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kenobi-wan-obi:

RIP LADEE: NASA Moon Probe Crashes Into Lunar Surface

NASA’s newest moon probe met its end during a vaporizing crash into the lunar surface last night.

The space agency’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft (LADEE for short) made its planned crash into the lunar surface between 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT) and 1:22 a.m. EDT (0522 GMT) on April 18, after orbiting the moon since October 2013. Scientists expected the impact, predicting that LADEE would hit the far side of the moon on or before April 21 because the probe was running out of fuel — as intended.

The impact itself was probably a violent event. NASA engineers think that the loveseat-sized probe broke apart as most of it heated up to several hundred degrees. It’s even possible that some of the material from the spacecraft vaporized during the crash, NASA officials said in a statement.

kenobi-wan-obi:

First Earth-Size Planet That Could Support Life

For the first time, scientists have discovered an Earth-size alien planet in the habitable zone of its host star, an “Earth cousin” that just might have liquid water and the right conditions for life.

Image 1: This artist illustration shows what it might be like to stand on the surface of the planet Kepler-186f, the first-ever Earth-size planet to be found in the habitable zone of its star. Credit: Danielle Futselaa

Image 2: This artist illustration shows the planet Kepler-186f, the first Earth-size alien planet discovered in the habitable zone of its star. Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech

The newfound planet, called Kepler-186f, was first spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and circles a dim red dwarf star about 490 light-years from Earth. While the host star is dimmer than Earth’s sun and the planet is slightly bigger than Earth, the positioning of the alien world coupled with its size suggests that Kepler-186f could have water on its surface, scientists say. You can learn more about the amazing alien planet find in a video produced by Space.com.

"One of the things we’ve been looking for is maybe an Earth twin, which is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a sunlike star," Tom Barclay, Kepler scientist and co-author of the new exoplanet research, told Space.com. "This [Kepler-186f] is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a cooler star. So, while it’s not an Earth twin, it is perhaps an Earth cousin. It has similar characteristics, but a different parent."

Scientists think that Kepler-186f — the outermost of five planets found to be orbiting the star Kepler-186 — orbits at a distance of 32.5 million miles (52.4 million kilometers), theoretically within the habitable zone for a red dwarf.

Earth orbits the sun from an average distance of about 93 million miles (150 million km), but the sun is larger and brighter than the Kepler-186 star, meaning that the sun’s habitable zone begins farther out from the star by comparison to Kepler-186.

"This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star," Elisa Quintana, of the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center and the lead author of a new study detailing the findings, said in a statement.

Other planets of various sizes have been found in the habitable zones of their stars. However, Kepler-186f is the first alien planet this close to Earth in size found orbiting in that potentially life-supporting area of an extrasolar system, according to exoplanet scientists.

How to Ship a T. rex Across the Country

Museum officials are crating and shipping the “tyrant lizard king” from Montana to Washington, D.C

After more than a decade of trying, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will finally be getting its very own Tyrannosaurus rex, or “tyrant lizard king,” on April 15.

The Tuesday morning arrival of this iconic dinosaur will cap a 2,000-mile (3,219-kilometer) journey that scientists, movers, and museum officials have been preparing for months. (See "My T. rex Is Bigger Than Yours.”)

Rancher Kathy Wankel discovered the T. rex while out hiking with her family near Montana’s Fort Peck reservoir (map) in 1988, on land that belonged to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps kept the Wankel rex at the Museum of the Rockies (MOR) in Bozeman, Montana, for nearly 20 years, and have now loaned it to the Smithsonian for the next 50 years.

"We have the most T. rex specimens of any collection in the world,” says Patrick Leiggi, administrative director of paleontology at the MOR. Since the Smithsonian didn’t have its own T. rex, the MOR offered to help out.

Read The full article on National Geographic.

Tiny, Logical Robots Injected into Cockroaches

Nanotechnology just got a little bit smarter.

At the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, Ido Bachelet led a team of scientists in building tiny robots that can respond to chemical cues and operate inside a living animal. More than that, they can operate as logic gates, essentially acting as real computers.

That gives the nanobots — on the order of nanometers, or one-billionth of a meter — the ability to follow specific instructions, making them programmable. Such tiny robots could do everything from target tumors to repair tissue damage.

The experimenters used a technique called “DNA origami” to make the robots. DNA comes in a double-helix shape, making long strings. And like yarn, the strings can be linked together to make different shapes. In this case, the researchers knitted together DNA into a kind of folded box with a lid, a robot called an “E” for “effector.” The “lid” opened when certain molecules bumped into it.

laboratoryequipment:

Calm Down: Ancient Environmental Viruses Aren’t a Threat

You may have seen recently that scientists recovered and “revived” a giant virus from Siberian permafrost (frozen soil) that dates back 30,000 years.

The researchers raised concerns that drilling in the permafrost may expose us to many more pathogenic viruses. Should we be worried about being infected from the past? Can human viruses survive in this permafrost environment and come back to wreak havoc?

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/calm-down-ancient-environmental-viruses-arent-threat

laboratoryequipment:

Obama Honors Memory of Girl with Cancer Research BillA 10-year-old girl who died of brain cancer is leaving a legacy for other sick children in a new law signed by President Barack Obama.Obama signed the bipartisan Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act. It directs $126 million in federal money to be spent over the next decade to research pediatric cancer and other childhood disorders. Her parents and brother watched Obama sign the bill.Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/obama-honors-memory-girl-cancer-research-bill

laboratoryequipment:

Obama Honors Memory of Girl with Cancer Research Bill

A 10-year-old girl who died of brain cancer is leaving a legacy for other sick children in a new law signed by President Barack Obama.

Obama signed the bipartisan Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act. It directs $126 million in federal money to be spent over the next decade to research pediatric cancer and other childhood disorders. Her parents and brother watched Obama sign the bill.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/obama-honors-memory-girl-cancer-research-bill

laboratoryequipment:

Method Uses Sun to Create Solar Energy MaterialsIn a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible.This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State Univ. could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials and make the sun almost a “one-stop shop” that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them.Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/method-uses-sun-create-solar-energy-materials

laboratoryequipment:

Method Uses Sun to Create Solar Energy Materials

In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible.

This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State Univ. could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials and make the sun almost a “one-stop shop” that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/method-uses-sun-create-solar-energy-materials

laboratoryequipment:

'Geologic Clock' Helped Determine Moon’s Age

An international team of planetary scientists determined that the Moon formed nearly 100 million years after the start of the solar system, according to a paper published today in Nature. This conclusion is based on measurements from the interior of the Earth combined with computer simulations of the protoplanetary disk from which the Earth and other terrestrial planets formed.

The team of researchers from France, Germany and the U.S. simulated the growth of the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) from a disk of thousands of planetary building blocks orbiting the Sun. By analyzing the growth history of the Earth-like planets from 259 simulations, the scientists discovered a relationship between the time the Earth was impacted by a Mars-sized object to create the Moon and the amount of material added to the Earth after that impact.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/geologic-clock-helped-determine-moon%E2%80%99s-age

(via kenobi-wan-obi)

kenobi-wan-obi:

New Dwarf Planet Found at Solar System’s Edge, Hints at Possible Faraway ‘Planet X’

Astronomers have found a new dwarf planet far beyond Pluto’s orbit, suggesting that this distant realm contains millions of undiscovered objects — including, perhaps, a world larger than Earth.

Image 1: Orbit diagram for the outer solar system. The sun and terrestrial planets are at the center. The orbits of the four giant planet Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are shown by purple solid circles. The Kuiper Belt (including Pluto) is shown by the dotted light blue region just beyond the giant planets. Sedna’s orbit is shown in orange while 2012 VP113’s orbit is shown in red. Both objects are currently near their closest approach to the sun. They would be too faint to detect when in the outer parts of their orbits. Credit: Scott S. Sheppard: Carnegie Institution for Science

Image 2: The discovery images of 2012 VP113, which has the most distant orbit known in our Solar System. Three images of the night sky, each taken about 2 hours apart, were combined into one. The first image was artificially colored red, second green and third blue. 2012 VP113 moved between each image as seen by the red, green and blue dots. The background stars and galaxies did not move and thus their red, green and blue images combine to show up as white sources. Credit: Scott S. Sheppard: Carnegie Institution for Science

Image 3: These images show the discovery of the new inner Oort cloud object 2012 VP113 taken about 2 hours apart on UT November 5, 2012. The motion of 2012 VP113 clearly stands out compared to the steady state background stars and galaxies. Credit: Scott S. Sheppard: Carnegie Institution for Science

The newfound celestial body, called 2012 VP113, joins the dwarf planet Sedna as a confirmed resident of a far-flung and largely unexplored region scientists call the “inner Oort Cloud.” Further, 2012 VP113 and Sedna may have been pulled into their long, looping orbits by a big planet lurking unseen in these frigid depths.

"These two objects are just the tip of the iceberg," study co-author Chadwick Trujillo, of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, told Space.com. "They exist in a part of the solar system that we used to think was pretty devoid of matter. It just goes to show how little we actually know about the solar system."

Probing the depths

For several decades, astronomers have divided our solar system into three main parts: an inner zone containing the rocky planets, such as Earth and Mars; a middle realm housing the gas giants Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune; and an outer region called the Kuiper Belt, populated by distant and icy worlds like Pluto.

The discovery of Sedna in 2003 hinted that this map is incomplete. Sedna, which is about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) wide, has an incredibly elliptical orbit, coming no closer to the sun than 76 astronomical units (AU) and going all the way out to 940 AU or so at its most distant point. (One AU, the distance from Earth to the sun, is about 93 million miles, or 150 million km.)

That puts Sedna in the far outer reaches of the solar system. For comparison, Pluto’s orbit takes it between 29 and 49 AU from the sun.

And now astronomers know Sedna is not alone out there. Trujillo and Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., discovered 2012 VP113 using the Dark Energy Camera, which is installed on a 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Follow-up observations by the 6.5-meter Magellan Telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory, also in Chile, helped Trujillo and Sheppard determine details of 2012 VP113’s orbit and learn a bit more about the object.

The body comes no closer to the sun than 80 AU, and it gets as far away as 452 AU. About 280 miles (450 km) wide, 2012 VP113 is large enough to qualify as a dwarf planet if it’s composed primarily of ice, researchers said. (By definition, dwarf planets must be big enough for their gravity to mold them into spheres; the mass required for this to happen depends upon the objects’ composition.)

The inner Oort Cloud

Objects as distant as Sedna and 2012 VP113 are incredibly difficult to detect; astronomers really only get a chance when the bodies near their closest approach to the sun.

Based on the amount of sky the scientists searched, Trujillo and Sheppard estimate that about 900 bodies larger than Sedna may exist in this faraway realm, which the astronomers dub the inner Oort Cloud. (The true Oort Cloud is an icy shell around the solar system that begins perhaps 5,000 AU from the sun and contains trillions of comets.)

The total population of objects in the inner Oort Cloud, in fact, may exceed that of the Kuiper Belt and the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, researchers said.

Planet X?

Astronomers don’t know much about the origin or evolutionary history of Sedna and 2012 VP113 at this point. The objects may have formed closer to the sun, for example, before getting pushed out by gravitational interactions with other stars — perhaps “sister stars” from the sun’s birth cluster, researchers said. Or inner Oort Cloud objects may be alien bodies that the sun plucked from another solar system during a stellar close encounter.

It’s also possible that 2012 VP113 and its neighbors were knocked from the Kuiper Belt to the inner Oort Cloud when a big planet was booted outward long ago. This planet may have been ejected from the solar system entirely, or it may still be there in the extreme outer reaches, waiting to be discovered.

Indeed, certain characteristics of the orbits of Sedna, 2012 VP113 and several of the most distant Kuiper Belt objects are consistent with the continued presence of a big and extremely faraway “perturber,” researchers said. It’s possible that a planet roughly 10 times more massive than Earth located hundreds of AU from the sun is shepherding these bodies into their current orbits.

Such supposition is far from proof that an undiscovered “Planet X” actually exists, Trujillo stressed. But he did say that the door is open, noting that an Earth-mass body at 250 AU from the sun would likely be undetectable at present.

"It raises the possibility that there could be stuff out there of significant mass, Earth-mass or larger, that we don’t know about," he said.

kenobi-wan-obi:

Herschel Completes Largest Survey of Cosmic Dust in Local Universe

The largest census of dust in local galaxies has been completed using data from ESA’s Herschel space observatory, providing a huge legacy to the scientific community.

Cosmic dust grains are a minor but fundamental ingredient in the recipe of gas and dust for creating stars and planets. But despite its importance, there is an incomplete picture of the dust properties in galaxies beyond our own Milky Way.

Key questions include how the dust varies with the type of galaxy, and how it might affect our understanding of how galaxies evolve.

Before concluding its observations in April 2013, Herschel provided the largest survey of cosmic dust, spanning a wide range of nearby galaxies located 50–80 million light-years from Earth.

The catalogue contains 323 galaxies with varying star formation activity and different chemical compositions, observed by Herschel’s instruments across far-infrared and submillimetre wavelengths.

A sample of these galaxies is displayed in a collage, arranged from dust-rich in the top left to dust-poor in the bottom right.

The dust-rich galaxies are typically spiral or irregular, whereas the dust-poor ones are usually elliptical. Blue and red colours represent cooler and warmer regions of dust, respectively.

kenobi-wan-obi:

Our Universe May Exist in a Multiverse, Cosmic Inflation Discovery Suggests

The first direct evidence of cosmic inflation — a period of rapid expansion that occurred a fraction of a second after the Big Bang — also supports the idea that our universe is just one of many out there, some researchers say.

On Monday (March 17), scientists announced new findings that mark the first-ever direct evidence of primordial gravitational waves — ripples in space-time created just after the universe began. If the results are confirmed, they would provide smoking-gun evidence that space-time expanded at many times the speed of light just after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

The new research also lends credence to the idea of a multiverse. This theory posits that, when the universe grew exponentially in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, some parts of space-time expanded more quickly than others. This could have created “bubbles” of space-time that then developed into other universes. The known universe has its own laws of physics, while other universes could have different laws, according to the multiverse concept.

kenobi-wan-obi:

Coders, NASA Will Pay You to Help Hunt Down Asteroids

NASA is calling on coders to help in the hunt for potentially dangerous asteroids. Over the next six months, the agency will be offering a total of $35,000 in prizes in a contest series that aims to improve the way telescopes detect, track, and analyze incoming space rocks.

NASA’s Near Earth Object Observation Program already harnesses telescopes around the world to be on the lookout for asteroids the fly past our planet. But the vast volumes of data created can’t be inspected by hand. Computers are helpful, but their algorithms are estimated to be only about 80 to 90 percent reliable and could be missing thousands of objects every year. According to NASA, winning solutions in their contests will “increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computers.”

The Asteroid Data Hunter contest series, which begins on Mar. 17 and runs through August, is being run with asteroid mining company Planetary Resources. Both it and NASA have a vested interest in finding asteroids — NASA wants to send a human crew to visit one in the next decade and Planetary Resources hopes to exploit their metals and water for profit. Those interested in coding algorithms to help can sign up at the NASA Tournament Lab.

kenobi-wan-obi:

Nearly Every Star Hosts at Least One Alien Planet

The vast majority of stars in our Milky Way galaxy host planets, many of which may be capable of supporting life as we know it, a new study suggests.

Astronomers have detected eight new exoplanet candidates circling nearby red dwarf stars, which make up at least 75 percent of the galaxy’s 100 billion or so stars. Three of these worlds are just slightly bigger than Earth and orbit in the “habitable zone,” the range of distances from a parent star where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface.

The new finds imply that virtually all red dwarfs throughout the Milky Way have planets, and at least 25 percent of these stars in the sun’s own neighborhood host habitable-zone “super-Earths,” researchers said.

kenobi-wan-obi:

Population of Known Alien Planets Nearly Doubles as NASA Discovers 715 New Worlds

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has discovered more than 700 new exoplanets, nearly doubling the current number of confirmed alien worlds.

The 715 newfound planets, which scientists announced today (Feb. 26), boost the total alien-world tally to between 1,500 and 1,800, depending on which of the five main extrasolar planet discovery catalogs is used. The Kepler mission is responsible for more than half of these finds, hauling in 961 exoplanets to date, with thousands more candidates awaiting confirmation by follow-up investigations.

"This is the largest windfall of planets — not exoplanet candidates, mind you, but actually validated exoplanets — that’s ever been announced at one time," Douglas Hudgins, exoplanet exploration program scientist at NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington, told reporters today.

About 94 percent of the new alien worlds are smaller than Neptune, researchers said, further bolstering earlier Kepler observations that suggested the Milky Way galaxy abounds with rocky planets like Earth.

Most of the 715 exoplanets orbit closely to their parent stars, making them too hot to support life as we know it. But four of the worlds are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and reside in the “habitable zone,” that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces.

aamukherjee:

theatlantic:

Five-Year-Olds Can Learn Calculus

Why playing with algebraic and calculus concepts—rather than doing arithmetic drills—may be a better way to introduce children to math

Read more. [Image: Alexander F. Yuan/AP Images]

Far too much of school maths is just mindless computation. It ends up putting people off ‘studying maths’ when in reality they’re just bored of calculating (which, to be honest, is boring for everyone). Of course there does need to be a basic threshold of arithmetic ability, but this doesn’t need to become a weekly chore.

There needs to be a larger emphasis on appreciating the thinking and logic that goes into mathematical concepts. Fewer people dreading an hour of sleepy arithmetic and more people looking forward to working out something brand new!