NRL-camera aboard NASA spacecraft confirms asteroid phenomenon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYSICS.ORG)

 

NRL-camera aboard NASA spacecraft confirms asteroid phenomenon

NRL-camera aboard NASA spacecraft confirms asteroid phenomenon
An image from the Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR), a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory-built camera, displays the dust trail of asteroid 3200 Phaethon near the Sun on Nov. 5, 2018. The trail is visible for the first time in the region where the white dots are omitted. 3200 Phaethon’s orbit intersects Earth’s orbit every year, and results in the Geminid Meteor shower. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Brendan Gallagher and Guillermo Stenborg

A U.S. Naval Research Laboratory-built camera mounted on the NASA Parker Solar Probe revealed an asteroid dust trail that has eluded astronomers for decades.

Karl Battams, a computational scientist in NRL’s Space Science Division, discussed the results from the camera called Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) on Dec. 11 during a NASA press conference.

WISPR enabled researchers to identify the  trailing the orbit of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

“This is why NRL’s heliospheric imagers are so ground-breaking,” Battams said. “They allow you to see near-Sun outflows massively fainter than the Sun itself, which would otherwise blind our cameras. And in this case, you can also see  extremely close to the Sun, which most telescopes cannot do.”

He said the trail is best seen near the Sun where 3200 Phaethon’s dust is more densely packed, making WISPR a vital tool for scientists.

The data captured by WISPR determined the asteroid dust trail weighs an estimated billion tons, and measures more than 14 million miles long. The findings raise questions about the trail’s origin.

“Something catastrophic happened to Phaethon a couple of thousand years ago and created the Geminid Meteor shower,” Battams said. “There’s no way the asteroid is anywhere near active enough when it is near the Sun to produce the mass of  we are seeing, so we are confident that WISPR is seeing part of the Geminid meteor stream.”

WISPR, designed, developed and led by NRL, records visible-light images of the solar corona and solar outflow in two overlapping cameras, which together cover more than 100-degrees angular width from the Sun.

Understanding how the solar environment behaves is important to the Navy and Marine Corps because when the solar winds reach Earth, they can affect GPS, spacecraft operations, and ground-based power grids.

WISPR and the Parker Solar Probe will continue to orbit the Sun for the next five years.


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Revealing the physics of the Sun with Parker Solar Probe


Scientists have discovered a ‘monster’ black hole that’s so big it shouldn’t exist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Scientists have discovered a ‘monster’ black hole that’s so big it shouldn’t exist

(CNN)Scientists have discovered a “monster black hole” so massive that, in theory, it shouldn’t exist.

It’s a stellar black hole — the type that forms after stars die, collapse, and explode. Researchers had previously believed that the size limit was no more than 20 times the mass of our sun because as these stars die, they lose most of their mass through explosions that expel matter and gas swept away by stellar winds.
This theory has now been toppled by LB-1, the newly-discovered black hole. Located about 15,000 light years away, it has a mass 70 times greater than our sun, according to a press release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The findings were published by Chinese researchers in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
“Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution,” said Liu Jifeng, head of the team that made the discovery. “LB-1 is twice as massive as what we thought possible. Now theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining its formation.”
Scientists are now scratching their heads at how LB-1 got so huge.
The Chinese team has proposed a number of theories. LB-1’s sheer size suggests that it “was not formed from the collapse of only one star,” the study said — instead, it could potentially be two smaller black holes orbiting each other.
Another possibility is that it formed from a “fallback supernova.” This is when a supernova — the last stage of an exploding star — ejects material during the explosion, which then falls back into the supernova, creating a black hole.
This fallback formation is theoretically possible, but scientists have never been able to prove or observe it. If this is how LB-1 formed, then we may have “direct evidence for this process” for the first time, the study said.
LB-1 is not the biggest black hole ever discovered — but it may be the largest of its kind. There are several types of black holes, and stellar black holes like LB-1 are on the smaller side, according to NASA. Supermassive black holes are much bigger — they can be billions of times the mass of our sun.
Scientists believe supermassive black holes may be connected to the formation of galaxies, as they often exist at the center of the massive star systems — but it is still not clear exactly how, or which form first.

Stellar renaissance

Stellar black holes are believed to be commonly scattered across the universe, but they are difficult to detect because they do not normally emit X-rays — only doing so when they gobble up gas from a star that has ventured close enough. They are so elusive that scientists have only found, identified, and measured about two dozen stellar black holes, the press release said.
The researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences tried a different approach. Instead of looking for X-rays emitted by black holes, the team looked for stars that were orbiting some invisible object, being pulled in by its gravity.
Their efforts paid off — they soon spotted a giant star eight times heavier than the sun, orbiting around what turned out to be LB-1.
“This discovery forces us to re-examine our models of how stellar-mass black holes form,” said David Reitze, a physicist at the University of Florida. In May, Reitze’s team made its own breakthrough discovery — observing the never-before-seen collision of a neutron star and a black hole, which sent out ripples in space and time.
These twin discoveries — the collision, and now LB-1 — indicate that scientists are reaching “a renaissance in our understanding of black hole astrophysics,” said Reitze in the press release.
There have been several other discoveries over the past year that have added to this renaissance. In October, researchers discovered what they believe to be a new type of black hole, smaller than the other kinds. And earlier this week, astronomers discovered a black hole that is actually helping baby stars grow instead of destroying them.

India Admits Its Moon Lander Crashed, Cites Problem with Braking Thrusters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

India Admits Its Moon Lander Crashed, Cites Problem with Braking Thrusters

This visualization shows how Chandrayaan-2's Vikram lander planned to land on the moon.

This visualization shows how Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander planned to land on the moon.
(Image: © ISRO)

India has finally made it official: the country’s long-silent Chandrayaan-2 moon lander Vikram did, in fact, crash into the lunar surface in September, apparently because of an issue with its braking rockets.

In newly released details about India’s attempted lunar landing on Sept. 6, the Indian government has revealed that the Vikram craft “hard landed” on the moon because of a problem with its braking thrusters. Until now, the India Space Research Organisation had disclosed only that it had lost contact with the probe.

The update was announced by Jitendra Singh, the minister of state for the Department of Space, in a written response to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament. The news was first reported by SpaceNews.

“The first phase of descent was performed nominally from an altitude of 30 km to 7.4 km (18 miles to 4.5 miles) above the moon surface,” Singh wrote, describing the lander’s descent, in which the craft slowed from 5,521 feet per second (1,683 meters per second) to 479 feet per second (146 m per second).

“During the second phase of descent, the reduction in velocity was more than the designed value,” he continued. “Due to this deviation, the initial conditions at the start of the fine braking phase were beyond the designed parameters. As a result, Vikram hard landed within 500 m of the designated landing site,” Singh said.

Video: The Moment India Lost Contact with the Vikram Moon Lander

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This is the first time that the Indian government has formally acknowledged the crash landing.

On Sept. 10, following the loss of communication from what we now know was a crash on the moon, the ISRO announced that the “Vikram lander has been located by the orbiter of Chandrayaan2, but no communication with it yet. All possible efforts are being made to establish communication with lander.”

One explanation for why it has taken so long for the Indian government to formally recognize the crash is that, according to the ISRO, they were still trying to figure out exactly what happened. Engineers were working to reconstruct the events that led to the loss of communication with the lander and the ISRO was waiting until that work was done to make a formal announcement, S. Somanath, who directs the ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) on Oct. 21, according to a statement.

However, while Somanath held off on making any formal declarations about Vikram, he did recognize that the craft most likely hit the moon so fast that it was “beyond its survivability,” he said in the statement.

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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The 1st Sun Details from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Are Out. And They’re Hot!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

The 1st Sun Details from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Are Out. And They’re Hot!

An artist's depiction of NASA's Parker Solar Probe gathering data about the sun.

An artist’s depiction of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe gathering data about the sun.
(Image: © Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

Want to see the sun in a whole new way?

Now you can do just that by looking through a host of science data newly made available to the public. That information was gathered by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe during its first two close passes of the sun. The flybys brought the spacecraft closer to the sun than any previous vehicle had gone, offering scientists an incredible opportunity to learn more about our star.

“Parker Solar Probe is crossing new frontiers of space exploration, giving us so much new information about the sun,” Nour E. Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement. “Releasing this data to the public will allow them not only to contribute to the success of the mission along with the scientific community, but also to raise the opportunity for new discoveries to the next level.”

Related: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Mission to the Sun in Pictures

Parker Solar Probe launched in August 2018 for a seven-year mission that is targeting the constant stream of highly charged plasma leaving the sun, called the solar wind, and the star’s outer atmosphere, called the corona. Studying these phenomena requires getting incredibly close to the sun; the spacecraft primarily gathers data while within about 23 million miles (37 million kilometers) of our star.

Onboard are four science experiments: Fields Experiment, which studies electric and magnetic fields; Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun, which measures high-energy charged particles in the solar wind and corona; Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe, which images the solar wind and other structures; and Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation, which measures different types of particles in the solar wind.

Data gathered by a Parker Solar Probe instrument, the Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe, in November 2018, during the spacecraft’s first solar flyby.

(Image credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe)

And now, you too can pore through data gathered by those instruments during the first two flybys: Oct. 31-Nov. 12, 2018, and March 30-April 19, 2019. During the second flyby, mission engineers were able to increase the amount of data the spacecraft sent home, thanks to better data-return rates than expected. There is no central hub for the data, but NASA has provided a list of websites to explore.

According to the same NASA statement, the first full-fledged science results from the mission should be published later this year.

Parker Solar Probe has also already made its third flyby of the sun; the spacecraft’s next closest approach is on Jan. 29, 2020.

Email Meghan Bartels at [email protected] or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

NASA shock: The most massive object in the universe is forming before our very own eyes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS NEWS)

 

NASA shock: The most massive object in the universe is forming before our very own eyes

NASA astronomers have detected the merger of four galactic clusters in deep space will give birth to one of the most massive objects in the universe.

NASA supercomputer: A trip through the ‘universe machine’

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 estimates the resulting mega-cluster will combine weights “several hundred trillion times” more than our Sun. The monstrous body will emerge from the collision of four galactic clusters about three billion light-years from Earth. Each cluster carries hundreds or thousands of galaxies of its own, suspended in a cloud of hot gas.

Astronomers have dubbed the slowly emerging “mega-structure” Abell 1758.

NASA estimates the individual bodies in the collisions are moving at speeds of two to three million miles per hour.

The incredible discovery was made possible thanks to NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory  probe.

NASA said: “Astronomers using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes have put together a detailed map of a rare collision between four galaxy clusters.

READ MORE: 

NASA news: Four galactic clusters merging into one

NASA news: These four galactic clusters are merging into a mega-cluster (Image: NASA NASA/CXC/SAO/G.Schellenberger et al.;)

NASA news: Chandra X-ray Observatory

NASA news: The Chandra Observatory watches the universe in X-ray wavelenghts (Image: NASA/CXC & J VAUGHAN)

“Eventually, all four clusters – each with a mass of at least several hundred trillion times that of the Sun – will merge to form one of the most massive objects in the universe.”

Galactic clusters are large groupings of individual galaxies bound together by their collective gravities and the gravity of dark matter.

The gravitational attraction also explains why clusters are suspended in a cloud of gas.

Galaxies will typically expel their stellar gases when stars erupt into supernovas.

Clusters hang onto these gases and are some of the largest known objects in the universe.

In the particular case of Abell 1758, astronomers have detected four separate bodies colliding into two larger clusters.

All four clusters will merge to form one of the most massive objects in the universe

NASA

In time, the resulting two bodies will fall towards one another to produce an even bigger mega-structure.

NASA said: “Sometimes two galaxy clusters collide, as in the case of the Bullet Cluster, and occasionally more than two will collide at the same time.

“The new observations show a mega-structure being assembled in a system called Abell 1758, located about three billion light-years from Earth.

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NASA news: Percentage of NASA's budget over years

NASA news: The percentage of NASA’s budget over the years (Image: EXPRESS)

NASA news: Galactic cluster in deep space

NASA news: Galactic clusters are large groups of galaxies suspended in a cloud of gas (Image: NASA)

“It contains two pairs of colliding galaxy clusters that are heading toward one another.

“Scientists first recognised Abell 1758 as a quadruple galaxy cluster system in 2004 using data from Chandra and XMM-Newton, a satellite operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).”

Chandra’s Observatory charts the universe in X-ray wavelengths instead of visible light.

In the above picture, the X-rays are seen in blue and white light.

NASA: Three black holes heading towards a merger

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What happens when galaxies collide?

Galactic collisions are a fairly frequent occurrence in deep space and our Milky Way is no exception.

Approximately four billion years from now the neighboring Andromeda galaxy will crash into the Milky Way.

Thankfully, the space in-between individual planets and stars is too great for any bodies to collide.

But the collisions will have a profound effect on the shape and movement of the galaxies.

When two spiral galaxies collide, for instance, they can end up creating an elliptical galaxy.

The galactic merger can also trigger the birth of new stars thanks to stellar gas and dust mixing in the presence of gravity.

Quick facts about NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory

1. NASA’s Chandra is the world’s most powerful X-ray observatory.

2. The space telescope was launched into orbit by a space shuttle.

3. Chandra can resolve the individual letters of a stop sign from 12 miles away.

4. The space telescope orbits the Earth 200 times higher than the Hubble Space Telescope.

5. Thanks to its X-ray capabilities, Chandra can peer through clouds of stellar gas that otherwise obscure hidden bodies.

How big is the universe?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

How big is the universe?

Picture this. You’re camping with your family and it’s a clear night. As you look up into the night sky, it feels like there are a thousand stars, and they’re bright enough to touch. You feel the impact of how small you are in the grand scheme of things. And then your mind wanders as you try to wrap your head around how big the universe is. If this question has been keeping you up at night, we have the answer.

So, how big is the universe?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

There was a time when we couldn’t give you a hard figure. But as far back as 1920, astronomers have been sharing estimates on the size of the known universe. Before we dig into hard figures, best guesses, and even erroneous ones, we need to set some ground rules.

First, the universe is constantly expanding. Any measurements given today won’t be accurate in the future. Likewise, scientists and astronomers can give only measurements based on the observable or known universe. This references what can be seen through their telescope, whether on the ground or with a satellite. Much like the expanding universe factor, dimensions based on the observable universe can be limited.

In other words, based on current research, observations and mathematical equations, the experts can estimate the universe’s size within a fair degree of certainty. But the caveat will always apply that these figures are impacted by the universe’s growth rate and the limitation of the observable universe.

What’s the number?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Slow down there! Another important note is that we aren’t measuring in miles or kilometers like we would the distance between New York and London. Instead, we use light-years when we’re discussing the distance between two bodies in space. Standard forms of measurement would be too impractical because, in space, celestial bodies are very far apart.

Speaking literally, a light-year describes the distance a beam of light can travel in one year. To help you quantify that and realize why light years are better than traditional Earth-distance measurements, one light0year is the equivalent of 6 trillion miles. If you got dizzy just hearing that, now you know why astronomers prefer light-years over miles or kilometers.

Is there an estimate?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

Initial size estimates of our universe began with measuring our galaxy, the Milky Way. In 1920 the American astronomer Harlow Shapley was one of the first experts who attempted to measure the Milky Way and came up with a diameter of 300,000 light-years. It turns out he was very wrong, as today most astronomers believe our Milky Way is somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 light years in diameter.

For perspective, we know that the Milky Way isn’t the only galaxy in our universe — nor is it the biggest. Current counts estimate that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the known universe and the largest discovered galaxy to date is IC 1101 with a diameter of 6 million light-years (although this figure is contested). So if our little corner of the universe is 100,000 light-years wide, and the biggest galaxy is around 6 million light-years in diameter, that can give you a hint that the known universe is quite large.

Just say how big the universe is!

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC

Current measurements place the observable universe at roughly 93 billion light-years in diameter. There are a variety of methods used to reach this figure, but popular options include measuring radio wavelengths, parallax measurements, main sequence fitting, and cepheid variables. Radio wavelengths are a great option within our solar system because astronomers can measure the time it takes for a radio wave to bounce off the surface of a planet or asteroid and translate that into an actual light-year reading. But for celestial bodies farther out in the universe, it’s not practical.

Beyond our solar system, parallax measurement is preferred as it relies on comparing distances to an object based on measurements from multiple angles. This method relies on telescopes and satellites to compute various distance readings over time and scientists to extrapolate accurate positions from the data. But beyond 100 light-years, even parallax measurement is inefficient.

At great distances, main sequence fitting and cepheid variables are the preferred measurement tools. Main sequence fitting relies on a basic understanding of a star’s brightness and color compared to its age to determine distance. Cepheid variables focus on the actual “twinkle” or pulsating factor to determine age and position.

So what does this all mean?

Photo of a cosmic phenomenon in the night sky
Credit: NASA JPL-Caltech

If we haven’t given you a headache yet, it means that even though astronomers and experts have a great grasp on the general size of the universe, figures can change as our methods for analyzing data improve. And for the average Joe, just know that the universe is huge, and we’re in one little corner of it!

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

Artist's impression of a black hole.

Where does a black hole go?
(Image: © All About Space magazine)

So there you are, about to leap into a black hole. What could possibly await should — against all odds — you somehow survive? Where would you end up and what tantalizing tales would you be able to regale if you managed to clamor your way back?

The simple answer to all of these questions is, as Professor Richard Massey explains, “Who knows?” As a Royal Society research fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, Massey is fully aware that the mysteries of black holes run deep. “Falling through an event horizon is literally passing beyond the veil — once someone falls past it, nobody could ever send a message back,” he said. “They’d be ripped to pieces by the enormous gravity, so I doubt anyone falling through would get anywhere.”

If that sounds like a disappointing — and painful — answer, then it is to be expected. Ever since Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was considered to have predicted black holes by linking space-time with the action of gravity, it has been known that black holes result from the death of a massive star leaving behind a small, dense remnant core. Assuming this core has more than roughly three-times the mass of the sun, gravity would overwhelm to such a degree that it would fall in on itself into a single point, or singularity, understood to be the black hole’s infinitely dense core.

Related: 9 Ideas About Black Holes That Will Blow Your Mind

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The resulting uninhabitable black hole would have such a powerful gravitational pull that not even light could avoid it. So, should you then find yourself at the event horizon — the point at which light and matter can only pass inward, as proposed by the German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild — there is no escape. According to Massey, tidal forces would reduce your body into strands of atoms (or ‘spaghettification’, as it is also known) and the object would eventually end up crushed at the singularity. The idea that you could pop out somewhere — perhaps at the other side — seems utterly fantastical.

What about a wormhole?

Or is it? Over the years scientists have looked into the possibility that black holes could be wormholes to other galaxies. They may even be, as some have suggested, a path to another universe.

Such an idea has been floating around for some time: Einstein teamed up with Nathan Rosen to theorize bridges that connect two different points in space-time in 1935. But it gained some fresh ground in the 1980’s when physicist Kip Thorne — one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — raised a discussion about whether objects could physically travel through them.

“Reading Kip Thorne’s popular book about wormholes is what first got me excited about physics as a child,” Massey said. But it doesn’t seem likely that wormholes exist.

Indeed, Thorne, who lent his expert advice to the production team for the Hollywood movie Interstellar, wrote: “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes as they age,” in his book “The Science of Interstellar” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2014). Thorne told Space.com that journeys through these theoretical tunnels would most likely remain science fiction, and there is certainly no firm evidence that a black hole could allow for such a passage.

Artist’s concept of a wormhole. If wormholes exist, they might lead to another universe. But, there’s no evidence that wormholes are real or that a black hole would act like one.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

But, the problem is that we can’t get up close to see for ourselves. Why, we can’t even take photographs of anything that takes place inside a black hole — if light cannot escape their immense gravity, then nothing can be snapped by a camera. As it stands, theory suggests that anything which goes beyond the event horizon is simply added to the black hole and, what’s more, because time distorts close to this boundary, this will appear to take place incredibly slowly, so answers won’t be quickly forthcoming.

“I think the standard story is that they lead to the end of time,” said Douglas Finkbeiner, professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University. “An observer far away will not see their astronaut friend fall into the black hole. They’ll just get redder and fainter as they approach the event horizon [as a result of gravitational red shift]. But the friend falls right in, to a place beyond ‘forever.’ Whatever that means.”

Maybe a black hole leads to a white hole

Certainly, if black holes do lead to another part of a galaxy or another universe, there would need to be something opposite to them on the other side. Could this be a white hole — a theory put forward by Russian cosmologist Igor Novikov in 1964? Novikov proposed that a black hole links to a white hole that exists in the past. Unlike a black hole, a white hole will allow light and matter to leave, but light and matter will not be able to enter.

Scientists have continued to explore the potential connection between black and white holes. In their 2014 study published in the journal Physical Review D, physicists Carlo Rovelli and Hal M. Haggard claimed that “there is a classic metric satisfying the Einstein equations outside a finite space-time region where matter collapses into a black hole and then emerges from a while hole.” In other words, all of the material black holes have swallowed could be spewed out, and black holes may become white holes when they die.

Far from destroying the information that it absorbs, the collapse of a black hole would be halted. It would instead experience a quantum bounce, allowing information to escape. Should this be the case, it would shed some light on a proposal by former Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who, in the 1970’s, explored the possibility that black holes emit particles and radiation — thermal heat — as a result of quantum fluctuations.

Red shifting Star Orbiting Super massive Black Hole Demonstrates Einstein Prediction
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“Hawking said a black hole doesn’t last forever,” Finkbeiner said. Hawking calculated that the radiation would cause a black hole to lose energy, shrink and disappear, as described in his 1976 paper published in Physical Review D. Given his claims that the radiation emitted would be random and contain no information about what had fallen in, the black hole, upon its explosion, would erase loads of information.

This meant Hawking’s idea was at odds with quantum theory, which says information can’t be destroyed. Physics states information just becomes more difficult to find because, should it become lost, it becomes impossible to know the past or the future. Hawking’s idea led to the ‘black hole information paradox’ and it has long puzzled scientists. Some have said Hawking was simply wrong, and the man himself even declared he had made an error during a scientific conference in Dublin in 2004.

So, do we go back to the concept of black holes emitting preserved information and throwing it back out via a white hole? Maybe. In their 2013 study published in Physical Review Letters, Jorge Pullin at Louisiana State University and Rodolfo Gambini at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, applied loop quantum gravity to a black hole and found that gravity increased towards the core but reduced and plonked whatever was entering into another region of the universe. The results gave extra credence to the idea of black holes serving as a portal. In this study, singularity does not exist, and so it doesn’t form an impenetrable barrier that ends up crushing whatever it encounters. It also means that information doesn’t disappear.

Maybe black holes go nowhere

Yet physicists Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski and James Sully still believed Hawking could have been on to something. They worked on a theory that became known as the AMPS firewall, or the black hole firewall hypothesis. By their calculations, quantum mechanics could feasibly turn the event horizon into a giant wall of fire and anything coming into contact would burn in an instant. In that sense, black holes lead nowhere because nothing could ever get inside.

This, however, violates Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Someone crossing the event horizon shouldn’t actually feel any great hardship because an object would be in free fall and, based on the equivalence principle, that object — or person — would not feel the extreme effects of gravity. It could follow the laws of physics present elsewhere in the universe, but even if it didn’t go against Einstein’s principle it would undermine quantum field theory or suggest information can be lost.

Related: 11 Fascinating Facts About Our Milky Way Galaxy

Artist’s impression of a tidal disruption event which occurs when a star passes too close to a super massive black hole.

(Image credit: All About Space magazine)

A black hole of uncertainty

Step forward Hawking once more. In 2014, he published a study in which he eschewed the existence of an event horizon — meaning there is nothing there to burn — saying gravitational collapse would produce an ‘apparent horizon’ instead.

This horizon would suspend light rays trying to move away from the core of the black hole, and would persist for a “period of time.” In his rethinking, apparent horizons temporarily retain matter and energy before dissolving and releasing them later down the line. This explanation best fits with quantum theory — which says information can’t be destroyed — and, if it was ever proven, it suggests that anything could escape from a black hole.

Hawking went as far as saying black holes may not even exist. “Black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field,” he wrote. There would be no singularity, and while the apparent field would move inwards due to gravity, it would never reach the center and be consolidated within a dense mass.

And yet anything which is emitted will not be in the form of the information swallowed. It would be impossible to figure out what went in by looking at what is coming out, which causes problems of its own — not least for, say, a human who found themselves in such an alarming position. They’d never feel the same again!

One thing’s for sure, this particular mystery is going to swallow up many more scientific hours for a long time to come. Rovelli and Francesca Vidotto recently suggested that a component of dark matter could be formed by remnants of evaporated black holes, and Hawking’s paper on black holes and ‘soft hair’ was released in 2018, and describes how zero-energy particles are left around the point of no return, the event horizon — an idea that suggests information is not lost but captured.

This flew in the face of the no-hair theorem which was expressed by physicist John Archibald Wheeler and worked on the basis that two black holes would be indistinguishable to an observer because none of the special particle physics pseudo-charges would be conserved. It’s an idea that has got scientists talking, but there is some way to go before it’s seen as the answer for where black holes lead. If only we could find a way to leap into one.

“Provocative” –Advanced Life in the Dark Side of Our Universe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DAILY GALAXY)

 

“Provocative” –Advanced Life in the Dark Side of Our Universe (Weekend Feature)

 

Dark Matter Life

 

Two of the planet’s leading astrophysicists, Columbia University’s Caleb Scharf and Harvard’s Lisa Randall speculate about the possibility of the dominant dark side of our universe harboring advanced life.

“It’s a thought-provoking idea,” said Scharf, about the possibility that perhaps some advanced life five billion years ago figured out how to activate dark energy via the symmetron field, which is said to pervade space much like the Higgs field, speculates Columbia University’s Caleb Scharf in Nautil.us. Scharf’s speculative conjecture is an idea for the mechanism of an accelerating cosmic expansion called quintessence, a relative of the Higgs field that permeates the cosmos.

One of the great known unknowns of the universe is the nature of dark energy, a force field making the universe expand faster. Current theories range from end-of-the universe scenarios to dark energy as the manifestation of advanced alien life.

On March 2, 2019, The Galaxy posted “Dark Energy –“New Exotic Matter or ET Force Field?” describing a new, controversial theory that suggests that dark energy might be getting stronger and denser, leading to a future in which atoms are torn asunder and time ends.

Dark Matter –“Emerged From an Eon Before the Big Bang”

“Long, long ago, when the universe was only about 100,000 years old — a buzzing, expanding mass of particles and radiation — a strange new energy field switched on,” writes Dennis Overbye for New York Times Science. “That energy suffused space with a kind of cosmic antigravity, delivering a not-so-gentle boost to the expansion of the universe.”

Then, after another 100,000 years or so, the new field simply switched off, leaving no trace other than a sped-up universe says a team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University led by Adam Riess, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Nobel laureate. In a bold and speculative leap into the past, the team has posited the existence of this field to explain a baffling astronomical puzzle: the universe seems to be expanding faster than it should be.

Dark Energy –“New Exotic Matter or ET Force Field?”

“What we think might be the effects of mysterious forces such as dark energy and dark matter in the Universe, could actually be the influence of alien intelligence – or maybe even aliens themselves,” suggests Scharf in “Mind-Bending” –‘Hyper-Advanced ET May Be What We Perceive to Be Physics’ posted on The Galaxy on Mar 1, 2019.

“Mind-Bending” –‘Hyper-Advanced ET May Be What We Perceive to Be Physics’

“If machines continue to grow exponentially in speed and sophistication, they will one day be able to decode the staggering complexity of the living world, from its atoms and molecules all the way up to entire planetary biomes,” continues Scharf, author of The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities, in Nautil.us. “Presumably life doesn’t have to be made of atoms and molecules, but could be assembled from any set of building blocks with the requisite complexity. If so, a civilization could then transcribe itself and its entire physical realm into new forms. Indeed, perhaps our universe is one of the new forms into which some other civilization transcribed its world.”

After all, with our universe 13.5 billion years old, the cosmos may hold other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond ours in terms of complexity and technology, adds Scharf. “We should be considering some very extreme possibilities. Today’s futurists and believers in a machine “singularity” predict that life and its technological baggage might end up so beyond our ken that we wouldn’t even realize we were staring at it. That’s quite a claim, yet it would neatly explain why we have yet to see advanced intelligence in the cosmos around us, despite the sheer number of planets it could have arisen on—the so-called Fermi Paradox.”

“Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behavior of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence,” says Scharf, a research scientist at Columbia University and director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center. “What we think might be the effects of mysterious forces such as dark energy and dark matter in the Universe, could actually be the influence of alien intelligence – or maybe even aliens themselves.”

“Dark Energy’s Known Unknown” — Could It Be the Symmetron Field That Pervades Space Much Like the Higgs Field

Once we start proposing that life could be part of the solution to cosmic mysteries, Scharf concludes, “Although dark-matter life is a pretty exotic idea, it’s still conceivable that we might recognize what it is, even capturing it in our labs one day (or being captured by it). We can take a tumble down a different rabbit hole by considering that we don’t recognize advanced life because it forms an integral and unsuspicious part of what we’ve considered to be the natural world.”

Scharf points out that Arthur C. Clarke suggested that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to be indistinguishable from magic. “If you dropped in on a bunch of Paleolithic farmers with your iPhone and a pair of sneakers,” Scharf says, “you’d undoubtedly seem pretty magical. But the contrast is only middling: The farmers would still recognize you as basically like them, and before long they’d be taking selfies. But what if life has moved so far on that it doesn’t just appear magical, but appears like physics?”

If the universe harbors other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond our own waypoints of complexity an technology, Scharf proposes that we should be considering some very extreme positions.

Meanwhile up at Harvard, theoretical physicist Lisa Randall, speculates that an invisible civilization could be living right under your nose. In Does Dark Matter Harbor Life she observes that dark matter is the “glue” that holds together galaxies and galaxy clusters, but resides only in amorphous clouds around them. “But what.” asks Randall, “if this assumption isn’t true and it is only our prejudice—and ignorance, which is after all the root of most prejudice—that led us down this potentially misleading path?”

The Standard Model, Randall points out, contains six types of quarks, three types of charged leptons (including the electron), three species of neutrinos, all the particles responsible for forces, as well as the newly discovered Higgs boson. What if the world of dark matter, which matter interacts only negligibly with matter, harbors “a small component of dark matter would interact under forces reminiscent of those in ordinary matter. The rich and complex structure of the Standard Model’s particles and forces gives rise to many of the world’s interesting phenomena. If dark matter has an interacting component, this fraction might be influential too.”

No one had allowed, Randall asserts, for the very simple possibility that although most dark matter doesn’t interact, a small fraction of it might.

Shadow life,” exciting as that would be, won’t necessarily have any visible consequences that we would notice, making it a tantalizing possibility but one immune to observations. In fairness, dark life is a tall order. Science-fiction writers may have no problem creating it, but the universe has a lot more obstacles to overcome. Out of all possible chemistries, it’s very unclear how many could sustain life, and even among those that could, we don’t know the type of environments that would be necessary.

Nonetheless, dark life could in principle be present—even right under our noses. But without stronger interactions with the matter of our world, it can be partying or fighting or active or inert and we would never know. But the interesting thing is that if there are interactions in the dark world—whether or not they are associated with life—the effects on structure might ultimately be measured. And then we will learn a great deal more about the dark world.

Randall suggests that “if we were creatures made of dark matter, we would be very wrong to assume that the particles in our ordinary matter sector were all of the same type. Perhaps we ordinary matter people are making a similar mistake.

“Given the complexity of the Standard Model of particle physics, she observes, which describes the basic components of matter we know of, it seems very odd to assume that all of dark matter is composed of only one type of particle. Why not suppose instead that some fraction of the dark matter experiences its own forces?”

The image at the top of the page shows dark matter filaments bridge the space between galaxies in this false colour map. The locations of bright galaxies are shown by the white regions and the presence of a dark matter filament bridging the galaxies is shown in red. ( S. Epps & M. Hudson / University of Waterloo)

The Daily Galaxy via New YorkerNautil.us and New York Times

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

Artist's impression of a black hole.

Where does a black hole go?
(Image: © All About Space magazine)

So there you are, about to leap into a black hole. What could possibly await should — against all odds — you somehow survive? Where would you end up and what tantalizing tales would you be able to regale if you managed to clamor your way back?

The simple answer to all of these questions is, as Professor Richard Massey explains, “Who knows?” As a Royal Society research fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, Massey is fully aware that the mysteries of black holes run deep. “Falling through an event horizon is literally passing beyond the veil — once someone falls past it, nobody could ever send a message back,” he said. “They’d be ripped to pieces by the enormous gravity, so I doubt anyone falling through would get anywhere.”

If that sounds like a disappointing — and painful — answer, then it is to be expected. Ever since Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was considered to have predicted black holes by linking space-time with the action of gravity, it has been known that black holes result from the death of a massive star leaving behind a small, dense remnant core. Assuming this core has more than roughly three-times the mass of the sun, gravity would overwhelm to such a degree that it would fall in on itself into a single point, or singularity, understood to be the black hole’s infinitely dense core.

Related: 9 Ideas About Black Holes That Will Blow Your Mind

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The resulting uninhabitable black hole would have such a powerful gravitational pull that not even light could avoid it. So, should you then find yourself at the event horizon — the point at which light and matter can only pass inward, as proposed by the German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild — there is no escape. According to Massey, tidal forces would reduce your body into strands of atoms (or ‘spaghettification’, as it is also known) and the object would eventually end up crushed at the singularity. The idea that you could pop out somewhere — perhaps at the other side — seems utterly fantastical.

What about a wormhole?

Or is it? Over the years scientists have looked into the possibility that black holes could be wormholes to other galaxies. They may even be, as some have suggested, a path to another universe.

Such an idea has been floating around for some time: Einstein teamed up with Nathan Rosen to theorise bridges that connect two different points in space-time in 1935. But it gained some fresh ground in the 1980s when physicist Kip Thorne — one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — raised a discussion about whether objects could physically travel through them.

“Reading Kip Thorne’s popular book about wormholes is what first got me excited about physics as a child,” Massey said. But it doesn’t seem likely that wormholes exist.

Indeed, Thorne, who lent his expert advice to the production team for the Hollywood movie Interstellar, wrote: “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes as they age,” in his book “The Science of Interstellar” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2014). Thorne told Space.com that journeys through these theoretical tunnels would most likely remain science fiction, and there is certainly no firm evidence that a black hole could allow for such a passage.

Artist’s concept of a wormhole. If wormholes exist, they might lead to another universe. But, there’s no evidence that wormholes are real or that a black hole would act like one.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

But, the problem is that we can’t get up close to see for ourselves. Why, we can’t even take photographs of anything that takes place inside a black hole — if light cannot escape their immense gravity, then nothing can be snapped by a camera. As it stands, theory suggests that anything which goes beyond the event horizon is simply added to the black hole and, what’s more, because time distorts close to this boundary, this will appear to take place incredibly slowly, so answers won’t be quickly forthcoming.

“I think the standard story is that they lead to the end of time,” said Douglas Finkbeiner, professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University. “An observer far away will not see their astronaut friend fall into the black hole. They’ll just get redder and fainter as they approach the event horizon [as a result of gravitational red shift]. But the friend falls right in, to a place beyond ‘forever.’ Whatever that means.”

Maybe a black hole leads to a white hole

Certainly, if black holes do lead to another part of a galaxy or another universe, there would need to be something opposite to them on the other side. Could this be a white hole — a theory put forward by Russian cosmologist Igor Novikov in 1964? Novikov proposed that a black hole links to a white hole that exists in the past. Unlike a black hole, a white hole will allow light and matter to leave, but light and matter will not be able to enter.

Scientists have continued to explore the potential connection between black and white holes. In their 2014 study published in the journal Physical Review D, physicists Carlo Rovelli and Hal M. Haggard claimed that “there is a classic metric satisfying the Einstein equations outside a finite space-time region where matter collapses into a black hole and then emerges from a while hole.” In other words, all of the material black holes have swallowed could be spewed out, and black holes may become white holes when they die.

Far from destroying the information that it absorbs, the collapse of a black hole would be halted. It would instead experience a quantum bounce, allowing information to escape. Should this be the case, it would shed some light on a proposal by former Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who, in the 1970s, explored the possibility that black holes emit particles and radiation — thermal heat — as a result of quantum fluctuations.

Redshifting Star Orbiting Supermassive Black Hole Demonstrates Einstein Prediction
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“Hawking said a black hole doesn’t last forever,” Finkbeiner said. Hawking calculated that the radiation would cause a black hole to lose energy, shrink and disappear, as described in his 1976 paper published in Physical Review D. Given his claims that the radiation emitted would be random and contain no information about what had fallen in, the black hole, upon its explosion, would erase loads of information.

This meant Hawking’s idea was at odds with quantum theory, which says information can’t be destroyed. Physics states information just becomes more difficult to find because, should it become lost, it becomes impossible to know the past or the future. Hawking’s idea led to the ‘black hole information paradox’ and it has long puzzled scientists. Some have said Hawking was simply wrong, and the man himself even declared he had made an error during a scientific conference in Dublin in 2004.

So, do we go back to the concept of black holes emitting preserved information and throwing it back out via a white hole? Maybe. In their 2013 study published in Physical Review Letters, Jorge Pullin at Louisiana State University and Rodolfo Gambini at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, applied loop quantum gravity to a black hole and found that gravity increased towards the core but reduced and plonked whatever was entering into another region of the universe. The results gave extra credence to the idea of black holes serving as a portal. In this study, singularity does not exist, and so it doesn’t form an impenetrable barrier that ends up crushing whatever it encounters. It also means that information doesn’t disappear.

Maybe black holes go nowhere

Yet physicists Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski and James Sully still believed Hawking could have been on to something. They worked on a theory that became known as the AMPS firewall, or the black hole firewall hypothesis. By their calculations, quantum mechanics could feasibly turn the event horizon into a giant wall of fire and anything coming into contact would burn in an instant. In that sense, black holes lead nowhere because nothing could ever get inside.

This, however, violates Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Someone crossing the event horizon shouldn’t actually feel any great hardship because an object would be in free fall and, based on the equivalence principle, that object — or person — would not feel the extreme effects of gravity. It could follow the laws of physics present elsewhere in the universe, but even if it didn’t go against Einstein’s principle it would undermine quantum field theory or suggest information can be lost.

Related: 11 Fascinating Facts About Our Milky Way Galaxy

Artist’s impression of a tidal disruption event which occurs when a star passes too close to a supermassive black hole.

(Image credit: All About Space magazine)

A black hole of uncertainty

Step forward Hawking once more. In 2014, he published a study in which he eschewed the existence of an event horizon — meaning there is nothing there to burn — saying gravitational collapse would produce an ‘apparent horizon’ instead.

This horizon would suspend light rays trying to move away from the core of the black hole, and would persist for a “period of time.” In his rethinking, apparent horizons temporarily retain matter and energy before dissolving and releasing them later down the line. This explanation best fits with quantum theory — which says information can’t be destroyed — and, if it was ever proven, it suggests that anything could escape from a black hole.

Hawking went as far as saying black holes may not even exist. “Black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field,” he wrote. There would be no singularity, and while the apparent field would move inwards due to gravity, it would never reach the center and be consolidated within a dense mass.

And yet anything which is emitted will not be in the form of the information swallowed. It would be impossible to figure out what went in by looking at what is coming out, which causes problems of its own — not least for, say, a human who found themselves in such an alarming position. They’d never feel the same again!

One thing’s for sure, this particular mystery is going to swallow up many more scientific hours for a long time to come. Rovelli and Francesca Vidotto recently suggested that a component of dark matter could be formed by remnants of evaporated black holes, and Hawking’s paper on black holes and ‘soft hair’ was released in 2018, and describes how zero-energy particles are left around the point of no return, the event horizon — an idea that suggests information is not lost but captured.

This flew in the face of the no-hair theorem which was expressed by physicist John Archibald Wheeler and worked on the basis that two black holes would be indistinguishable to an observer because none of the special particle physics pseudo-charges would be conserved. It’s an idea that has got scientists talking, but there is some way to go before it’s seen as the answer for where black holes lead. If only we could find a way to leap into one.

India Just Found Its Lost Vikram Lander on the Moon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

India Just Found Its Lost Vikram Lander on the Moon, Still No Signal

The Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter is shown studying the lunar surface from above in this still image from a video animation.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter is shown studying the lunar surface from above in this still image from a video animation.
(Image: © India Space Research Organisation)

India’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter circling the moon has spotted the country’s lost Vikram lander on the lunar surface, but there is still no signal from the lander, according to Indian media reports.

K Sivan, chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation, said today (Sept. 8) that the Vikram lander was located by Chandrayaan-2 and efforts to restore contact the probe will continue for at least 14 days, according to a Times of India report.

“We have found the location of Lander Vikram on [the] lunar surface and Orbiter has clicked a thermal image of Lander,” Sivan told the ANI news service in an interview, adding that attempts to communicate with the lander are ongoing.

Video: The Moment India Lost Contact with the Vikram Moon Lander
Related: 
India’s Chandrayaan-2 Mission to the Moon in Photos

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Communications Lost With India’s Lunar Lander During Descent
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The Vikram lander went silent Friday (Sept. 6) while attempting a first-ever landing near the moon’s south pole. ISRO lost contact with Vikram when the lander was just 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) above the lunar surface, raising fears that it may have crashed on the moon. The Vikram lander is India’s first moon lander, and is carrying the country’s first lunar rover, called Pragyan.

ISRO officials have not yet released the Chandrayaan-2 image of Vikram on the lunar surface or described the potential condition of the lander. But they have said that despite the lander’s presumed failed moon landing, the craft has already demonstrated key technologies for future missions.

The Vikram Lander followed the planned descent trajectory from its orbit of 35 km (22 miles) to just below 2 km above the surface,” ISRO officials wrote in an update Saturday (Sept. 7). “All the systems and sensors of the Lander functioned excellently until this point and proved many new technologies such as variable thrust propulsion technology used in the Lander.”

Related: We Came Very Close:’ Indian PM Modi Lauds Chandrayaan-2 Team

As ISRO tries to regain contact with the Vikram moon lander, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is doing well in lunar orbit, the space agency said. In fact, the orbiter could last well beyond its planned one-year mission.

“The Orbiter camera is the highest resolution camera (0.3m) in any lunar mission so far and shall provide high resolution images which will be immensely useful to the global scientific community,” ISRO officials said in the Sept. 7 statement. “The precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost 7 years instead of the planned one year.”

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter is shown studying the lunar surface from above in this still image from a video animation.

(Image credit: India Space Research Organisation)

The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is equipped with eight different science instruments to study the moon from above. Those instruments include: a high resolution camera, a lunar terrain mapping camera; a solar X-ray monitor; an imaging infrared spectrometer; a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar for studying moon water ice and lunar mapping; a sensor to study the moon’s thin exosphere; and a dual frequency radio science experiment to study the moon’s ionosphere.

Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second mission to the moon after the Chandrayaan-1 mission of 2008 and 2009. An instrument on that first mission discovered the spectral signature for water across wide swaths of the moon, with big concentrations at the lunar poles, where permanently shadowed craters allow water ice to stay frozen.

Watch India’s Chandrayaan-2 Launch and Land on Moon in New Animation
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The Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter aims to pick up where its predecessor left off.

“This was a unique mission which aimed at studying not just one area of the Moon but all the areas combining the exosphere, the surface as well as the sub-surface of the moon in a single mission,” ISRO officials said in the update. “The Orbiter has already been placed in its intended orbit around the Moon and shall enrich our understanding of the moon’s evolution and mapping of the minerals and water molecules in the Polar Regions, using its eight state-of-the-art scientific instruments.”

Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Original article on Space.com.

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