Space

Universe's Dark Ages May Not Be Invisible After All 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-have-a-big-enough-flashlight dept.
StartsWithABang writes: The Universe had two periods where light was abundant, separated by the cosmic dark ages. The first came at the moment of the hot Big Bang, as the Universe was flooded with (among the matter, antimatter and everything else imaginable) a sea of high-energy photons, including a large amount of visible light. As the Universe expanded and cooled, eventually the cosmic microwave background was emitted, leaving behind the barely visible, cooling photons. It took between 50 and 100 million years for the first stars to turn on, so in between these two epochs of the Universe being flooded with light, we had the dark ages. Yet the dark ages may not be totally invisible, as the forbidden spin-flip-transition of hydrogen may illuminate this time period after all.
The Media

Death In the Browser Tab 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-about-chrome's-memory-management dept.
theodp writes: "There you are watching another death on video," writes the NY Times' Teju Cole. "In the course of ordinary life — at lunch or in bed, in a car or in the park — you are suddenly plunged into someone else's crisis, someone else's horror. It arrives, absurdly, in the midst of banal things. That is how, late one afternoon in April, I watched Walter Scott die. The footage of his death, taken by a passer-by, had just been published online on the front page of The New York Times. I watched it, sitting at my desk in Brooklyn, and was stunned by it." Cole continues, "For most of human history, to see someone die, you had to be there. Depictions of death, if there were any, came later, at a certain remove of time and space." Disturbing as they may be (Cole notes he couldn't bear to watch the ISIS beheading videos), such images may ultimately change things for the better. Is it better to publish them than sweep them under the carpet?
Space

Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone 226

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-my-asteroid-insurance-business-is-thriving dept.
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to risk assessment, there's one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It's why so many of us are so eager to play the lottery, and simultaneously why we're catastrophically afraid of ebola and plane crashes, when we're far more likely to die from something mundane, like getting hit by a truck. One of the examples where science and this type of fear-based fallacy intersect is the science of asteroid strikes. With all we know about asteroids today, here's the actual risk to humanity, and it's much lower than anyone cares to admit.
Space

India Targets July/August To Test Its Space Shuttle 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the hurry-up,-the-ISS-needs-pizza dept.
New submitter gubol123 writes with news that India is close to launching its own space shuttle for the first time. Their space program, ISRO, is planning the shuttle's first test flight for some time in July or August. The unmanned shuttle will fly to a height of approximately 70 kilometers before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. Oddly, the vehicle itself probably won't be recovered. When it lands in the water, it will sink, and there are no plans to try to bring it back to the surface. The most important obstacles are surviving re-entry and simply staying intact during splashdown. Scientists and ISRO engineers are hoping the shuttle program, when finished, will drop the cost of placing objects in orbit by a factor of 10.
Mars

Martian Moons May Have Formed Like Earth's 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the carved-out-of-green-cheese dept.
sciencehabit writes: Astronomers have long believed that Mars snatched its two moons — Phobos and Deimos — from the asteroid belt. That would explain why the objects look like asteroids—dark, crater-pocked, and potato-shaped. But computer simulations by two independent teams of astronomers (abstract 1, abstract 2) indicated that Mars's moons formed much like ours did, after a giant space rock smashed into the planet and sprayed debris into orbit.
Cloud

US Navy Abandons Cloud and Data Center Plans In Favor of New Strategy 68

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-out-of-the-cloud dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Navy is not pleased with the progress it has made on data center consolidation and plans to change strategies. "Later this year, we will make an organizational change to our approach to data center consolidation. The Data Center and Application Optimization (DCAO) program office will move from under Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) headquarters to under Program Executive Office-Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS) as a separate entity or program office," said John Zangardi, the Navy's deputy assistant secretary for command, control, computers, intelligence, information operations and space and acting chief information officer. The secretary added that over the past three years, the U.S. Department of the Navy had consolidated 290 IT systems and applications at 45 national sites.
The Military

Robotic Space Plane Launches In Mystery Mission This Week 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the flying-into-a-mystery dept.
mpicpp writes: The United States Air Force's robotic X-37B space plane will carry a NASA experiment into orbit when it launches on its next mystery mission Wednesday. The liftoff will begin the reusable space plane's fourth mission, which is known as OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4). Since it's classified it's not entirely clear what the space plane will be doing once it leaves Earth Wednesday. This has led to some speculation that the vehicle might be a weapon, but officials have repeatedly refuted that notion, saying X-37B flights simply test a variety of new technologies. The X-37B looks like a miniature version of NASA's now-retired space shuttle. The robotic, solar-powered space plane is about 29 feet long by 9.5 feet tall (8.8 by 2.9 meters), with a wingspan of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and a payload bay the size of a pickup-truck bed. Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and lands horizontally, on a runway.
Space

Four Quasars Found Clustered Together Defy Current Cosmological Expectations 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-out-in-a-crowd dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Get a supermassive black hole feeding on matter, particularly on large amounts of cool, dense gas, and you're likely to get a quasar: a luminous, active galaxy emitting radiation from the radio all the way up through the X-ray. Our best understanding and observations indicate that these objects should be rare, transient, and isolated; no more than two have ever been found close together before. Until this discovery, that is, where we just found four within a million light years of one another, posing a problem for our current theories of structure formation in the Universe.
United Kingdom

Using Satellites To Monitor Bridge Safety 36

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-an-eye-on-things dept.
__roo writes: In an effort to detect crumbling infrastructure before it causes damage and costs lives, the European Space Agency is working with the UK's University of Nottingham to monitor the movements of large structures as they happen using satellite navigation sensors. The team uses highly sensitive satnav receivers that transmit real-time data to detect movements as small as 1 cm combined with historical Earth observation satellite data. By placing sensors at key locations on the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, they detected stressed structural members and unexpected deformations.
Space

How We'll Someday Be Able To See Past the Cosmic Microwave Background 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the someday-maybe dept.
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to the farthest thing we can see in the Universe, that's the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the leftover glow from the Big Bang, emitted when the Universe was a mere 380,000 years old. But what, exactly, does this mean? Does it mean that we're seeing the "edge" of the Universe? Does it mean that there's nothing to see, farther back beyond it? Does it mean that, as time goes on, we're going to be able to see farther back in time and space? The answers are no, no, and yes, respectively. If we want to see farther than ever before, we've got two options: either wait for more time to pass, or get moving and build that cosmic neutrino background detector.
NASA

NASA Announces the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge For Moon and Mars Bases 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the print-for-cash dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Space policy experts are still arguing where American astronauts should go once they venture into deep space. However, there is widespread agreement that once they get there they should be prepared to stay for longer than just a few hours or days, as was the case during the Apollo missions to the moon. Taking all the material to set up habitats, the astronauts' homes away from home, would tend to be expensive. Toward the end of lowering the cost of long duration space travel, NASA has announced the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, in partnership with America Makes, as part of the ongoing Centennial Challenge program.
Mars

Arab Mars Probe Planned For 2020 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-planetary-science-is-always-good dept.
SpankiMonki sends word that the United Arab Emirates has announced plans to launch a Mars mission in July, 2020. They want to send a probe (named "al-Amal",or "Hope") that will orbit the Red Planet for several years. It will analyze the Martian atmosphere, observing clouds and dust storms to help scientists figure out how water gradually escaped from Mars over a long time scale. [A]fter being inserted into an elliptical 55-hour orbit in the first quarter of 2021, Hope will carry out its nominal two-year science mission at altitudes ranging between 22,000 to 44,000 kilometers. From there, the mission will investigate how the lower and upper levels of the Martian atmosphere are connected. One goal is to create the first global picture of how the Martian atmosphere changes throughout the day and between seasons.
Space

Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission? 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-micrograms-of-nanites dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater — a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What — if any — backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?
Space

Russian Rocket Crashes In Siberia 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-stuff-is-hard dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican satellite broke down shortly after launch and crashed in Siberia. Russian space agency Roscosmos is investigating the incident, but the cause is not yet known. In the video, the rocket appeared to sputter and stop providing thrust when the third-stage engine unexpectedly switched off. Communications were lost with the rocket before that happened. This comes just a couple weeks after Russia experienced another high profile rocket failure when its cargo ship bound for the International Space Station failed to reach a high enough orbit and began spinning out of control. Russia's Proton family of rockets has been in use since the 1960s, though the current Proton-M incarnation was first flown in 2001.
Government

House Science Committee Approves Changes To Space Law 103

Posted by timothy
from the wildcat-days dept.
schwit1 writes: In a series of party line votes, the House Science Committee has approved a number of changes to the laws that govern the private commercial space industry. Almost all of the changes were advocated by the industry itself, so in general they move to ease the regulatory and liability burdens that have been hampering the industry since the 2004 revisions to space law. While it is very unlikely commercial space can ever get free of strong federal regulation, these changes indicate that they can eventually get some of the worst regulations eased.
Space

Planetary Society Wants To Launch a Crowd-Funded Solar Sail 49

Posted by timothy
from the unfurling dept.
jan_jes writes to note that The Planetary Society is attempting to crowdfund its own version of the light-powered space-craft popularized by Carl Sagan as a "solar sailer." (YouTube video, with the Society's CEO Bill Nye.) The current model is a CubeSat no bigger than a breadbox with four sails. If the team manages to raise enough money, LightSail will be sent to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2016. LightSail will be released into an orbit with an altitude of 720 kilometers (450 miles), high enough to escape most of the planet's atmospheric drag. Their crowdfunding goal has been far surpassed (more than $476,000 at this writing), but more can't hurt; maybe NASA could use some of the surplus.
Businesses

Here Comes the Keurig of Everything 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-the-lazy-people-who-only-eat-4-things dept.
Tekla Perry writes: Keurig made a huge business out of single-serving coffee machines. Now, as more complex machinery shrinks in size and cost, many companies are trying to duplicate that success for other types of food and drink. Startups are introducing the Keurig of cocktails, the Keurig of Jell-O shots, and the Keurig of dinner (it makes stir fries, stews, and risottos). The question is: does having a single- or limited-purpose device make really make sense for consumables that aren't coffee? Counter space is not infinite, and most people want more variety out of their lunches, dinners, and nightcaps than they do for their morning pick-me-up. (Also, let's retire this metaphor before we get a Keurig for cats.)
Space

How SpaceX and the Quest For Mars Almost Sunk Tesla Motors 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the rocket-bucks-versus-car-bucks dept.
braindrainbahrain writes: Elon Musk and his rocket company are well known to Slashdottters. This article and book excerpt tell the story of the creation of SpaceX and how it almost sank Musk's other company, Tesla Motors. Musk recalls, "I could either pick SpaceX or Tesla or split the money I had left between them. That was a tough decision. If I split the money, maybe both of them would die. If I gave the money to just one company, the probability of it surviving was greater, but then it would mean certain death for the other company." But then, at the last moment, years of work at SpaceX finally paid off: "[O]n Dec. 23, 2008, SpaceX received a wonderful shock. The company won a $1.6 billion contract for 12 NASA resupply flights to the space station. Then the Tesla deal ended up closing successfully, on Christmas Eve, hours before Tesla would have gone bankrupt. Musk had just a few hundred thousand dollars left and could not have made payroll the next day." Also, it turns out the inspiration for SpaceX was the idea of sending mice to Mars.
Space

Kepler Observes Neptune Dancing With Its Moons 19

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-put-your-right-moon-in,-you-take-your-right-moon-out dept.
New submitter Liquid Tip writes: NASA's K2 mission has the capability to stare continuously at a single field of stars for months at time. A new video shows K2 observations spanning 70 days from November, 2014 through January, 2015 reduced to a time-lapse of 34 seconds. During this time, we see some distant members of our Solar System passing through the K2 field-of-view. This includes some asteroids and the giant outer planet Neptune, which appears at day 15. A keen-eyed observer will also notice an object circling Neptune: its large moon, Triton, which orbits every 5.8 days. The fainter moon Nereid can be seen tracing Neptune's motion.
Space

Galaxies Die By Slow "Strangulation" 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-you-gotta-go-you-gotta-go dept.
HughPickens.com writes: BBC reports that results of a study of the spectrum of light emitted by 23,000 red, passive galaxies and 4,000 blue, star-forming ones shows that when galaxies stop making stars, their death is usually a slow process that chokes them of the necessary cool gases over about four billion years. Astronomers surveyed thousands of galaxies, living and dead, to assess whether the transition is rapid or slow. In the dead galaxies they detected high levels of metals, which build up during star formation and point to a slow strangulation process. "Metals are a powerful tracer of the history of star formation: the more stars that are formed by a galaxy, the more metal content you'll see," says Dr Yingjie Peng. "So looking at levels of metals in dead galaxies should be able to tell us how they died."

Astronomer Andrea Cattaneo from the Observatoire de Paris compares this tell-tale evidence to the high levels of carbon dioxide seen in a strangled human body. "During [strangulation], the victim uses up oxygen in the lungs but keeps producing carbon dioxide, which remains trapped in the body," wrote Dr Cattaneo. "Instead of building up CO2, the strangled galaxies accumulate metals — elements heavier than helium — produced by massive stars." On average, living, star-forming galaxies were four billion years younger than the dead ones. This matches the amount of time that the astronomers calculate would be needed for the galaxies to burn up their remaining gas supply during the strangulation. "This is the first conclusive evidence that galaxies are being strangled to death," says Peng. "What's next though, is figuring out what's causing it. In essence, we know the cause of death, but we don't yet know who the murderer is, although there are a few suspects."