An Asteroid Impact With the Earth in September Is Not Entirely Impossible 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INVERSE NEWS)

 

An Asteroid Impact With the Earth in September Is Not Entirely Impossible

It is extremely unlikely, but the probability is actually higher than zero.

Dinosaur asteroid impact

Filed Under AsteroidsESA & NASA

Keep September free … because a massive, football field-sized asteroid has a one in 7,300 chance of smashing into the Earth on the morning of September 9, 2019, according to the European Space Agency.

But it most likely won’t hit us.

Known as asteroid 2006 QV89, it has a diameter of 164 feet — that’s double the width of the meteor that exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013. That meteor came from behind the shadow of the sun and wasn’t seen by astronomers until it was already entering our atmosphere.

Current modeling of the asteroid’s orbit shows it more likely passing by Earth at a distance of over 4.2 million miles this September, but ESA says there’s roughly a one hundredth of a 1 percent chance the model is wrong and it hits our planet instead.

Only last month, US scientists took part in an exercise simulating an imminent asteroid impact with the Earth, and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine warned that we need to take the real-world threat seriously during his keynote speech at the International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Maryland.

But it most likely won’t hit us.

New York gets hit by a meteor shower in the 1998 movie 'Armageddon'
New York gets hit by a meteor shower in the 1998 movie ‘Armageddon’. 

Bridenstine also said that detecting, tracking, and studying asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs) should be taken more seriously following the Chelyabinsk event. The resulting shock wave from that 65-foot-wide asteroid damaged thousands of buildings, and debris and flying glass injured over 1,500 people.

Last June, NASA produced a 20-page plan that details the steps the US should take to be better prepared for NEOs that come within 30 million miles of Earth.

Lindley Johnson, the space agency’s planetary defense officer, said that the country “already has significant scientific, technical, and operational capabilities” to help with NEOs, but implementing the new plan would “greatly increase our nation’s readiness and work with international partners to effectively respond should a new potential asteroid impact be detected.”

According to a 2018 report put together by Planetary.org, there are more than 18,000 NEOs.

Hollywood enjoyed a brief spell of asteroid impact-themed disaster movies during the summer of 1998. In the movie Deep Impact, a comet 1½ miles long slammed into the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Cape Hatteras, creating, at first, a tsunami 100 feet high traveling at 1,100 mph (that’s faster than the speed of sound). Then, when it reached shallow water, it slowed but increased in height to 3,500 feet. The wave washed away farmland and cities and eventually reached as far inland as the Ohio and Tennessee valleys (over 600 miles).

But it most likely won’t hit us.

What planet was NASA’s Curiosity Rover sent to?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

What planet was NASA’s Curiosity Rover sent to?

Venus

3%

Jupiter

9%

Mars

84%

Mercury

4%
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Launched in November 2011, the Curiosity Rover was sent to Mars to collect data and, hopefully, answer the question “Did Mars ever have the right conditions to support life?” Curiosity answered this question early on, when it discovered chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on the Red Planet. Though other missions have been sent to Mars, Curiosity carries the most advanced scientific instruments of any of them and can travel farther on Mars’ surface due to increased power capacity.
Source: NASA | Date Updated: June 5, 2019
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The farthest-away manmade objects in space

Right now, somewhere in the world, children stand at the edge of a lake counting the hops of stones skidding across the surface of the water. It’s hard to explain the tranquil pleasure of watching the ripples emanate farther and farther till nearly out of sight, but it’s even more of a challenge to fathom the distances to which we’ve launched objects into the dark ocean of space. As of February 2018, the Voyager 1 drifts 13 billion miles away from the surface of the earth, 42 years since its launch. It is one of five man made objects that has ever left our solar system.

Pioneer 10

Credit: NASA.gov

Five years before the launch of the Voyager probes, on March 2, 1972, NASA launched the Pioneer 10 to investigate the surface of Jupiter. Weighing 569 pounds, the Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to cross the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and, eventually, escape our solar system by nature of its velocity. It was also the first spacecraft to launch from the three-stage Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle to achieve its launch speed of 32,400 mph. It took the Pioneer 10 twelve weeks to cross the orbit of Mars. On December 3, 1973, the Pioneer 10 passed by the cloud tops of Jupiter to obtain the first close-up images of the planet.

Following its flyby of Jupiter, Pioneer 10 continued to gather data for NASA of the outer solar system until the end of its mission in March 31, 1977. The last faint signal from Pioneer 10 was received on January 23, 2003, as its radioisotope power source had decayed to the point of being unable to send further signals.

Pioneer 11

Credit: NASA.gov

The launch of Pioneer 10 was succeeded just a year later on April 5, 1973. The launch this time was accelerated by an additional 210 ft/sec and aimed to pass Jupiter at a point closer to its surface. The closer proximity to Jupiter caused the spacecraft to accelerate by gravitational pull to the muzzle velocity of a rifle (110,000 mph), allowing it to obtain the velocity and direction necessary to approach Saturn.

On September 1, 1979, Pioneer 11 flew to within 13,000 miles of Saturn to obtain the first close-up images of the planet and discover two previously-unobserved moons. By September of 1995, the spacecraft could no longer make observations and by November, the last communication with the spacecraft was made.

Voyager 1 & 2

Credit: NASA.gov

The Voyager spacecrafts were initially tasked with observing the properties and magnetospheres of our neighboring planets using their onboard instrumentation. Target planets included Jupiter, Saturn, and Saturn’s moon Titan. Data from the Pioneer 10 mission was used to create more robust spacecraft to tolerate the intense radiation around Jupiter. Voyager 1 started its observation of Saturn, the final phase of its initial mission, on August 22, 1980, whereas the Voyager 2 was sent on a longer trajectory to observe Uranus and Neptune, reaching Neptune on August 25, 1989.

In addition to their planetary observations, both Voyager spacecrafts were also tasked with interstellar missions. They were designed to continue scientific observations and signal transmission after escaping the heliosphere and exiting our solar system. They are both still active, with a projected lifetime of about five more years.

New Horizons

Credit: NASA.gov

In 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft with a primary mission of observing the dwarf planet Pluto. New Horizons was launched as the fastest man-made object ever launched from Earth with a speed of 36,400 mph. New Horizons started its flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. Three years later, in August of 2018, it confirmed the existence of a hydrogen wall previously observed by the Voyager launch.

Black hole BOMBSHELL: NASA astronomer hints universe could be a HOLOGRAM

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS NEWS)

 

Black hole BOMBSHELL: NASA astronomer hints universe could be a HOLOGRAM

BLACK holes could hold all of the secrets of the universe and prove once and for all we live in a “giant hologram”, a NASA astronomer has spectacularly claimed.

NASA claim that WATER is present on the moon’s surface

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Black holes are incredible wells of gravity, where the force of attraction traps everything including light. Black holes are often found at the hearts of galaxies and up until April this year have been purely theoretical. In April, astronomers behind the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration photographed the first ever shadow of a black hole millions of light-years from Earth. But little is still known about the exact nature of these terrifying objects and speculation is rampant.

This is why astronomer Michelle Thaller, who is the assistant director of Science Communications at , said dark holes challenge our understanding of physics.

The  experts appeared in a science video for Big Think, where she discussed the idea black holes are key to cracking the secrets of the universe.

And perhaps most shockingly, the astronomer suggested the universe in which we live is nothing more than a two-dimensional hologram.

Dr Thaller said: “Things are stopped in time as they fell into the black hole. And right at the boundary, there is almost kind of a sphere, a two-dimensional surface that somehow contains all the information about what’s inside the black hole.

READ MORE: 

Black hole shock: The universe is a hologram

Black hole SHOCK: Black holes and the universe could be a hologram in a shock twist (Image: GETTY)

“And this reminds people of something that humans invented, called a hologram.

“Now, a hologram is a two-dimensional object. You can make it out of glass or a piece of film. And you shine a light through it and all of a sudden, there seems to be three-dimensional projections.

“And the idea is that we are looking at some fundamental way the universe stores information. Around a black hole, where space and time have been crushed out of existence, could there be a shell of information, something like a hologram?”

But how does this cosmic revelation suggest the universe at large is a form of a hologram?

READ MORE: 

According to Dr Thaller, black holes could be a miniaturised representation of how the universe works on a big scale.

This all sounds incredibly strange

Dr Michelle Thaller, NASA

In this scenario, all of the information in the universe is spread out across a 2D surface and we could be part of it.

But the astronomer said this does not in any way imply intent or creative design behind the hologram.

She said: “We’re just talking about the universe may really be information contained in a two-dimensional structure, not the three dimensions that we’re aware of now. This all sounds incredibly strange.

READ MORE: 

Black hole in space: Universe is a hologram

Black holes are incredible wells of gravity peppered throughout the cosmos (Image: GETTY)

Black hole: Dr Michelle Thaller

Black hole: Dr Michelle Thaller said the universe could be two-dimensional information (Image: BIG THINK)

“I’m always a little bit afraid to talk about it. But I think that the thing to really kind of gain from this is that black holes are staring us right in the face. We’re now observing them.

“They’re right there. And we cannot really describe how the universe should work with one of these things. They don’t make sense.”

On April 10, 2019, the EHT collaboration published the world’s first ever photograph of a distant black hole at the heart of galaxy Messier 87.

The historic achievement confirmed the existence of black holes 100 years after they were theorised by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and by astronomer Karl Schwarzschild.

Researchers wonder if ancient supernovae prompted human ancestors to walk upright

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYS.ORG)

 

Researchers wonder if ancient supernovae prompted human ancestors to walk upright

Researchers wonder if ancient supernovae prompted human ancestors to walk upright
A new paper from a University of Kansas researcher suggests bipedalism arose when ancient supernovae caused lightning that burned Earth’s forests and prompted human ancestors to walk upright. Credit: NASA

Did ancient supernovae induce proto-humans to walk on two legs, eventually resulting in homo sapiens with hands free to build cathedrals, design rockets and snap iPhone selfies?

A paper published today in the Journal of Geology makes the case: Supernovae bombarded Earth with cosmic energy starting as many as 8 million years ago, with a peak some 2.6 million years ago, initiating an avalanche of electrons in the lower atmosphere and setting off a chain of events that feasibly ended with bipedal hominins such as homo habilis, dubbed “handy man.”

The authors believe atmospheric ionization probably triggered an enormous upsurge in cloud-to-ground  that ignited  around the globe. These infernos could be one reason ancestors of  developed bipedalism—to adapt in savannas that replaced torched forests in northeast Africa.

“It is thought there was already some tendency for hominids to walk on two legs, even before this event,” said lead author Adrian Melott, professor emeritus of physics & astronomy at the University of Kansas. “But they were mainly adapted for climbing around in trees. After this conversion to savanna, they would much more often have to walk from one tree to another across the grassland, and so they become better at walking upright. They could see over the tops of grass and watch for predators. It’s thought this conversion to savanna contributed to bipedalism as it became more and more dominant in human ancestors.”

Based on a “telltale” layer of iron-60 deposits lining the world’s sea beds, astronomers have high confidence supernovae exploded in Earth’s immediate cosmic neighborhood—between 100 and only 50 parsecs (163 ) away—during the transition from the Pliocene Epoch to the Ice Age.

“We calculated the ionization of the atmosphere from  which would come from a supernova about as far away as the iron-60 deposits indicate,” Melott said. “It appears that this was the closest one in a much longer series. We contend it would increase the ionization of the lower atmosphere by 50-fold. Usually, you don’t get lower-atmosphere ionization because cosmic rays don’t penetrate that far, but the more energetic ones from supernovae come right down to the surface—so there would be a lot of electrons being knocked out of the atmosphere.”

According to Melott and co-author Brian Thomas of Washburn University, ionization in the lower atmosphere meant an abundance of electrons would form more pathways for lightning strikes.

“The bottom mile or so of atmosphere gets affected in ways it normally never does,” Melott said. “When high-energy cosmic rays hit atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, they knock electrons out of them—so these electrons are running around loose instead of bound to atoms. Ordinarily, in the lightning process, there’s a buildup of voltage between clouds or the clouds and the ground—but current can’t flow because not enough electrons are around to carry it. So, it has to build up high voltage before electrons start moving. Once they’re moving, electrons knock more electrons out of more atoms, and it builds to a lightning bolt. But with this ionization, that process can get started a lot more easily, so there would be a lot more lightning bolts.”

The KU researcher said the probability that this lightning spike touched off a worldwide upsurge in wildfires is supported by the discovery of carbon deposits found in soils that correspond with the timing of the cosmic-ray bombardment.

“The observation is that there’s a lot more charcoal and soot in the world starting a few million years ago,” Melott said. “It’s all over the place, and nobody has any explanation for why it would have happened all over the world in different climate zones. This could be an explanation. That increase in fires is thought to have stimulated the transition from woodland to savanna in a lot of places—where you had forests, now you had mostly open grassland with shrubby things here and there. That’s thought to be related to human evolution in northeast Africa. Specifically, in the Great Rift Valley where you get all these hominin fossils.”

Melott said no such event is likely to occur again anytime soon. The nearest star capable of exploding into a supernova in the next million years is Betelgeuse, some 200 parsecs (652 light years) from Earth.

“Betelgeuse is too far away to have effects anywhere near this strong,” Melott said. “So, don’t worry about this. Worry about solar proton events. That’s the danger for us with our technology—a solar flare that knocks out electrical power. Just imagine months without electricity.”


Explore further

Research increases distance at which supernova would spark mass extinctions on Earth


More information: Journal of GeologyDOI: 10.1086/703418

750 FT asteroid barreling towards an Earth APPROACH at 18,800MPH

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS NEWS)

 

NASA asteroid tracker: A 750 FT asteroid barreling towards an Earth APPROACH at 18,800MPH

AN ASTEROID nearly twice as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza is hurtling in Earth’s direction at more than 18,800mph, NASA’s asteroid trackers have revealed.

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The -tracked asteroid, dubbed Asteroid 2011 HP, is flying towards our planet on a so-called Earth Close Approach trajectory. NASA predicts the imposing space rock will shoot past Earth on the morning of Thursday, May 30. According to NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid will approach the planet around 11.48am BST or 6.48am Eastern Time. When this happens, NASA said the asteroid will break speeds of around 8.43km per second or 18,857.4mph (30,348kmh).

Asteroid HP is an Apollo-type Near-Earth  (NEA) or Near-Earth Object (NEO).

NASA’s JPL estimates the space rock measures somewhere in the range of 328ft to 754.6ft (100m to 230m) in diameter.

At the upper end of that scale, the asteroid is as tall as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US, and the Space Needle in Seattle.

However, even at the lower end of the estimate, the space rock is still almost as tall as Big Ben’s clock tower in London, UK.

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NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: A colossal space rock will zip past the Earth on Thursday, May 30 (Image: GETTY)

The space rock orbits the inner circles of the solar system on a trajectory similar to that of asteroid 1862 Apollo.

The asteroid’s trajectory takes it beyond the orbit of Mars but it does not fly past the Asteroid Belt in-between Mars and the gas giant Jupiter.

All NEOs are comets and asteroids on paths, which orbit the Sun from distances smaller than 1.3 astronomical units or 120.8 million miles (194.5 million km).

One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km) – the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

READ MORE: 

Next week, Asteroid HP will significantly cut this distance down to around 0.03149 astronomical units.

Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth

NASA

This means the asteroid will near-miss the Earth from a distance of just 2.92 million miles (4.7 million km).

In other words, the  rock will approach our home-world 12.26 times as far as the Moon is.

NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.

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NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: The asteroid was discovered on April 13, 2011 (Image: GETTY)

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: Thankfully, the space rock will not hit the Earth and pass safely (Image: GETTY)

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”

After the asteroid ups past the Earth next week, NASA predicts HP will visit us again on May 17, 2027.

Then, the space rock will make many more approaches every few years until September 2, 2184.

NASA asteroid trackers first observed the asteroid on April 13, 2011.

NASA: A MONSTROUS 1,280FT asteroid is headed towards Earth at 58,250MPH

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK’S EXPRESS NEWS)

 

NASA asteroid tracker: A MONSTROUS 1,280FT asteroid is headed towards Earth at 58,250MPH

AN ASTEROID hurtling towards the Earth at nearly 58,250mph (93,744 kmh) is expected to fly over our planet next week, NASA’s asteroid trackers have revealed.

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The imposing , dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 JB1, is headed towards the Earth on a “Close Approach” trajectory. NASA’s asteroid trackers have calculated a close flyby in the early morning hours of Monday, May 20. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, Asteroid JB1 will shoot past our planet around 4.23am BST (3.23am UTC). And when the asteroid nears the Earth, it will reach breakneck speeds of around 26.04km per second or 58,349.8mph.

Asteroid JB1 is an Apollo-type “Near-Earth Object” or NEO asteroid.

NEOs are all asteroids and comets in orbit of the Sun at a distance of 1.3 astronomical units (au).

Just one astronomical unit measures about 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

’s JPL estimates JB1 measures somewhere in the range of 557.7ft to 1,279.5ft (170m to 390m) across.

READ MORE: 

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: A giant space rock will fly past Earth on May 20 (Image: GETTY)

An asteroid at the upper end of the estimate is taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

The asteroid is also about 200 times longer than a Queen Size bed and 45 London double-decker buses.

If the  rock were to hit the Earth, the force of impact could be cataclysmically deadly.

NASA said: “If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25m but smaller than one kilometre – a little more than 1/2 miles – were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.

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“We believe anything larger than one to two kilometres – one kilometre is a little more than one-half mile – could have worldwide effects.”

Anything larger than one to two kilometres could have worldwide effects

NASA

So, is there anything to fear from the asteroid’s flyby next week?

Thankfully, NASA predicts the asteroid will not come close enough to slam into the Earth.

At its closest, Asteroid JB1 will fly past Earth from a distance of 0.04305 astronomical units.

READ MORE: 

This means Asteroid will come within four million miles (6.4 million km) of our home-world.

In other words, NASA expects the asteroid to fly by 16.76 times as far as the Moon is.

NASA explained: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: The space rock will fly by at breakneck speeds (Image: GETTY)

NASA asteroid tracker: Giant space rock over Earth

NASA asteroid tracker: The space rock will pass the Earth safely without hitting (Image: GETTY)

Quick facts about asteroids:

1. Asteroids are the rocky remnants of the early solar system from an approximate 4.6 billion years ago.

2. NASA estimates there are currently 795,070 space rocks orbiting our Sun.

3. The biggest “potentially hazardous” asteroid NASA is aware of is the 3.35-mile-wide (5.4km) Toutatis.

4. NASA has established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office to keep the Earth safe from dangers of asteroid impacts.

5. Most of the asteroids we know of are in the so-called Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter.

After Pentagon Ends Contract, Top-Scientist Group Vows To Carry On

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

After Pentagon Ends Contract, Top-Secret Scientists Group Vows To Carry On

The Jasons, a group of scientists who advise the U.S. government, have developed technologies such as a laser that can help reduce atmospheric distortion. The Air Force uses it to better photograph passing spy satellites.

R. Fugate/Air Force Research Laboratory

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

A secretive group of scientists who advise the U.S. government on everything from spy satellites to nuclear weapons is scrambling to find a sponsor after the Defense Department abruptly ended its contract late last month.

The group, known as the Jasons, will run out of money at the end of April. The Pentagon says that the group’s advice is no longer needed, but independent experts say it has never been more relevant and worry the department is throwing away a valuable resource.

Russell Hemley, the head of the Jasons, says that other government agencies still want advice and that the Jasons are determined to give it.

Late Thursday, it appeared that another government agency might be willing to take on the group. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration posted a solicitation saying it intends to take over the contract for the group. That could happen in a matter of months, and it is unclear how the Mitre Corp., which manages the Jasons, would fund the group in the interim.

The Jasons group comprises about 60 members. By day, they’re normal academics, working at colleges and universities and in private industry. But each summer, they come together to study tough problems for the military, intelligence agencies and other parts of the government.

The group’s name, like the group itself, is shrouded in mystery, though it’s believed to be a reference to Jason, the Greek mythological prince who leads the Argonauts in looking for the Golden Fleece.

“The idea that they’re going to cut back on the kind of advice that the Jasons provide is not good for the Department of Defense,” says Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, an independent watchdog group. “It’s not good for the nation.”

“We’re very independent, we have this diversity of talent and we often come up with very different, very original perspectives and solutions to problems,” says Hemley, a physicist and chemist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Hemley is one of the few members who publicly identify themselves as part of the group. He says the Jasons are unlike anything else out there — academics at the top of their individual fields, with security clearances that let them work on any problem.

The group’s origins go back to the early days of the Cold War.

“They just formed themselves, back in 1960,” says Ann Finkbeiner, who wrote The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite. It began when a group of physicists won funding from the Pentagon to spend the summer learning about the problems facing the Defense Department in its fight against the Soviet Union. These stubborn researchers were determined to advise the government. They went on to study everything from anti-submarine warfare to missile defense.

Enlarge this image

Russell Hemley is the chair of the Jasons. He says several government agencies remain interested in contracting with the group.

Geoff Brumfiel/NPR

“Probably their most famous study was about trying to stop the infiltration from North Vietnam into the South,” Finkbeiner says.

The problem was that North Vietnamese troops and supplies were hard to find beneath the dense jungle canopy. The Jasons’ solution was to develop a system of remote sensors that could be airdropped into the jungle and provide intelligence on the enemy. The program, like much to do with Vietnam, was controversial and didn’t work perfectly. But it laid the groundwork for modern electronic warfare, in which sensors provide troops with detailed battlefield information, Finkbeiner says.

In recent years, Hemley says, the Jasons have broadened the areas they study. They’ve tried to help the Department of Agriculture develop better ways to use data to understand crop production, for example. And they advised the Census Bureau on how to streamline its operations.

So it came as a surprise to Hemley and others when, in late March, the Pentagon abruptly announced it was ending its primary contract with the Jasons. The contract, run through the Mitre Corp., is the vehicle that allows the Jasons to do work with other parts of the government as well. Without it, the group has no way of getting the several million dollars in funding it needs to operate annually.

“The department remains committed to seeking independent technical advice and review,” Pentagon spokesperson Heather Babb said. But Aftergood sees another reason for the end of the relationship. He says that the Jasons are a blunt bunch. If they think an idea is dumb or won’t work, they aren’t afraid to say so.

“They were offering the opposite of cheerleading,” he says. “And DOD decided that maybe they didn’t want to pay for that any longer.”

Aftergood says it’s a real mistake to cut ties with the Jasons now. The Pentagon is embarking on ambitious research into artificial intelligence, quantum computing and advanced hypersonic missiles. The Jasons have expertise on these topics and will likely be useful.

For now, Hemley says, the group is eager to continue its research and is “working closely with our sponsors to make sure that happens.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons, would be a natural fit for the group. Over the years, it has solicited numerous studies from the Jasons on the nuclear stockpile.

At a congressional hearing this month, NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty voiced her support for the Jasons: “I can tell you that they are rich in history,” she said, “and their technical expertise is sound.”

Astronomers discover third planet in the Kepler-47 circumbinary system

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYS.ORG)

 

Astronomers discover third planet in the Kepler-47 circumbinary system

Astronomers discover third planet in the Kepler-47 circumbinary system
Artistic rendition of the Kepler-47 circumbinary planet system. The three planets with the large middle planet being the newly discovered Kepler47d. Credit: NASA/JPLCaltech/T. Pyle

Astronomers have discovered a third planet in the Kepler-47 system, securing the system’s title as the most interesting of the binary-star worlds. Using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, a team of researchers, led by astronomers at San Diego State University, detected the new Neptune-to-Saturn-size planet orbiting between two previously known planets.

With its three planets orbiting two suns, Kepler-47 is the only known multi-planet circumbinary system. Circumbinary planets are those that orbit two stars.

The planets in the Kepler-47 system were detected via the “transit method.” If the orbital plane of the planet is aligned edge-on as seen from Earth, the planet can pass in front of the host stars, leading to a measurable decrease in the observed brightness. The new planet, dubbed Kepler-47d, was not detected earlier due to weak transit signals.

As is common with circumbinary planets, the alignment of the orbital planes of the planets change with time. In this case, the middle planet’s orbit has become more aligned, leading to a stronger transit signal. The transit depth went from undetectable at the beginning of the Kepler Mission to the deepest of the three planets over the span of just four years.

The SDSU researchers were surprised by both the size and location of the new planet. Kepler-47d is the largest of the three planets in the Kepler-47 system.

“We saw a hint of a third planet back in 2012, but with only one transit we needed more data to be sure,” said SDSU astronomer Jerome Orosz, the paper’s lead author. “With an additional transit, the planet’s orbital period could be determined, and we were then able to uncover more transits that were hidden in the noise in the earlier data.”

William Welsh, SDSU astronomer and the study’s co-author, said he and Orosz expected any additional planets in the Kepler-47 system to be orbiting exterior to the previously known planets. “We certainly didn’t expect it to be the largest planet in the system. This was almost shocking,” said Welsh. Their research was recently published in the Astronomical Journal.

Astronomers discover third planet in the Kepler-47 circumbinary system
Artistic rendition of the Kepler-47 circumbinary planet system. An overhead view of the orbital configuration. Credit: NASA/JPLCaltech/T. Pyle

With the discovery of the new planet, a much better understanding of the system is possible. For example, researchers now know the planets in in this circumbinary system are very low density – less than that of Saturn, the Solar System planet with the lowest density.

While a low density is not that unusual for the sizzling hot-Jupiter type exoplanets, it is rare for mild-temperature planets. Kepler-47d’s equilibrium temperature is roughly 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), while Kepler-47c is 26 degrees F ( 32 degrees C). The innermost planet, which is the smallest circumbinary planet known, is a much hotter 336 degrees F (169 degrees C).

The inner, middle, and outer planets are 3.1, 7.0, and 4.7 times the size of the Earth, and take 49, 187, and 303 days, respectively, to orbit around their suns. The stars themselves orbit each other in only 7.45 days; one star is similar to the Sun, while the other has a third of the mass of the Sun. The entire system is compact and would fit inside the orbit of the Earth. It is approximately 3340 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Cygnus.

“This work builds on one of the Kepler’s most interesting discoveries: that systems of closely-packed, low-density planets are extremely common in our galaxy,” said University of California, Santa Cruz astronomer Jonathan Fortney, who was not part of the study. “Kepler 47 shows that whatever process forms these planets – an outcome that did not happen in our solar system – is common to single-star and circumbinary planetary systems.”

Correction: A prior version of this article contained inaccuracies regarding the orbits of the Kepler-47 planets. This article has been updated to reflect the correct number of days it takes the inner, middle, and outer planets to orbit their suns: 49, 187 and 303 days respectively.


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More information: Jerome A. Orosz et al. Discovery of a Third Transiting Planet in the Kepler-47 Circumbinary System, The Astronomical Journal(2019). DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/ab0ca0 , iopscience.iop.org/article/10. … 847/1538-3881/ab0ca0

Journal information: Astronomical Journal

NASA’s Curiosity rover digs up clay samples – Is it PROOF of water on Mars?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE U.K.’S ‘EXPRESS’ NEWS)

 

Life on Mars: NASA’s Curiosity rover digs up clay samples – Is it PROOF of water on Mars?

NASA’s Curiosity rover is drilling into the Red Planet to collect samples of Martian clay, which scientists believed formed in the presence of water – but could this also help find life on Mars?

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’s lonely Mars rover has successfully retrieved its first batch of soil from a “clay-bearing unit” near Mars’ Mount Sharp region. The US space agency has targeted this part of Mars for a drilling mission even before Curiosity blasted off towards the planet in November 2011. NASA has now confirmed Curiosity retrieved samples of bedrock material from a rock dubbed Aberlady on Sunday, April 6. The rover then delivered the soil samples to its onboard laboratory equipment on April 10 and scientists are waiting for the analysis results with bated breath.

Water is one of the most fundamental building blocks of life by human standards and is key to discovering alien life in other parts of the cosmos.

Scientists have long suspected Mars once hosted a lush and wet atmosphere with a landscape not too different from that of Earth’s.

Today, however, the planet is a harsh and inhospitable desert with a paper-thin atmosphere blasted by intense solar radiation.

The only signs of water present on Mars have been found in the form of ice caps around the freezing south pole.

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Life on Mars: NASA Curiosity rover drilling clay

Life on Mars: Curiosity is drilling out samples of clay from Martian bedrock (Image: NASA)

But the presence of clay in Martian soil promises to update NASA’s understanding of Mars’s ancient past.

And the results of the rover’s drilling operation so far appear to be promising.

Jim Erickson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: “Curiosity has been on the road for nearly seven years.

“Finally drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone in our journey up Mount Sharp.”

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According to NASA, the remote rover’s drill “chewed easily” through the Martian rock, suggesting the bedrock was much softer than expected.

The space agency said in a statement: “It was so soft, in fact, that the drill didn’t need to use its percussive technique, which is helpful for snagging samples from harder rock.

“This was the mission’s first sample obtained using only rotation of the drill bit.”

However, it is unlikely the drilling mission will provide any major breakthrough in the hunt for liquid water.

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Life on Mars: NASA Curiosity rover on Mars

Life on Mars: Clay samples could be proof of ancient water could boost hopes of finding ancient life (Image: NASA)

Instead, NASA expects to learn more about how ancient waters helped shaped the three-mile-tall (five kilometres) Mount Sharp.

Finally drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone

Jim Erickson, NASA

NASA said Curiosity has so far encountered clay minerals and mudstones at every step of its journey through Mars.

These rocks are believed to have formed in ancient lakebeds by settling river sediments some 3.5 billion years ago.

The space agency said: “As with water elsewhere on Mars, the lakes eventually dried up.”

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And Ashwin Vasavada, a JPL Curiosity scientist said: “Each layer of this mountain is a puzzle piece. They each hold clues to a different era in Martian history.

“We’re excited to see what this first sample tells us about the ancient environment, especially about water.”

But what does all of this mean for the potential to find life on Mars?

Scientists widely agree life here on Earth started in water and it is water, which made life on Earth possible.

Life on Mars: Martian clay bedrock

Life on Mars: The remote rover drilled into this soft bed of exposed Martian rock (Image: NASA)

And if scientists can prove the same conditions once existed on Mars, the probability simple, single-celled life evolved on Mars will skyrocket.

NASA said: “Whether the water is boiling hot or frozen, some sort of creature seems to thrive in it. Is it the same on other planets?

“If water once flowed on Mars, did life once thrive there too? Or, maybe there is still water on Mars, only it has gone underground.

“Could there be tiny life forms—like bacteria—on Mars even now?”

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Was there ever life on Mars in the past?

If NASA’s scientists can prove Mars once hosted liquid lakes and rives, the next question is whether the conditions were ripe for microbial life to develop.

NASA said: “Is there any evidence of life in the planet’s past? If so, could any of these tiny living creatures still exist today?

“Imagine how exciting it would be to answer, ‘Yes!’”

Ellen Stofan, head of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, has argued before the US Senate .

She said: “Life rose here on Earth rapidly once conditions stabilised, so you know, for the first several hundred million years on Earth the conditions were probably hostile.

“It was as soon as conditions stabilised within 100 million years or so we are fairly confident that the first microbial life evolved on Earth.

“The problem is life remained in the oceans for a billion years and it took well over a billion years for life to gain any complexity. That’s why I’m optimistic life did evolve on Mars.”

Hubble Peers At Cosmic Blue Bauble

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYSICS.ORG AND NASA)

 

Hubble peers at cosmic blue bauble

Hubble peers at cosmic blue bauble
Messier 3: Containing an incredible half-million stars, this 8-billion-year-old cosmic bauble is one of the largest and brightest globular clusters ever discovered. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, G. Piotto et al.

Globular clusters are inherently beautiful objects, but the subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, Messier 3, is commonly acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful of them all.

Containing an incredible half-million stars, this 8-billion-year-old cosmic bauble is one of the largest and brightest  ever discovered. However, what makes Messier 3 extra special is its unusually large population of variable stars—stars that fluctuate in brightness over time. New variable stars continue to be discovered in this sparkling stellar nest to this day, but so far we know of 274, the highest number found in any globular cluster by far. At least 170 of these are of a special variety called RR Lyrae variables, which pulse with a period directly related to their intrinsic brightness. If astronomers know how bright a star truly is based on its  and classification, and they know how bright it appears to be from our viewpoint here on Earth, they can thus work out its distance from us. For this reason, RR Lyrae stars are known as standard candles—objects of known luminosity whose  and position can be used to help us understand more about vast celestial distances and the scale of the cosmos.

Messier 3 also contains a relatively high number of so-called , which are shown quite clearly in this Hubble image. These are blue main sequence stars that appear to be young because they are bluer and more luminous than other stars in the . As all stars in globular clusters are believed to have formed together and thus to be roughly the same age, only a difference in mass can give these  a different color. A red, old star can appear bluer when it acquires more mass, for instance by stripping it from a nearby star. The extra mass changes it into a bluer star, which makes us think it is younger than it really is.


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