change over time, which will also help researchers understand how they grow and how quickly.

The research will also have an impact on refining the current picture of galaxy evolution. There are profound links between supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, both in term of mass and dynamics, and NuSTAR is the first one capable of viewing the most powerful supermassive black holes in detail.

“We knew this cosmic choir had a strong high-pitched component, but we still don’t know if it comes from a lot of smaller, quiet singers, or a few with loud voices,” added co-author Daniel Stern, the project scientist for NuSTAR at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”Now, thanks to NuSTAR, we’re gaining a better understanding of the black holes and starting to address these questions.”

NuSTAR still hasa long way to go, and its sharp eye will hopefully continue to solve the mystery of supermassive black holes.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/spotting-the-solos-in-the-cosmic-choir-of-black-holes/

Cats Couldn’t Care Less About Magic For Cats

Cats Couldn’t Care Less About Magic For Cats

The Internet went wild when magician Jose Ahonen introduced magic for dogs. He managed to amassed over 13 million views!

Penguin Magic wondered, how would cats react to magic? Would they be as intrigued and amazed as the dogs were?

Hilariously, and unsurprisingly, the felines are not amused by magic for cats

What did you expect? 

 

Via TastefullyOffensive

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2014/04/05/cats-couldnt-care-less-about-magic-for-cats/

Six New Millisecond Pulsars Discovered

Some of the most precise clocks in the universe are not clocks at all they are fastly-rotating pulsars, which can be more accurate than atomic clocks. They are so precise that they can be used to test the most sophisticated physics theories to a staggering precision, so astronomers are always looking for more of them.

And last week, using the Fermi Large Area Telescopes (LAT), an international team of astronomers wasable to discover six brand newmillisecond pulsars. The discovery was possible by following up the Fermi detection with radio observations at the Arecibotelescope in Puerto Rico.

Millisecond pulsars (MSP) are neutron stars that spin on their axis at an extremelyhigh velocity. Sometimes, pulsars have companion stars, and during their orbits the pulsar starts absorbing material from the companion, quite literally sucking the life out of them. Due to the conservation of angular momentum, the infalling material can give a boost to the pulsar that speeds it up, and it can end up rotating hundreds of times per second.

In a paper published online on Arxiv, the researchers detailed the rotational period of these objects, with the fastest spinning every 1.99 milliseconds and the slowest every 4.66 milliseconds.Although theyre all fast, there is much variation among the six objects. So the researchers divided them into three groups.

There were three MSPs categorized as black widows, where the pulsar has stolen almost all the mass from the companion, which is now just a degenerate mass object weighing less than 10 percentof the Suns mass. Two pulsars were redback,a term that describes pulsars eclipsed by the large outflows from the companion star. The last object has a more classical white dwarf companion.

Fermi has detected over 1,000 unidentified sources of gamma-rays, and the researchers think that some of those sources could be more MSPs. Of the 230 millisecond pulsars (MSPs) currently known in the Galactic disk, 30% have been discovered in previously unidentified sources of gamma rays detected by the Fermi LAT instrument the team noted in the paper.

While only around 10% of all known pulsars rotate at millisecond rates, MSPs make up half of all pulsars observed to emit gamma rays

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/six-new-millisecond-pulsars-discovered