Thursday, January 31, 2008
The Beatles' song Across the Universe will be the first ever to be beamed directly into space next week, Nasa said. Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney said it was an "amazing" achievement and John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono called it the "beginning of a new age".The transmission of the song over the space agency's Deep Space Network on Monday will mark the 40th anniversary of the day the band recorded the song. The song will be aimed at the North Star, Polaris, 431 light years away from Earth, and it will travel across the universe at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, Nasa said. In a message to the space agency, Sir Paul said: "Amazing! Well done, Nasa! Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul." Ms Ono added: "I see this as the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe." Anything listening out there would hear the lyrics which include the chorus line: "Nothing's gonna change my world." Fans have been invited to participate in the event by playing the song around the world at midnight GMT on Monday night - the same time it will be transmitted by Nasa. The event will also mark 50 years of Nasa, 45 years of the Deep Space Network and 50 years since the founding of Explorer 1, the first US satellite.
A group of astronomers at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (USC) has discovered a huge planet in the star system Gliese 22, Spain's EFE news agency reported Wednesday. The finding has been reported in the Astronomy and Astrophysics magazine. According to Jose A. Docobo, director of the Ramon Maria Aller Astronomical Observatory at the university - the discovery of the extra-solar planet was made using for the first time a discipline called astrometry that studies the position and movement of stars and other bodies in the universe. Till the discovery in the Gliese 22 system, planets outside our own solar system have been discovered by measuring their stars' radial velocities or by observing the slight reduction in the stars' light that occurs when an orbiting star passes directly between it and us. The Gliese 22 star system is made up of three low-mass stars. Two of them form a binary system, in which both circle around a common centre of mass, while the third star - the most distant of the trio - circles around the other two. The existence of the enormous planet, which is calculated to have 16 times the mass of Jupiter - our solar system's largest planet, was detected around the third lone star. The astronomer team noticed that the third star moves from side to side a little as it orbits the binary system. Investigators said the oscillating motion could only be explained by the presence of another body - the large planet - circling it and pulling it slightly back and forth.
Ancient light absorbed by neutral hydrogen atoms could be used to test certain predictions of string theory, say cosmologists at the University of Illinois. Making the measurements, however, would require a gigantic array of radio telescopes to be built on Earth, in space or on the moon. String theory – a theory whose fundamental building blocks are tiny one-dimensional filaments called strings – is the leading contender for a “theory of everything.” Such a theory would unify all four fundamental forces of nature (the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity). But finding ways to test string theory has been difficult. Now, cosmologists at the U. of I. say absorption features in the 21-centimeter spectrum of neutral hydrogen atoms could be used for such a test. “High-redshift, 21-centimeter observations provide a rare observational window in which to test string theory, constrain its parameters and show whether or not it makes sense to embed a type of inflation – called brane inflation – into string theory,” said Benjamin Wandelt, a professor of physics and of astronomy at the U. of I.“If we embed brane inflation into string theory, a network of cosmic strings is predicted to form,” Wandelt said. “We can test this prediction by looking for the impact this cosmic string network would have on the density of neutral hydrogen in the universe.” Wandelt and graduate student Rishi Khatri describe their proposed test in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters.About 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe consisted of a thick shell of neutral hydrogen atoms (each composed of a single proton orbited by a single electron) illuminated by what became known as the cosmic microwave background.
Because neutral hydrogen atoms readily absorb electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of 21 centimeters, the cosmic microwave background carries a signature of density perturbations in the hydrogen shell, which should be observable today, Wandelt said. Cosmic strings are filaments of infinite length. Their composition can be loosely compared to the boundaries of ice crystals in frozen water. When water in a bowl begins to freeze, ice crystals will grow at different points in the bowl, with random orientations. When the ice crystals meet, they usually will not be aligned to one another. The boundary between two such misaligned crystals is called a discontinuity or a defect. Cosmic strings are defects in space. A network of strings is predicted by string theory (and also by other supersymmetric theories known as Grand Unified Theories, which aspire to unify all known forces of nature except gravity) to have been produced in the early universe, but has not been detected so far.
NASA’s Constellation Program is developing a space transportation system that is designed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement concludes that localized and global environmental impacts associated with implementing the program would be comparable to past or ongoing NASA activities. The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement for major federal actions that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Federal agencies consider potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions before deciding whether and how to proceed. The statement examines the effects of development, testing and operation of spacecraft and support systems associated with Constellation Program activities through the early 2020s. NASA plans to use multiple government and contractor facilities in implementing the program. The program components to be developed include the Orion crew exploration vehicle, the Ares I crew launch vehicle, the Ares V cargo launch vehicle, the Altair lunar lander and other cargo systems. Orion will launch atop the Ares I and be capable of docking with the International Space Station or with cargo launched to low Earth orbit by the Ares V for transit to the moon, or future missions to Mars.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Bulas was fascinated with mysterious charts and figures of quantum mechanics and satellite images of the farthest reaches of the universe. At first, he just looked at the pictures: the intricacy of the lines, the Rembrantesque light of outer space, the spectacular collisions of galaxies. It was these images more than any painting that gave him inspiration for his art. But gradually Bulas began to read the inscriptions below the images. He then realized that the world of astrophysics that he had just entered was stranger than science fiction. It was a world that transported him to a universe beyond our imagination: where stars like Arcturus flew towards us at two miles a second and where our entire solar system appears as a speck of dust. On the microscopic scale things got even weirder; here a colliding atom once split (in a process called quantum entanglement) could affect an atom thousands of miles away. Science, the bastion of reason, layered mystery upon mystery and uncovered more questions than answers. By now Bulas was captivated. From now on his art turned this new science into poetry. Bulas began his prints by surrounding himself with anything from models of valence electrons, to photos of plasma jets, to atomic dust halos. Then—working from several images at once—he crafted each print for hours using the oldest and most labourious printmaking techniques. To him it became a type of meditation: the stellar dust, distant galaxies that emerged from under his hands became intimate, private subjects of contemplation.
Astrophysicists believe they are closing in on one of the cosmos' great mysteries: why the expansion of the Universe, triggered by the Big Bang, is accelerating.
The answer could be tantalisingly within reach, according to their study, released on Wednesday by the British weekly science journal Nature.A decade ago, astronomers were stunned to learn that the Universe was expanding more quickly than in the past.It had long been assumed that the mutual attraction of galaxies through gravity would slow the expansion of space, kicked off by the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago. Two very different theories have emerged to explain this shock discovery. One is that the Universe is filled with so-called dark energy, a substance that has been inferred but never seen. Dark energy cannot be detected with present technology as it neither emits nor reflects light or radiation. Dark energy, so the theory goes, counteracts the gravitational attraction that galaxies exert on each other and which would otherwise brake the cosmic expansion. The other possible explanation is that dark energy does not exist. If this were true, current theories about gravitational force as the prime mover in the Universe would be flawed -- they would only make sense if there are additional dimensions to space.
Mr Burkinshaw said he was only too willing to pay. "It's a lot of money but I want to be among the first," he said. "I've done skydiving many times and travelled all round the globe, but this is going to be fantastic."And his girlfriend is quite understanding. "She knows I'm into astrophysics and all that sort of thing," he said. "There's a lot of money going into commercial space travel and there's nothing to worry about." Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic company unveiled a model of its vessel, SpaceShip Two, this year, and testing is due to start in the summer. Its first flights are expected early in 2010, with take-off and landing in New Mexico, in the USA. The first 200 passengers are now signed up to fly. They have to undergo medical assessments, including whether they can withstand the G-forces of extra terrestrial flight. An American company, Wyle, whose Life Sciences Group has four decades of supporting the space agency Nasa, has been brought in by Virgin Galactic to provide medical and management expertise to prepare passengers for spaceflight. The cost of the 150-minute trip is £100,000, but Sir Richard, who has a house in Kidlington, has been quoted as saying it could go down to about £10,000 in a few years. If you fancy booking a flight, call the tour operator Elegant Resorts on 01244 897000.
Space debris is trash, junk or garbage. It includes derelict spacecraft, pieces of launch vehicles, remains from explosions, rocket motors, bolts, defunct satellites and fragments from any of the above. Little pieces can mean big problems in space. They travel 30 times faster than a commercial jet aircraft. A fragment as small as 1 centimeter can significantly damage an operational satellite in orbit. Since debris can stay in orbit for decades, it accumulates around Earth in what could be likened to a space mine field. There are currently 150 million pieces of orbital debris at all altitudes in space, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Satellites provide many services to those on land, including television, cell phone and GPS signals, weather forecasting, global environment monitoring, and views of our solar system. Damage can result in loss of signals and valuable information. A 2006 study by NASA estimates that large debris will increase by nearly 40 percent over the next 200 years, and the number of fragments will triple, even assuming no further objects are launched. As space debris accumulates around Earth, portions of space and entire orbital paths may become too dangerous and thus off-limits. “Once you put debris (in space), the lifetime can be so long that you are taking a large band of space and reducing utility,” said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists
By aggressively pursuing space weapons, the United States may create the very arms race that world leaders are trying to avoid. It has been a little more than a year since China tested its anti-satellite capabilities by destroying a defunct Chinese weather satellite and producing a cloud of debris that is still littering low Earth orbit. Space warriors reiterated their claims that the United States needs to step up their efforts to dominate space before anyone else does. Global Security experts claimed that maybe it was finally time for the United States to accept the invitation of Russia and China to draft a treaty prohibiting space weapons. No one knows if Russia and China are calling for a space treaty because it makes them look good in the international arena or because it is something they really want. Some say the anti-satellite test was "a shot over the bow" to let the United States know that they cannot ignore the space weapons question anymore.
Put this one in the category of good ideas, disingenuous sources. According to Xinhua, the Chinese government's official news agency, Chinese officials will "actively push" for a treaty barring space-based arms this week.
The United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament is being held in Geneva this week. Hence the announcement by Wang Qun, leader of the Chinese delegation, Xinhua reports. This isn't new territory for China. Both it and Russia have been pushing for international talks on barring space-based arms since the beginning of the decade. Many other nations have been amenable, but the United States has consistently put the kibosh on any such idea.
Israel ready for return to space. Israel is ready to send another astronaut into space with NASA. Benny Elon, the chairman of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, told a U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration delegation Monday that Israel would like to be involved in a new space mission. The delegation was in Israel to mark the five years since Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and six NASA astronauts died when the space shuttle Columbia burned up when re-entering the earth's atmosphere. Ramon's widow, Rona., also attended the meeting. The delegation of astronauts and scientists is scheduled to attend the Ramon family's memorial service Thursday.
If there were a portal linking us to a parallel universe or some other region of space, how would we spot it? One suggestion is that it will give itself away by the curious way it bends light.
The existence of wormholes linking different regions of space was suggested in 1916 by the Austrian physicist Ludwig Flamm as a possible solution to equations of general relativity, which Einstein had published that year. They have since become accepted as a natural consequence of general relativity, which predicts that matter entering one end of a wormhole would instantly emerge somewhere else, so long as the wormhole is somehow propped open.
Though no direct evidence for wormholes has been observed, this could be because they are disguised as black holes. Now Alexander Shatskiy of the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, Russia, is suggesting a possible way to tell the two kinds of object apart. His idea assumes the existence of a bizarre substance called “phantom matter”, which has been proposed to explain how wormholes might stay open. Phantom matter has negative energy and negative mass, so it creates a repulsive effect that prevents the wormhole closing.
The media world is buzzing about whether or not we are really alone in the universe after recent images from Mars surface give the appearance of a figure walking on the Red Planet. The photographs, which were taken four years ago, by NASA's Mars Explorer Spirit are sketchy and blurred images at best. Some outlets claim the figure looks like a woman with an outstretched arm, others say it resembles Bigfoot. Others claim it looks like a man walking, sitting, or pointing and some descriptions dismiss it entirely as just an oddly misshapen rock. Since the Rorschach Test for Extraterrestrial Life on Mars has already been so widely discussed, perhaps we can put our opinions aside and look at the real issues these photographs present: What is the real likelihood that there really is extraterrestrial life on Mars? Why is the possibility of life on Mars so important, right now? The possibility of life on Mars is not entirely a new concept as it has received a sizeable amount of news and press coverage, particularly in the last two decades. A press release date August 7, 1996 from NASA reported that a NASA research team discovered the first organic molecules thought to be of Martian origin within a meteorite, called ALH84001. The meteorite, found in Antarctica in 1984, supplied indirect evidence for the existence of microbial life found in several mineral features and possible microscopic fossils of primitive, bacteria-like organisms.
With the launch of the first Automated Transfer Vehicle 'Jules Verne' rapidly approaching, ESA Programme managers and industry specialists participated in a media briefing at ESA Head Office in Paris, France, earlier today.
They presented an overview of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) programme and also took stock of the current status of the spacecraft and lead the Media through the upcoming phases: the launch, the journey to the International Space Station, the delicate manoeuvres up to docking and the complex operations related to this very challenging mission. The 20-tonne re-supply and space-tug module will be carried into orbit by a special version of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle called the Ariane 5 Evolution Storable (ES). The launcher is scheduled to lift-off from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, not earlier than 22 February next.
There are two key objectives to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2008. First, we have two satellites launches scheduled by H-IIA rocket: the Wideband InterNetworking engineering test and Demonstration Satellite KIZUNA, and the Greenhouse Gases Observing SATellite GOSAT. KIZUNA is a communications satellite developed to provide a broad region with high-speed Internet service. It is expected to be of great assistance in disaster management, education, and telemedicine. And GOSAT monitors the emission, absorption and concentration of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, in different regions on the globe.
The second key objective is the assembly and operation of the Japanese experimental module (JEM) Kibo.
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WASHINGTON - NASA is using a new treadmill that allows people to run while suspended horizontally to help astronauts prepare for long-duration missions to the moon and beyond. A team of engineers at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland built the Standalone Zero Gravity Locomotion Simulator to imitate conditions astronauts experience while exercising in space. Exercise in microgravity helps lessen the harmful health effects of long-duration space travel, promoting astronauts' well-being and mission success.