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Author Topic: NEWS ON SPACE AND OUR PLANETARY SYSTEM  (Read 910 times)
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« Reply #60 on: Jul 24, 2015, 05:38 AM »

CS Monitor

You can help discover aliens with your smartphone. Here's how.

Researchers are asking the public to aid them in their search for extraterrestrial life by downloading an app.

By Gretel Kauffman, Staff July 23, 2015   

Assisting scientists in their search for extraterrestrial life? There’s an app for that.

On Monday, physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced a $100 million search effort aimed at discovering alien life. The project, known as Breakthrough Listen, is said to be "in the best position yet to make advances in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence."

The 10-year effort will use two of the world’s most advanced telescopes: the 100 meter (328 foot) Green Bank telescope in West Virginia, and the 64 meter (209 foot) Parkes telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

These telescopes will scan five times more of the radio spectrum, enabling scientists to listen for signals coming from millions of stars near Earth, one hundred times more quickly than has ever been done before. In past search efforts, only around 36 hours were taken per year from the radio telescopes; Breakthrough Listen will record thousands of hours of data.

"I'm proud of the stuff we've been doing," said Dan Werthimer, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the new project's steering group, in a Monitor interview. But "this is huge."

This process requires an immense amount of computing power to run, and scientists are counting on some of that number-crunching power coming from an unexpected source: your smartphone.

The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) app, which is available for Android phones and computers, is a collaborative processing platform that has been used in a number of astrophysics, medical, and mathematical endeavors. In other words, BOINC allows scientists to tap into the spare processing power of personal devices all over the world to power their research.

The app is free, and don't worry about wasting data – it only runs on Wi-Fi.

“In searches such as this, the more eyes you can get on the prize the better,” CompTIA president Todd Thibodeaux told Forbes. “Harnessing the personal interests of possibly hundreds of thousands of people makes sense and couldn’t be accomplished cost effectively any other way.”

Garnering the attention and interest of the public is key for projects that require crowd sourced processing, says IDC research director Alys Woodward. When the public is on board, the potential for research skyrockets.

“Imagine if modern pharmaceuticals had been started the same way, with crowd sourced power and effort, instead of being driven by commercial interests,” Ms. Woodward said. “When there is a major human interest such as in these cases, the number of people who can help is immense.”

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« Reply #61 on: Jul 25, 2015, 05:21 AM »

July 24, 2015

Brown dwarfs are more like stars than we thought

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

Brown dwarfs are not-quite stars capable of sustaining hydrogen fusion reactions within their cores, and with a mass heavier than a gas giant like Jupiter, but lighter than a proper star.

But according to a new report in the Astrophysical Journal, brown dwarfs are formed by the same process that forms stars.

The report’s conclusion is based on the investigation of a clutch of still-forming brown dwarfs in a star-forming region some 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. The scientists learned that four of them have the same kind of particle jets released by more-massive stars throughout their formation. The jets were discovered by radio observations with the Very Large Array, a radio astronomy observatory located in New Mexico.

The researchers also examined the brown dwarfs with the Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes to verify their status as very young celestial objects.

“This is the first time that such jets have been found coming from brown dwarfs at such an early stage of their formation, and shows that they form in a way similar to that of stars,” study author Oscar Morata, of the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, said in a statement. “These are the lowest-mass objects that seem to form the same way as stars,” he added.

Lacking the mass to create the temperatures and pressures at their cores needed to induce the thermonuclear reactions that drive “normal” stars; brown dwarfs were largely theoretical objects until their unambiguous discovery in 1994.

Even after the discovery of brown dwarfs, scientists have wondered if they are more like stars than planets. Stars develop when a massive cloud of gas and dust in interstellar space collapses via gravity, gathering mass in the process. A disk of orbiting material then forms around the young star, and ultimately planets develop from the material in that disk. During the early stages of star formation, streams of material are powered outward from the poles of the disk. Planet formation, however, doesn’t involve any such jets.

While brown dwarfs-as-stars has been a popular theory, the discovery of these jets goes very far in confirming this suspicion.

“We conclude that the formation of brown dwarfs is a scaled-down version of the process that forms larger stars,” Morata said.

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« Reply #62 on: Jul 25, 2015, 06:55 PM »

This is amaaazing ~ check this out!

From Pluto to the Sun
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« Reply #63 on: Today at 06:58 AM »

NASA's Curiosity Rover Eyes Weird Rock On Mars

by Mike Wall, Senior Writer   
July 28, 2015 07:30am ET

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity went out of its way to investigate a rock the likes of which it has never seen before on the Red Planet.

Measurements by Curiosity's rock-zapping ChemCam laser and another instrument revealed that the target, a chunk of bedrock dubbed Elk, contains high levels of silica and hydrogen, NASA officials said.

The abundance of silica — a silicon-oxygen compound commonly found here on Earth in the form of quartz — suggests that the bedrock may provide conditions conducive to the preservation of ancient carbon-containing organic molecules, if any exist in the area, the officials added. So Curiosity's handlers sent the rover back 151 feet (46 meters) to check Elk out.

"One never knows what to expect on Mars, but the Elk target was interesting enough to go back and investigate," ChemCam principal investigator Roger Wiens, of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in a statement.

Elk lies near a spot on the lower reaches of the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) Mount Sharp, called Marias Pass, whose rocks Curiosity had been studying. Marias Pass is a "geological contact zone" where dark sandstone meets lighter mudstone.

"We found an outcrop named Missoula where the two rock types came together, but it was quite small and close to the ground," Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in the same statement. "We used the robotic arm to capture a dog's-eye view with the MAHLI [Mars Hand Lens Imager] camera, getting our nose right in there."

ChemCam had fired at the Elk bedrock from the top of a small hill close to Marias Pass, which Curiosity had summitted before taking a look at the contact zone. After looking at the Missoula outcrop, the 1-ton rover began moving on, but an analysis of ChemCam's data persuaded the team to turn Curiosity around for a closer look at Elk, mission team members said.

"ChemCam acts like eyes and ears of the rover for nearby objects," Wiens said.

As Curiosity gathers data, mission engineers continue to investigate a short circuit that cropped up in the rover's sample-collecting drill in February. No short circuits occurred during a July 18 engineering test, so the Curiosity team plans to conduct some drilling trials on rocks in the near future, NASA officials said.

Curiosity has been exploring Mars' 96-mile-wide (154 km) Gale Crater for nearly three years now. The six-wheeled robot touched down on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, on a mission to determine if Gale could ever have supported microbial life.

Curiosity scientists answered this question early in the mission, finding that Gale Crater once harbored an extensive lake-and-stream system that could have supported microbial life, if such organisms had ever evolved on the Red Planet.

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« Reply #64 on: Today at 07:00 AM »

Giant Crater on Saturn Moon Tethys Dazzles in Spectacular Photo

by Mike Wall, Senior Writer     
July 28, 2015 07:00am ET

A huge impact crater shines brightly on Saturn's icy moon Tethys in a gorgeous new photo taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The image highlights an impact basin on Tethys called Odysseus, which, at 280 miles (450 kilometers) across, is nearly half as wide as the Saturn moon itself. (The diameter of Tethys is about 660 miles, or 1,062 km).

The photo shows that Odysseus is considerably brighter than the surrounding landscape.

"This distinct coloration may result from differences in either the composition or structure of the terrain exposed by the giant impact," NASA officials wrote in a description of the image, which was released today (July 27).

Odysseus "is one of the largest impact craters on Saturn's icy moons, and may have significantly altered the geologic history of Tethys," NASA officials added.

Cassini captured the image on May 9, when it was about 186,000 miles (300,000 km) from Tethys. The photo's resolution is about 1.1 miles (1.8 km) per pixel, NASA officials said.

Tethys is the fifth-largest of Saturn's 62 known moons; only Titan, Rhea, Iapetus and Dione are bigger. Tethys, which is composed primarily of water ice, was discovered by the Cassini mission's namesake, Italian astronomer and mathematician Giovanni Domenico Cassini, in 1684.

Odysseus isn't the only outsize feature on Tethys; the satellite also features a 1,240-mile-long (2,000 km) canyon called Ithaca Chasma that's 62 miles (100 km) wide in places.

The $3.2 billion Cassini-Huygens mission — a collaboration involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — launched in 1997 and arrived in the Saturn system in 2004. In January 2005, the mission's Huygens lander touched down on the surface of Titan, the ringed planet's largest moon.

Cassini will continue circling Saturn and studying the gas giant and its many moons until September 2017. The spacecraft will then end its mission with a bang, performing an intentional death dive into Saturn's thick atmosphere.

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