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Sneaky asteroid spotted whizzing between Earth and moon

January 11, 2017 Leave a comment

A space rock large enough to do damage gives us a near miss just two days after being discovered.

An asteroid roughly the size of a 10-story building gave Earth a particularly close pass Monday morning.

Source: C/Net

Asteroid 2017 AG13 came within half the distance from Earth to the moon as it buzzed by early Monday morning at 4:47 a.m. PT. The fly-by happened shortly after scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey first discovered the space rock on Saturday.

As you can see in the GIF below, the asteroid looks to just barely miss us as it passes. In the cosmic sense, it really was a close shave. In real terms, Earth had well over a 100,000-mile (161,000 kilometer) buffer of distance.

2017 AG13 isn’t so big it would have meant an extinction-level event had it been a direct hit. But if a good size chunk of it made it through Earth’s upper atmosphere near a populated area, there might have been damage like we saw in 2013 when a bolide collided with the atmosphere over the Russian city Chelyabinsk. In that event, a fireball streaked over the city, releasing 500 kilotons of energy as it ran up against some serious resistance from Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, blowing out windows all over town in the process.

The asteroid is about 36 to 111 feet (11 to 34 meters) across, according to the Slooh Observatory, and moving very fast relative to Earth at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per second. That speed, coupled with 2017 AG13’s dim brightness level, made it difficult to spot with telescopes.

Various telescopes and sky surveys constantly scan Earth’s neighborhood and track nearby asteroids. Most pass by at a distance several times farther away than the moon is to us, so this was a particularly close buzz by a previously unknown object.

In the video below, Slooh Astronomer Eric Edelman breaks down some of the basics of the asteroid.

Aliens Trying to Make Contact? Mysterious Radio Signals Emanate from Deep Space

January 9, 2017 Leave a comment

The aliens are hugely more advanced than we are; just how advanced depends on whether they are targeting Earth or transmitting radio waves in all directions.

Vandita

The Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have detected six bursts of strong radio signals originating from a constellation 3 billion light years away from Earth. Known as Fast Radio Bursts or FRBs – they only last milliseconds but generate as much energy as the Sun in an entire day – 11 FSBs were captured by high-powered telescopes in March, from similar sources in deep space.

A team of researchers from McGill University wrote in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal:

“We report on radio and X-ray observations of the only known repeating fast radio burst source, FRB 121102. We have detected six additional radio bursts from this source: five with the Green Bank Telescope at 2 GHz, and one at 1.4 GHz with the Arecibo Observatory, for a total of 17 bursts from this source.

“We find that the intrinsic widths of the 12 FRB 121102 bursts from Arecibo are, on average, significantly longer than the intrinsic widths of the 13 single-component FRBs detected with the Parkes telescope.”

aliensGiven the signals’ energy, repeating nature and location, speculation has already begun on whether an advanced alien civilization is trying to contact us. The scientists haven’t ruled out the possibility that the signals originated from extra-terrestrial intelligence, however, they say it is more likely to be solar flares from a young neutron star.

“Our discovery of repeating bursts from FRB 121102 shows that for at least one source, the origin of the bursts cannot be cataclysmic, and further, must be able to repeat on short [less than 1 minute] timescales. Whether FRB 121102 is a unique object in the currently known sample of FRBs, or all FRBs are capable of repeating, its characterization is extremely important to understanding fast extragalactic radio transients.”

In May 2015, RATAN-600 observatory in Russia’s Zelenchukskaya, detected a mysterious burst of radio signal (lasting no more than two seconds) coming from a 6.3 billion-year-old star in a constellation 94.4 light years away from Earth. Astronomers who are engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) are now examining the radio signal and its sun-like star, HD 164595, in the hopes of determining its origin using the Allen Telescope Array in California.

According to Seth Shostak, an astronomer at SETI, the energy an extraterrestrial beacon would need to produce to send a signal in all directions, would be a mind-blowing 100 quintillion watts. The aliens who sent it are hugely more advanced than we are, he states; just how advanced depends on whether they were targeting Earth or transmitting radio waves in all directions.

“It’s hundreds of times more than all the energy falling on the Earth from sunlight. It goes without saying this would require a power source far beyond anything that exists on Earth.”

Astronomer Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International (which searches for life beyond Earth), told CNN:

“The signal from HD 164595 is intriguing, because it comes from the vicinity of a sun-like star, and if it’s artificial, its strength is great enough that it was clearly made by a civilization with capabilities beyond those of humankind.”

Such a civilization would likely be Type II on the Kardashev scale, adds Paul Gilster of the Tau Zero Foundation (which conducts interstellar research). In 1964, Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev defined three levels of civilizations based on their capacity to harness and use energy (the Kardashev scale):

Type I – a civilization that is capable of harnessing the total energy of its own planet including solar, wind, earthquakes, and other fuels;

Type II – an interstellar civilization that is capable of harnessing the total energy output of a star;

Type III – a galactic civilization that is capable of inhabiting and harnessing the energy of an entire galaxy.

At present, our civilization is somewhere near Type I on the Kardashev scale. International Business Times observes:

“If the newly-received FRBs’ source is artificial, they could have been sent by at least a Type-II extraterrestrial civilization as a means to reach out to other, similarly intelligent civilizations. That is because the amount of energy in these FRBs cannot be produced by any conventional means known to man, but could be emitted by an artificial source from a civilization that has harnessed the power of an entire star.”

While scientists are still investigating the radio signals and are far away from concluding whether aliens could be trying to contact Earth, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking warns humans should not respond to alien signals from outer space because aliens would be far more advanced than us.

Six more fast radio bursts have been discovered coming from the same mystery cosmic source

December 23, 2016 Leave a comment

Repeating FRBs came from same location far beyond the Milky Way where 10 had previously been detected.

Fast Radio Bursts

Source: RSM

Six additional repeating fast radio bursts have been discovered coming the same unknown source in space. The FRBs came from the same region beyond the Milky Way where 10 bursts had previously been detected – and their discovery should give a greater insight into what caused them.

FRBs are radio signals from deep space that last just a few milliseconds. The first FRB was detected in 2001 and since then over a dozen have been found in telescope data. However, these all appeared to be one-off events, with no two bursts coming from the same location. This means follow-up observations were not possible, keeping their source a mystery.

Current theories as to their cause involve a cataclysmic event like a neutron star collapsing into a black hole or a supernova. Another option is they are coming from a young, highly magnetised, extragalactic neutron star.

In March, scientists announced the discovery of the first repeating FRBs. Ten bursts were recorded coming from the same direction as FRB 121102 – a spot in space far beyond the Milky Way.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature, showed the bursts had the same dispersion measurements as the original FRB, indicating the source must have survived whatever event produced the FRB in the first place. As a result, the bursts cannot be being produced by a one-off event.

Green Bank Telescope

Now a team led by Paul Scholz of McGill University has found six more FRBs coming from the same region of space as FRB 121102. The study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, said: “We report on radio and X-ray observations of the only known repeating Fast Radio Burst (FRB) source, FRB 121102. We have detected six additional radio bursts from this source: five with the Green Bank Telescope at 2 GHz, and one at 1.4 GHz with the Arecibo Observatory, for a total of 17 bursts from this source.”

FRBs observed with the Arecibo were found to be significantly longer than the intrinsic widths of those found with the Parkes telescope.

The team said their discovery shows that – at least for this source – FRBs cannot be coming from a cataclysmic event. What is causing them, however, remains unknown.

“Whether FRB 121102 is a unique object in the currently known sample of FRBs, or all FRBs are capable of repeating, its characterisation is extremely important to understanding fast extragalactic radio transients,” they said.

Japan launching ‘space junk’ collector

December 10, 2016 Leave a comment

Japan's unmanned cargo spacecraft, "Kounotori" is to blast off from the southern island of Tanegashima around 10:30 pm

 

Japan will launch a cargo ship Friday bound for the International Space Station, carrying a ‘space junk’ collector that was made with the help of a fishnet company.

The vessel, dubbed “Kounotori” (stork in Japanese), is to blast off from the southern island of Tanegashima around 10:30 pm local time (1330 GMT) attached to an H-IIB rocket.

Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are experimenting with a tether to pull junk out of orbit around Earth, clearing up tonnes of space clutter including cast-off equipment from old satellites and pieces of rocket.

More than 50 years of human space exploration since the Soviet-launched Sputnik satellite in 1957 has produced this hazardous belt of orbiting debris.

There are estimated to be more than 100 million pieces in orbit, posing a growing threat to future space exploration, scientists say.

Researchers are using a so-called electrodynamic tether made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium.

The idea is that one end of the strip will be attached to debris which can damage working equipment—there are hundreds of collisions every year.

The electricity generated by the tether as it swings through the Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have a slowing effect on the space junk, which should, scientists say, pull it into a lower and lower orbit.

Japan’s unmanned cargo spacecraft, “Kounotori” is to blast off from the southern island of Tanegashima around 10:30 pm local time attached to an H-IIB rocket

Eventually the detritus will enter the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up harmlessly long before it has a chance to crash to the planet’s surface.

JAXA worked on the project with Japanese fishnet manufacturer Nitto Seimo to develop the cord, which has been about 10 years in the making.

“The tether uses our fishnet plaiting technology, but it was really tough to intertwine the very thin materials,” company engineer Katsuya Suzuki told AFP.

“The length of the tether this time is 700 metre (2,300 feet), but eventually it’s going to need to be 5,000 to 10,000 metre-long to slow down the targeted space junk,” he added.

Previous experiments using a tether have been done in recent years.

A spokesman for the space agency said it hopes to put the junk collection system into more regular use by the middle of the next decade.

“If we are successful in this trial, the next step will be another test attaching one tip of the tether to a targeted object,” he added.

The cargo ship launched Friday is also carrying other materials for the ISS including batteries and drinking water for the astronauts living there.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-12-japan-space-junk-collector.html#jCp

Astronauts in space spooked by mysterious knocking sound that no one can explain

December 1, 2016 Leave a comment

One astronaut said the unexplained noises left him feeling very nervous and he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary when he looked into the vast emptiness of space

Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei sits in the module of Shenzhen 5 spaceship

Source: Mirror

China’s first astronaut says he heard mysterious knocks during his first flight in space – but no one has been able to explain the cause of them.

Astronaut Yang Liwei said the strange noises left him feeling very nervous and he looked out into the vast emptiness of space but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

Mr Yang, now a major general in China’s Air Force, said it sounded like someone was knocking the body of the spaceship, comparing the noise to that of a hammer hitting an iron bucket.

The 51-year-old’s unexplained experience has raised all kinds of theories, including aliens , and he said he has never heard the sound again since returning to earth.

In 2003 Mr Yang became the first person sent into space by the Chinese space programme, orbiting earth several times during a 21-hour flight.

He recalled the experience in a recent interview, telling Chinese media the mysterious knocking sounds occurred without rhyme or reason.

He said: “A non-causal situation I have met in space is a knock that appeared from time to time.

China's first astronaut Yang Liwei
Mr Yang says the cause of the strange noises has never been established

“It neither came from outside nor inside the spaceship, but sounded like someone is knocking the body of the spaceship just as knocking an iron bucket with a wooden hammer.

Mr Yang revealed he was very nervous when he heard the sounds and moved close to the spaceship’s porthole to investigate the cause.

He failed to see anything out of the ordinary.

When he returned to earth he explained the noises to officials with the space programme and tried to imitate it with instruments.

The sound has also been heard by Chinese astronauts who have since been blasted into space.

Mr Yang said: “Before entering space I have told them that the sound is a normal phenomenon, so there is no need to worry.”

Astronomers Capture 234 Mysterious Signals From Space

October 25, 2016 Leave a comment

Astronomers Capture 234 Mysterious Signals From Space

Mysterious signals from 234 stars have been recorded by astronomers who believe that it could indicate the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Ermanno Borra and Eric Trottier from Laval University in Canada conducted a study, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), report that the pulsing is similar to what a signal from an intelligent alien race might look like, if they were trying to make contact.

RT reports:

In their resulting study published in Solar and Stellar Astrophysics journal, the pair conclude that the peculiar signals they recorded could be from aliens trying to make contact with Earth.

The researchers came to this potential explanation based on a previous study by Borra which predicted the shape of an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) signal. The 234 signals identified match this shape exactly.

 

The fact that only a small fraction – 234 out of 2.5 million – of the stars in our sun’s spectrum emitted this signal also matches the previous ETI hypothesis.

However the theory that these signals are the result of aliens is only one of a number of possibilities, according to the study, and they could in fact derive from any one of “several possibilities” such as “rotational transitions in molecules” or “rapid pulsations”.

So is this the discovery we’ve been waiting for to finally confirm we’re not alone in the universe? Not quite..

The authors admit that further work is needed to confirm this theory and are also considering the ‘unlikely’ scenario  that the signals are due to highly peculiar chemical compositions in a small fraction of galactic halo stars.

Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a scientific and technological exploration program that includes Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on its board, has announced plans to research the findings further but says a breadth of independently verified proof is required to substantiate the claims.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” the group points out in a statement. “It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations.”

“Internationally agreed-upon protocols for searches for evidence of advanced life beyond Earth (SETI) require candidates to be confirmed by independent groups using their own telescopes, and for all natural explanations to be exhausted before invoking extraterrestrial agents as an explanation,” they added.

Juno Spacecraft Suddenly Enters Safe Mode As It Orbits Jupiter

October 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Jupiter_spacecraft

NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered safe mode Tuesday just hours before a close approach to the giant planet.

The space agency revealed that its Jupiter orbiter temporarily entered into ‘safe mode’ after losing access to the main onboard computer and scientific instruments.

Scientists say that problems with the robotic spacecraft will not affect their planned studies of Jupiter, it will just slow things down.

NASA operated spacecraft seem to to be experiencing bad luck recently.

Earlier in the week the Schiaparelli probe was mysteriously lost on Mars.

Ancient Code reports:

 

“At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“We were still quite a ways from the planet’s more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields. The spacecraft is healthy, and we are working our standard recovery procedure.”

NASA is unsure what exactly caused the Juno spacecraft to enter safe mode. During a press conference, principal investigator Scott Bolton said the vehicle had “detected a condition that was not expected.”

Jupiterspacecraft

Whatever happened, it made Juno turn off all its “unnecessary subsystems” — including its science instruments — and position itself toward the Sun to obtain as much power as possible.

The spacecraft entered safe mode after losing access to its computer. NASA revealed that mission specialists plan to reboot the spacecraft’s onboard computer in hopes of bringing the probe back.

High-speed data have been restored, and the spacecraft is carrying out flight software diagnosis. All instruments are off, and the gathering of scientific data scheduled for the second close flyby of Jupiter did not occur.

Strangely, this is the second failure for Juno in a week.

Jupiter_spacecraft

Las week NASA announced that mission control would delay changing the spacecraft’s orbit because two valves in Juno’s engines behaved anomalously.

So far, mission specialists have two massive problems to solve. The first –and perhaps most important one— is to figure out why the spacecraft enters safe mode, and why the engines didn’t work as expected.

Juno reached the Gas giant in July and is planned to study Jupiter for a period of 20 months.

According to statements by Scott Bolton, with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, Juno’s mission goals are NOT impacted by its orbit, because critical measurements are gathered every time the spacecraft flies near Jupiter.

“The worst-case scenario is I have to be patient and get the science slowly,” said Bolton to reporters during a webcast at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Pasadena, California.

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