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Space

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Becomes First To Orbit a Dwarf Planet 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-working-on-orbiting-an-elf-planet dept.
The Grim Reefer writes with news that at 7:39 AM EST (12:39 UTC) today, NASA's Dawn spacecraft was captured by the gravity of dwarf planet Ceres. Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned. "Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres home." In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system's main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Further details available from the Planetary Society.
Shark

Laser Takes Out Truck Engine From a Mile Away 222

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-it-needs-is-an-orbital-targeting-platform-and-we-can-make-popcorn dept.
MutualFun (1730480) writes Aerospace company Lockheed Martin has used a laser to obliterate the engine of a small truck from more than a mile away. (Finally, Star Wars is making a comeback!) The company says, "The demonstration marked the first field testing of an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype. Through a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that provides greater efficiency and lethality than multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems."
Space

How Activists Tried To Destroy GPS With Axes 230

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-johnny dept.
HughPickens.com writes Ingrid Burrington writes in The Atlantic about a little-remembered incident that occurred in 1992 when activists Keith Kjoller and Peter Lumsdaine snuck into a Rockwell International facility in Seal Beach, California and in what they called an "act of conscience" used wood-splitting axes to break into two clean rooms containing nine satellites being built for the US government. Lumsdaine took his axe to one of the satellites, hitting it over 60 times. The Brigade's target was the Navigation Satellite Timing And Ranging (NAVSTAR) Program and the Global Positioning System (GPS). Both men belonged to the Lockheed Action Collective, a protest group that staged demonstrations and blockaded the entrance at the Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. test base in Santa Cruz in 1990. They said they intentionally took axes to the $50-million Navstar Global Position System satellite to bring the public's attention to what they termed the government's attempt to control the world through modern technology. "I had to slow the deployment of this system (which) makes conventional warfare much more lethal and nuclear war winnable in the eyes of some," an emotional Kjoller told the judge before receiving an 18-month sentence. "It's something that I couldn't let go by. I tried to do what was right rather than what was convenient."

Burrington recently contacted Lumsdaine to learn more about the Brigade and Lumsdaine expresses no regrets for his actions. Even if the technology has more and more civilian uses, Lumsdaine says, GPS remains "military in its origins, military in its goals, military in its development and [is still] controlled by the military." Today, Lumsdaine views the thread connecting GPS and drones as part of a longer-term movement by military powers toward automated systems and compared today's conditions to the opening sequence of Terminator 2, where Sarah Connor laments that the survivors of Skynet's nuclear apocalypse "lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines." "I think in a general way people need to look for those psychological, spiritual, cultural, logistical, technological weak points and leverage points and push hard there," says Lumsdaine. "It is so easy for all of us as human beings to take a deep breath and step aside and not face how very serious the situation is, because it's very unpleasant to look at the effort and potential consequences of challenging the powers that be. But the only thing higher than the cost of resistance is the cost of not resisting."
Space

Hubble Discovers Quadruple Lensed Ancient Supernova 19

Posted by samzenpus
from the covering-the-angles dept.
astroengine writes Astronomer Patrick Kelly, with the University of California Berkeley, and colleagues report this week about four different routes light from an ancient supernova took to reach the Hubble telescope after being deflected around an intervening elliptical galaxy. The phenomenon is known as an Einstein cross. "Basically, we get to see the supernova four times and measure the time delays between its arrival in the different images, hopefully learning something about the supernova and the kind of star it exploded from, as well as about the gravitational lenses," Kelly said in a statement. The supernova will appear again in the next 10 years, as its light takes different paths around and through the gravitational lens.
Cloud

Red Hat Strips Down For Docker 42

Posted by timothy
from the wearing-or-not-wearing-dockers dept.
angry tapir writes Reacting to the surging popularity of the Docker virtualization technology, Red Hat has customized a version of its Linux distribution to run Docker containers. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Atomic Host strips away all the utilities residing in the stock distribution of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) that aren't needed to run Docker containers. Removing unneeded components saves on storage space, and reduces the time needed for updating and booting up. It also provides fewer potential entry points for attackers. (Product page is here.)
Mars

New Data Indicates Arctic-Ocean Sized Body of Water on Ancient Mars 57

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-brisk dept.
mdsolar writes After six years of planetary observations, scientists at NASA say they have found convincing new evidence that ancient Mars had an ocean. It was probably the size of the Arctic Ocean, larger than previously estimated, the researchers reported on Thursday. The body of water spread across the low-lying plain of the planet's northern hemisphere for millions of years, they said. If confirmed, the findings would add significantly to scientists' understanding of the planet's history and lend new weight to the view that ancient Mars had everything needed for life to emerge. Update: 03/05 22:42 GMT by T : Correction: that headline should have read "Arctic" initially, rather than Antarctic.
Displays

Developers Race To Develop VR Headsets That Won't Make Users Nauseous 153

Posted by timothy
from the or-nauseated dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nick Wingfield reports at the NYT that for the last couple of years, the companies building virtual reality headsets have begged the public for patience as they strive to create virtual environments that don't make people physically sick. "We're going to hang ourselves out there and be judged," says John Carmack, chief technology officer of Oculus, describing what he calls a "nightmare scenario" that has worried him and other Oculus executives. "People like the demo, they take it home, and they start throwing up," says Carmack. "The fear is if a really bad V.R. product comes out, it could send the industry back to the '90s." In that era, virtual reality headsets flopped, disappointing investors and consumers. "It left a huge, smoking crater in the landscape," says Carmack, who is considered an important game designer for his work on Doom and Quake. "We've had people afraid to touch V.R. for 20 years." This time around, the backing for virtual reality is of a different magnitude. Facebook paid $2 billion last year to acquire Oculus. Microsoft is developing its own headset, HoloLens, that mixes elements of virtual reality with augmented reality, a different medium that overlays virtual images on a view of the real world. Google has invested more than $500 million in Magic Leap, a company developing an augmented reality headset. "The challenge is there is so much expectation and anticipation that that could fall away quite quickly if you don't get the type of traction you had hoped," says Neil Young. (More, below.)
Biotech

NASA Ames Reproduces the Building Blocks of Life In Laboratory 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-it-yourself dept.
hypnosec writes "Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center have reproduced non-biologically the three basic components of life found in both DNA and RNA — uracil, cytosine, and thymine. For their experiment scientists deposited an ice sample containing pyrimidine — a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen — on a cold substrate in a chamber with space-like conditions such as very high vacuum, extremely low temperatures, and irradiated the sample with high-energy ultraviolet photons from a hydrogen lamp. Researchers discovered that such an arrangement produces these essential ingredients of life. "We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space," said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. "We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate conditions in outer space, can make several fundamental building blocks used by living organisms on Earth."
Space

Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the four-is-better-than-one dept.
astroengine writes "For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.
Cellphones

Microsoft Convinced That Windows 10 Will Be Its Smartphone Breakthrough 436

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-sure-this-time dept.
jfruh (300774) writes At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, handset manufacturers are making all the right noises about support for Windows 10, which will run on both ARM- and Intel-based phones and provide an experience very much like the desktop. But much of the same buzz surrounded Windows 8 and Windows 7 Phone. In fact, Microsoft has tried and repeatedly failed to take the mobile space by storm.
Space

Rosetta Photographs Its Own Shadow On Comet 67P/C-G 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
mpicpp notes an image release from the European Space Agency showing the shadow of its Rosetta probe on the comet it's currently orbiting. The probe snapped the picture from a very low flyby — only six kilometers off the surface. The image has a resolution of 11cm/pixel. The shadow is fuzzy and somewhat larger than Rosetta itself, measuring approximately 20 x 50 metres. If the Sun were a point source, the shadow would be sharp and almost exactly the same size as Rosetta (approximately 2 x 32 m). However, even at 347 million km from 67P/C-G on 14 February, the Sun appeared as a disc about 0.2 degrees across (about 2.3 times smaller than on Earth), resulting in a fuzzy “penumbra” around the spacecraft’s shadow on the surface. In this scenario and with Rosetta 6 km above the surface, the penumbra effect adds roughly 20 metres to the spacecraft’s dimensions, and which is cast onto the tilted surface of the comet.
Science

Physicists Gear Up To Catch a Gravitational Wave 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the surf's-up dept.
sciencehabit writes: A patch of woodland just north of Livingston, Louisiana, population 1893, isn't the first place you'd go looking for a breakthrough in physics. Yet it is here that physicists may fulfill perhaps the most spectacular prediction of Albert Einstein's theory of gravity, or general relativity. Structures here house the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), an ultrasensitive instrument that may soon detect ripples in space and time set off when neutron stars or black holes merge. Einstein himself predicted the existence of such gravitational waves nearly a century ago. But only now is the quest to detect them coming to a culmination. Physicists are finishing a $205 million rebuild of the detectors, known as Advanced LIGO, which should make them 10 times more sensitive and, they say, virtually ensure a detection.
Space

Astronomers Find an Old-Looking Galaxy In the Early Universe 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the diamond-in-the-old dept.
schwit1 tips news that a team of astronomers has studied one of the most distant galaxies ever observed and found puzzling results. The light we're seeing from this galaxy comes from roughly 700 million years after the Big Bang, so on the cosmic scale, it's quite young. But the galaxy appears much older than astronomers expected. Their paper was published today in Nature. At this age it would be expected to display a lack of heavier chemical elements — anything heavier than hydrogen and helium, defined in astronomy as metals. These are produced in the bellies of stars and scattered far and wide once the stars explode or otherwise perish. This process needs to be repeated for many stellar generations to produce a significant abundance of the heavier elements such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. Surprisingly, the galaxy A1689-zD1 seemed to be emitting a lot of radiation in the far infrared, indicating that it had already produced many of its stars and significant quantities of metals, and revealed that it not only contained dust, but had a dust-to-gas ratio that was similar to that of much more mature galaxies.
Space

NASA's Spitzer Team Releases Highest-resolution View of the Full Galactic Plane 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-going-to-need-a-bigger-screen dept.
StartsWithABang writes From our vantage point within the Milky Way, most of our 200-400 billion stars are obscured by the dust lanes present within. But thanks to its views in infrared light, the Spitzer Space Telescope can glimpse not only all of the stars and the dust simultaneously, it can do it at an alarming resolution. Recently, NASA has put together a 360 panorama of more than 2,000,000 Spitzer images taken from 2003-2014, and one astrophysicist has gone and stitched them together into a single, 180,000-pixel-long viewable experience that shows less than 3% of the sky, but nearly 50% of its stars.
Space

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Dual Satellite Mission 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the up-up-and-away dept.
JoeSilva writes SpaceX successfully launched two satellites towards Geosynchronous Orbit. There's already a video of one deployment. Word is the launch went very smoothly and bodes well for their next launch in three weeks, as they work to fulfill what is now a very full launch manifest. In addition Elon had one more thing to share: "Upgrades in the works to allow landing for geo missions: thrust +15%, deep cryo oxygen, upper stage tank vol +10%."
Games

Valve and HTC Reveal "Vive" SteamVR Headset 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the is-it-real? dept.
An anonymous reader writes Today Valve and HTC revealed the "Vive" SteamVR headset which is designed to compete with Oculus and others, which aim for a high-end VR experience on PC. The Vive headset uses dual 1200x1080 displays at 90Hz and a "laser position sensor" to provide positional tracking (head movement through 3D space), and also includes a pair of motion input controllers. The companies say that the Vive headset will be available to developers in Spring and receive a proper consumer launch holiday 2015, though no price has been announced.
Space

20-Year-Old Military Weather Satellite Explodes In Orbit 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-boom dept.
schwit1 writes A 20-year-old U.S. military weather satellite apparently exploded for no obvious reason. The incident has put several dozen pieces of space junk into orbit. From the article: "A 20-year-old military weather satellite apparently exploded in orbit Feb. 3 following what the U.S. Air Force described as a sudden temperature spike. The “catastrophic event” produced 43 pieces of space debris, according to Air Force Space Command, which disclosed the loss of the satellite Feb. 27 in response to questions from SpaceNews. The satellite, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13, was the oldest continuously operational satellite in the DMSP weather constellation."
ISS

Spacewalking Astronauts Finish Extensive, Tricky Cable Job 22

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-work-larry dept.
An anonymous reader writes news about a three-day cable job completed outside the International Space Station. "Spacewalking astronauts successfully completed a three-day cable job outside the International Space Station on Sunday, routing several-hundred feet of power and data lines for new crew capsules commissioned by NASA. It was the third spacewalk in just over a week for Americans Terry Virts and Butch Wilmore, and the quickest succession of spacewalks since NASA's former shuttle days. The advance work was needed for the manned spacecraft under development by Boeing and SpaceX. A pair of docking ports will fly up later this year, followed by the capsules themselves, with astronauts aboard, in 2017."
Space

One Astronomer's Quest To Reinstate Pluto As a Planet 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the emotional-investment-in-nouns dept.
sarahnaomi writes: Most of us grew up believing that tiny, distant Pluto was the outermost planet in our solar system. Then, one day, the scientific powers that be decreed that it wasn't. But it seems the matter is far from settled. David Weintraub—who describes Pluto's exile as a stunt organized by a "very small clique of Pluto-haters"—would have the dwarf world rejoin the ranks of our Solar System's fully-fledged planets today. But solid evidence that Pluto deserves the title may come in July, when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft slingshots around the icy rock and sends us back a detailed picture of its composition. Pluto's planethood was revoked by majority vote on the final day of the 2006 IAU conference. Over 2,500 astronomers attended the meeting throughout the week, but only 394 votes ultimately decided Pluto's fate: 237 in favor of demoting the planet and 157 against.
Mars

Adjusting To a Martian Day More Difficult Than Expected 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-as-bad-as-adjusting-to-a-neptunian-day dept.
schwit1 writes: Research and actual experience have found that adjusting to the slightly longer Martian day is not as easy as you would think. "If you're on Mars, or at least work by a Mars clock, you have to figure out how to put up with the exhausting challenge of those extra 40 minutes. To be exact, the Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds long, a length of day that doesn't coincide with the human body's natural rhythms. Scientists, Mars rover drivers, and everyone else in the space community call the Martian day a "sol" to differentiate it from an Earth day. While it doesn't seem like a big difference, that extra time adds up pretty quickly. It's like heading west by two time zones every three days. Call it 'rocket lag.'"