A new way to recover almost 100 percent of the water from highly concentrated salt solutions has now been developed by researchers. The system will alleviate water shortages in arid regions and reduce concerns surrounding high salinity brine disposal, such as hydraulic fracturing waste. Science Daily Earth and Climate News
EPFL scientists have built a new type of inorganic nanocomposite that makes perovskite quantum dot exceptionally stable against air exposure, sunlight, heat, and water.
Quantum dots are nanometer-size, semiconducting materials whose tiny size gives them unique optical properties. Much effort has been put in building quantum dots from perovskites, which already show much promise for solar panels, LEDs and laser technologies. Their fundamental optoelectronic properties are also very unique and of great interest among the scientific community. However, perovskite quantum dots have huge issues with stability against air, heat, light, and water. EPFL scientists have now succeeded in building perovskite quantum dot films with a technique that helps them overcome these weaknesses. The work is published in Angewandte Chemie.
The new approach to stabilize the perovskite quantum dots was developed in the lab of Raffaella Buonsanti at EPFL Valais Wallis. The innovation of this study, developed by Anna Loiudice and PhD student Seryio Saris, lies in a technique called “atomic layer deposition” (ALD), which is commonly used to fabricate ultra-thin films with high uniformity in their structure. The idea was to use ALD to encapsulate the perovskite quantum dots with an amorphous alumina matrix, which acts as a gas and ion diffusion barrier thus making the quantum dots more robust against air, light, heat, and moisture.
The team used an array of characterization techniques to monitor the nucleation and growth process of the alumina matrix on the quantum dot surface. The process showed that the interaction between the ALD precursor and the dot surface is crucial in order to uniformly coat the dots while preserving their optoelectronic properties.
“By addressing the stability challenge of perovskite quantum dots, this work is expected to greatly impact the field by enabling fundamental optoelectronic studies, which require the samples to be stable during the measurements, in addition to increase the durability of devices based on this new class of quantum dots,” say the authors.
This work received contributions from EPFL’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Electron Microscopy. It was funded by a Horizon 2020-Marie Curie Individual Fellowship and the Swiss National Science Foundation.
In the Neotropics, there is a whole group of so-called glassfrogs that amaze with their transparent skin covering their bellies and showing their organs underneath. A recently discovered new species from Amazonian Ecuador, however, goes a step further to fully expose its heart thanks to the transparent skin stretching all over its chest as well as tummy.
The new amphibian is described by a team of scientists led by Dr. Juan M. Guayasamin, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador, in the open access journal ZooKeys.
It can also be distinguished by the relatively large dark green spots at the back of its head and the foremost part of the body. Additionally, the species has a characteristic long call.
The new frog is named Hyalinobatrachium yaku, where the species name (yaku) translates to ‘water’ in the local language Kichwa. Water and, more specifically, slow-flowing streams are crucial for the reproduction of all known glassfrogs.
The reproductive behaviour is also quite unusual in this species. Males are often reported to call from the underside of leaves and look after the egg clutches.
Having identified individuals of the new species at three localities, the researchers note some behavioural differences between the populations. Two of them, spotted in the riverine vegetation of an intact forest in Kallana, have been calling from the underside of leaves a few metres above slow-flowing, relatively narrow and shallow streams. Another frog of the species has been observed in an area covered by secondary forests in the Ecuadorian village of Ahuano. Similarly, the amphibian was found on the underside of a leaf one metre above a slow-flowing, narrow and shallow stream.
However, at the third locality — a disturbed secondary forest in San José de Payamino — the studied frogs have been perching on leaves of small shrubs, ferns, and grasses some 30 to 150 cm above the ground. Surprisingly, each of them has been at a distance greater than 30 metres from the nearest stream.
The researchers note that, given the geographic distance of approximately 110 km between the localities where the new species has been found, it is likely that the new species has a broader distribution, including areas in neighbouring Peru.
The uncertainty about its distributional range comes from a number of reasons. Firstly, the species’ tiny size of about 2 cm makes it tough to spot from underneath the leaves. Then, even if specimens of the species have been previously collected, they would be almost impossible to identify from museum collection, as many of the characteristic traits, such as the dark green marks, are getting lost after preservation. This is why the conservation status of the species has been listed as Data Deficient, according to the IUCN Red List criteria.
Nevertheless, the scientists identify the major threats to the species, including oil extraction in the region and the related water pollution, road development, habitat degradation and isolation.
“Glassfrogs presumably require continuous tracts of forest to interact with nearby populations, and roads potentially act as barriers to dispersal for transient individuals,” explain the authors.
Now that the generalized Pokémon Go craze has subsided, the more captivating effort to catch ‘em all may be game developer Niantic’s ongoing battle against cheaters. Its latest evolution: Not banning bad actors, but banishing them to poké-purgatory.
As detailed by Pokémon Go enthusiast subreddit The Silph Road, a recent Pokémon Go update targets players who use bots to trawl the globe for valuable Pokémon. In case you forgot how Pokémon Go works, a quick refresher is that it’s an artificial reality game that forces players to move around in the actual real physical world to find Pokémon and train them to fight. People who let a bot automate that process are not just cheating, but sucking the fun out of the game. As of last week, many of those lazybones found popular spawning spots populated not by high-value monsters, but by boring Pidgeys and such. In practice, it’s like hunting for lions and finding nothing but squirrels.
In a broader sense, the escalation speaks to the difficult balance developers like Niantic have to strike between controlling their games and becoming overly draconian. It probably also says something interesting about what really constitutes cheating in the digital age. But honestly, it’s mostly just hilarious.
Cat and Mews
Niantic had already taken several steps to stop the scourge of cheating on the game, including a mass ban of accounts last August. The apparent target at the time? Players who used third-party software to send spoofed GPS locations to Pokémon Go servers, giving the appearance of walking around in the real world without actually having to get off the La-Z-Boy recliner.
That purge appears to have been effective. Popular bot services like Necrobot and MyGoBot have since shut down. So, too, have popular scanner apps, like PokeSensor, which build maps of where to find nearby monsters to make acquisitions even easier.
By contrast, this latest ban doesn’t boot pokéculprits altogether, opting instead to drown them in a sea of Rattatas. The enforcement appears so far to be sporadic, but has still prompted several bot operators to log off until they figure out a way around the punitive purgatory.
“As bot accounts (which power ‘scanners’) are being flagged, some scanners are only able to show common species,” writes Silph Road moderator dronpes in a thread outlining the changes. “Others have shut down temporarily, pending a workaround to the anti-botting measures, to preserve their accounts from being shadowbanned.”
It’s not clear why Niantic has downgraded its response, though the company certainly gets kudos for trolling its misbehavers. It did, though, confirm the technique in a statement.
“People who violate the Pokémon GO Terms of Service (including by using third-party software and other cheats) may have their gameplay affected and may not be able to see all the Pokémon around them,” the company writes, declining to specify the techniques it deployed to catch cheaters. Which makes sense; as soon as the bot-runners know what triggers the shadowban, they can adjust their tactics accordingly.
As Silph Road’s dronpes notes, though, the ratcheted up security adds another wrinkle to the constant back-and-forth Niantic engages in with Pokémon Go’s dedicated ne’er-d-wells. The shadowbans appear to be administered on a rolling basis, rather than in one giant swoop, indicating that the process may be automated and, given that Niantic’s been hiring machine-learning engineers, capable of evolving along with the threats.
And though yes, it’s mostly just silly fun that Niantic has started feeding its Pokémon Go gluttons a strict sawdust diet, it’s also a reminder that while the game has faded from its initial frenzy, it’s still a very big business.
Catch ‘Em All
The decline in Pokémon Go interest became a punchline last summer, as the game’s user numbers fell off a very steep cliff. (Between August and September of last year, according to analytics company Apptopia, Pokémon Go shed nearly 20 million monthly active users.)
But the number of people overall playing Pokémon Go doesn’t matter nearly as much as the number of hardcore people who spend big money on coins and leveling up. These kind of people have kept Pokémon Go revenue remarkably high over the last several months. According to Apptopia, the game took in over $6 million in April alone. App analytics company App Annie pegs Pokémon Go‘s first-quarter haul at $40 million, and that’s after Apple and Google take their cut. It was also good enough for the sixth-highest revenue app across Google Play and the iOS App Store.
The scourge of bot-based cheaters threatens to upend those economics. Players who don’t leave the house, and in fact don’t even necessarily play the game, but let a bot do the finding and capturing for them, don’t need to make in-game purchases. They can level up without purchasing as many coins. And by artificially inflating their Pokémon stats, they can make it impossible for honest Poképlayers to compete.
Pokémon Go’s cheat problems extend beyond bots. There’s a whole world of exploitative activity that plagues the game’s dedicated fanbase, and potentially discourages new players.
Despite the adage, cheaters sometimes prosper. In the ongoing battle over Pokémon Go, though, they’re at least now stuck sorting through the pocket-monster equivalent of pennies. Hopefully that gives by-the-book players a chance, before lazy sharks bring Pokémon Go to a full stop.
SpaceX is targeting a June 1 blastoff for the firms next cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA following today’s (May 28) successful test firing of the Falcon 9 booster’s main engines on the Florida Space Coast under sunny skies.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the unmanned Dragon cargo freighter from seaside pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is slated for 5:55 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 1.
“Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete,” SpaceX confirmed via Twitter soon after completion of the test at noon today 12 p.m. EDT.
“Targeting June 1 launch from historic Pad 39A for Dragon’s next resupply mission to the @Space_Station.”
The static fire test also apparently set off a brush fire near the pad which required a response from firefighters to douse the blaze with water bucket drops from helicopters.
“#USFWS firefighters are responding to a new wildfire at Merritt Island NWR caused by a static rocket test fire #FLfire,” tweeted the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The wildfire stretched to 4 acres on Merritt Island and was successfully contained, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said.
With the launch conveniently coinciding with dinnertime, it will offer prime time viewing thrills for spectators and space enthusiasts coming from near and far.
The weather outlook for Thursday is currently promising with mostly sunny conditions but can change at a moments notice.
The Dragon resupply ship dubbed Dragon CRS-11 counts as SpaceX’s eleventh contracted commercial resupply services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station for NASA since 2012.
It is carrying almost 6,000 pounds of science research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory in support of Expedition 52 and 53 crew members. The unpressurized trunk of the spacecraft also will transport solar panels, tools for Earth-observation and equipment to study neutron stars.
Dragon CRS-11 will be the second SpaceX resupply mission to launch this year.
The prior SpaceX cargo ship launched on Feb 19, 2017 on the CRS-10 mission to the space station. It was also the first SpaceX launch of a Falcon 9 from NASA’s historic pad 39A.
Another significant milestone for this flight is that it features the first reuse of a previously launched Dragon. It previously launched on the CRS-4 resupply mission.
Sunday’s brief static fire test involved a successful hot fire ignition test of the two stage rocket and all nine first stage Merlin 1D engines Sunday afternoon while the rocket was firmly held down at the pad.
The hold down engine test is routinely conducted to confirm the readiness of the engines and rocket for flight.
The nine Merlin 1D engines generate 1.7 million pounds of thrust for approximately three seconds.
The test simulates all the conditions of flight except liftoff, and involves loading of the densified liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants into the first and second stages starting about 70 minutes prior to ignition.
The engine test was run without the Dragon cargo ship bolted on top.
The rocket was rolled out of the SpaceX processing hangar at the perimeter fence early this morning and then up the slight incline to the top of pad 39A. It was erected vertical to launch position using a dedicated transporter-erector.
With the successful completion of the static fire test, the booster will be rolled back to the big processing hangar and Dragon CRS-11 will be integrated on top.
NASA will offer live launch coverage on NASA Television and the agency’s website at beginning 5:15 p.m. on June 1.
In case of a delay for any reason, the next launch opportunity is 5:07 p.m. Saturday, June 3, with NASA TV coverage starting at 4:30 p.m.
Watch for Ken’s onsite CRS-10 mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
The post SpaceX Targets June 1 Launch of Space Station Cargo Delivery Mission for NASA appeared first on Universe Today.
You’re using strong and unique passwords. You’re on the lookout for phishing emails. And you’ve set up two-factor authentication on every account that offers it. Basically, you’re acing Personal Cybersecurity 101. But with new threats popping up all the time, you may be looking for other proactive steps you can take to protect yourself. Here’s an easy one: Clean up your digital junk.
Most people have old email accounts floating around, forgotten thumb drives in a drawer, and years-worth of crap in a downloads folder. All that stuff is a liability. Saving data that you want or that will someday come in handy is…sort of the whole point of the digital revolution, but holding on to accounts and files that you don’t actually want anymore needlessly exposes you to all sorts of risks. Your devices can be lost or stolen (or hacked) and big companies can suffer data breaches that incidentally expose your information. So the less there is out there, the better off you are.
“The physical presence of data is so small that sometimes we don’t think about it as being clutter,” says Michael Kaiser, the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “But we accumulate massive amounts of it and some of it can be harmful if it gets lost or stolen.”
Here’s some tips from the experts on how to clean that clutter before it comes back to haunt you.
Digital Dumping Ground
First, address your physical devices. Destroy old CDs, thumb drives, and external hard drives you don’t need anymore. (Don’t forget the box of floppy disks in your basement. Seriously.) Consider old PCs, gaming consoles, and smart home gadgets, and back up anything you want from those devices before wiping them.
Next, deal with your current devices. Sort through your desktop and clean out your documents folder. Eliminating old PDFs of credit card statements or medical forms that you no longer need will go a long way toward keeping you safer. And it’s a good opportunity to make a plan for sensitive documents that you do want to hold on to. You might back them up to a cloud service or a password-protected external hard drive and then take them off the devices you use every day that could be lost or stolen.
The point isn’t to part with data that is personally meaningful or useful. The goal is to pare down what you have so if your data is ever compromised hackers aren’t getting copies of your friend’s son’s leg x-rays—complete with name, birthday, and social security number—for no reason. You can still reminisce about what an impressively gnarly break it was without the responsibility of defending those files.
“When we talk about security we often talk about protecting our own things,” Kaiser says. “But in reality in the digital world we actually do sit on large amounts of information about other people, and that’s something to consider with decluttering and storing data more securely.”
In the Ether
Now, go deeper. Get into applications, Internet services, and the cloud. The most important account to consider is your email, the central data hub of your online life. Your email account would be a valuable prize for a hacker, because it could contain information about a host of other people (friends, family members, coworkers) in addition to yourself. Deleting emails you no longer need and exporting old emails you still want to the cloud or a hard drive is a smart way to reduce what would be compromised if your email was ever hacked. And don’t forget about old email accounts (ahem, Yahoo).
“Think of the information you have saved,” the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team notes. “Is there banking or credit card account information? Tax returns? Passwords? Medical or other personal data? Personal photos? Sensitive corporate information? … Depending on what kind of information an attacker can find, he or she may be able to use it maliciously.”
And as with thumb drives, you may have random files in all sorts of services that offer some free storage like Box, Google Drive, and Dropbox. Sort through what’s there and eliminate what you don’t need.
Cancel Those Accounts
Look for apps you don’t use anymore and shut them down. Are your photos backing up onto four different services for some reason? Clean that up. Do you still have an account with a messaging app you used once two years ago until your friends were like, yo, this isn’t cool anymore? Why is that calorie counting app still on your phone from 2014? Cancel and delete. That type of exposure is an unnecessary risk.
Before you delete the software, clean out and close your account with the company so it retains the smallest amount of data possible about you. Closing an account doesn’t necessarily mean that a company deletes all your data or eliminates the basic things it knows about you—data handling procedures should be laid out in an app’s terms of service—but it keeps the account from staying active and potentially continuing to collect data. For example, a fitness app that you haven’t thought about in months could be tracking your steps, heart rate, or even your whereabouts without you realizing. And if an account is deactivated, the company that manages it might still keep the data from it on record, but criminals won’t be able to figure out the credentials for the account, log in, and, say, use a credit card on file to go on a shopping spree.
And after your data spring cleaning is done, try to remember these best practices as you inevitably accumulate more digital dreck. Think twice about downloading fad apps or starting free trials. Back up what you need and then wipe the data storage on hardware as soon as you move on to something new. And when possible delete documents as soon as you’re done with them. The more understanding and control you have over your digital footprint the easier it is to defend.
I’d like to think we’re smarter than the Sun.
Let’s compare and contrast. Humans, on the one hand, have made enormous advances in science and technology, built cities, cars, computers, and phones. We have split the atom for war and for energy.
What has the Sun done? It’s a massive ball of plasma, made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. It just, kind of, sits there. Every now and then it burps up hydrogen gas into a coronal mass ejection. It’s not a stretch to say that the Sun, and all inanimate material in the Universe, isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
And yet, the Sun has mastered a form of energy that we just can’t seem to wrap our minds around: fusion. It’s really infuriating, seeing the Sun, just sitting there, effortlessly doing something our finest minds have struggled with for half a century.
Why can’t we make fusion work? How long until we can finally catch up technologically with a sphere of ionized gas?
The trick to the Sun’s ability to generate power through nuclear fusion, of course, comes from its enormous mass. The Sun contains 1.989 x 10^30 kilograms of mostly hydrogen and helium, and this mass pushes inward, creating a core heated to 15 million degrees C, with 150 times the density of water.
It’s at this core that the Sun does its work, mashing atoms of hydrogen into helium. This process of fusion is an exothermic reaction, which means that every time a new atom of helium is created, photons in the form of gamma radiation are also released.
The only thing the Sun uses this energy for is light pressure, to counteract the gravity pulling everything inward. Its photons slowly make their way up through the Sun and then they’re released into space. So wasteful.
How can we replicate this on Earth?
Now gathering together a Sun’s mass of hydrogen here on Earth is one option, but it’s really impractical. Where would we put all that hydrogen. The better solution will be to use our technology to simulate the conditions at the core of the Sun.
If we can make a fusion reactor where the temperatures and pressures are high enough for atoms of hydrogen to merge into helium, we can harness those sweet sweet photons of gamma radiation.
The main technology developed to do this is called a tokamak reactor; it’s a based on a Russian acronym for: “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”, and the first prototypes were created in the 1960s. There are many different reactors in development, but the method is essentially the same.
A vacuum chamber is filled with hydrogen fuel. Then an enormous amount of electricity is run through the chamber, heating up the hydrogen into a plasma state. They might also use lasers and other methods to get the plasma up to 150 to 300 million degrees Celsius (10 to 20 times hotter than the Sun’s core).
Superconducting magnets surround the fusion chamber, containing the plasma and keeping it away from the chamber walls, which would melt otherwise.
Once the temperatures and pressures are high enough, atoms of hydrogen are crushed together into helium just like in the Sun. This releases photons which heat up the plasma, keeping the reaction going without any addition energy input.
Excess heat reaches the chamber walls, and can be extracted to do work.
The challenge has always been that heating up the chamber and constraining the plasma uses up more energy than gets produced in the reactor. We can make fusion work, we just haven’t been able to extract surplus energy from the system… yet.
Compared to other forms of energy production, fusion should be clean and safe. The fuel source is water, and the byproduct is helium (which the world is actually starting to run out of). If there’s a problem with the reactor, it would cool down and the fusion reaction would stop.
The high energy photons released in the fusion reaction will be a problem, however. They’ll stream into the surrounding fusion reactor and make the whole thing radioactive. The fusion chamber will be deadly for about 50 years, but its rapid half-life will make it as radioactive as coal ash after 500 years.
Now you know what fusion power is and how it works, what’s the current state, and how long until fusion plants give us unlimited cheap safe power, if ever?
Fusion experiments are measured by the amount of energy they produce compared to the amount of energy you put into them. For example, if a fusion plant required 100MW of electrical energy to produce 10 MW of output, it would have an energy ratio of 0.1. You want at least a ratio of 1. That means energy in equals energy out, and so far, no experiment has ever reached that ratio. But we’re close.
The Chinese are building the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, or EAST. In 2016, engineers reported that they had run the facility for 102 seconds, achieving temperatures of 50 million C. If true, this is an enormous advancement, and puts China ahead in the race to create stable fusion. That said, this hasn’t been independently verified, and they only published a single scientific paper on the milestone.
Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany recently announced that their Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator (I love that name), heated hydrogen gas to 80 million C for only a quarter of a second. Hot but short. A stellarator works differently than a tokamak. It uses twisted rings and external magnets to confine the plasma, so it’s good to know we have more options.
The biggest, most elaborate fusion experiment going on in the world right now is in Europe, at the French research center of Cadarache. It’s called ITER, which stands for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, and it hopes to cross that magic ratio.
ITER is enormous, measuring 30 meters across and high. And its fusion chamber is so large that it should be able to create a self-sustaining fusion reaction. The energy released by the fusing hydrogen keeps the fuel hot enough to keep reacting. There will still be energy required to run the electric magnets that contain the plasma, but not to keep the plasma hot.
And if all goes well, ITER will have a ratio of 10. In other words, for every 10 MW of energy pumped in, it’ll generate 100 MW of usable power.
ITER is still under construction, and as of June 2015, the total construction costs had reached $14 billion. The facility is expected to be complete by 2021, and the first fusion tests will begin in 2025.
So, if ITER works as planned, we are now about 8 years away from positive energy output from fusion. Of course, ITER will just be an experiment, not an actual powerplant, so if it even works, an actual fusion-based energy grid will be decades after that.
At this point, I’d say we’re about a decade away from someone demonstrating that a self-sustaining fusion reaction that generates more power than it consumes is feasible. And then probably another 2 decades away from them supplying electricity to the power grid. By that point, our smug Sun will need to find a new job.
The post How Far Away is Fusion? Unlocking the Power of the Sun appeared first on Universe Today.
Collapsing stars are a rare thing to witness. And when astronomers are able to catch a star in the final phase of its evolution, it is a veritable feast for the senses. Ordinarily, this process consists of a star undergoing gravitational collapse after it has exhausted all of its fuel, and shedding its outer layers in a massive explosion (aka. a supernova). However, sometimes, stars can form black holes without the preceding massive explosion.
This process, what might be described as “going out not with a bang, but with a whimper”, is what a team of astronomers witnessed when observing N6946-BH1 – a star located in the Fireworks Galaxy (NGC 6946). Originally, astronomers thought that this star would exploded because of its significant mass. But instead, the star simply fizzled out, leaving behind a black hole.
The Fireworks Galaxy, a spiral galaxy located 22 million light-years from Earth, is so-named because supernova are known to be a frequent occurrence there. In fact, earlier this month, an amateur astronomer spotted what is now designated as SN 2017eaw. As such, three astronomers from Ohio Sate University (who are co-authors on the study) were expecting N6946-BH1 would go supernova when in 2009, it began to brighten.
However, by 2015, it appeared to have winked out. As such, the team went looking for the remnants of it with the help of colleagues from Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma. Using the combined power of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, they realized that the star had completely disappeared from sight.
The details of their research appeared in a study titled “The Search for Failed Supernovae with the Large Binocular Telescope: Confirmation of a Disappearing Star“, which recently appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Among the many galaxies they were watching for supernovas, they had their sights set on the Fireworks Galaxy to see what had become of N6946-BH1.
After it experienced a weak optical outburst in 2009, they had anticipated that this red supergiant would go supernova – which seemed logical given that it was 25 times as massive as our Sun. After winking out in 2015, they had expected to find that the star had merely dimmed, or that it had cast off a dusty shell of material that was obscuring its light from view.
Their efforts included an LBT survey for failed supernovae, which they combined with infrared spectra obtained by the Spitzer Space Telescope and optical data from Hubble. However, all the surveys turned up negative, which led them to only one possible conclusion: that N6946-BH1 must have failed to go supernova and instead went straight to forming a blackhole.
“N6946-BH1 is the only likely failed supernova that we found in the first seven years of our survey. During this period, six normal supernovae have occurred within the galaxies we’ve been monitoring, suggesting that 10 to 30 percent of massive stars die as failed supernovae. This is just the fraction that would explain the very problem that motivated us to start the survey, that is, that there are fewer observed supernovae than should be occurring if all massive stars die that way.”
A major implication of this study is the way it could shed new light on the formation of very massive black holes. For some time now, astronomers have believed that in order to form a black hole at the end of its life cycle, a star would have to be massive enough to cause a supernova. But as the team observed, it doesn’t make sense that a star would blow off its outer layers and still have enough mass left over to form a massive black hole.
As Christopher Kochanek – a professor of astronomy at The Ohio State University, the Ohio Eminent Scholar in Observational Cosmology and a co-author of the team’s study – explained:
“The typical view is that a star can form a black hole only after it goes supernova. If a star can fall short of a supernova and still make a black hole, that would help to explain why we don’t see supernovae from the most massive stars.”
This information is also important as far as the study of gravitational waves goes. In February of 2016, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the first detection of this strange phenomena, which were apparently generated by a massive black hole. If in fact massive black holes form from failed supernova, it would help astronomers to track down the sources more easily.
Be sure to check out this video of the observations made of this failed SN and black hole:
The post Star Should Have Gone Supernova, But it Imploded Into a Black Hole Instead appeared first on Universe Today.
This week saw a terrorist attack in Manchester, and reports that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is a focus of the FBI’s investigation of Russian election interference. And that’s just for starters.
In the wake of the Manchester bombing, we looked at why it’s so important to think before you tweet, since spreading images of the chaos only amplifies the terrorists’ message. The judge who sentenced Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht should have thought twice before handing down a life sentence, given a new study that shows the highly publicized punishment only increased dark web traffic.
Our up-close view of notorious hacking group APT32 shed some light on their practices. We also took a closer look at the potential downsides of 1Password’s new Travel Mode feature. It removes access to the accounts of your choosing when you cross the border, but could raise suspicions in the process. And we took a look at how Russian hackers plant fake info alongside real leaks to sow confusion, disinformation, and distrust in the press.
And there’s more. Each Saturday we round up the news stories that we didn’t break or cover in depth but that still deserve your attention. As always, click on the headlines to read the full story in each link posted. And stay safe out there.
Bug bounties, the payments tech firms offer for anyone who tells them about hackable flaws in their code, are worth every penny. Case in point: Twitter in February paid for and patched a serious flaw submitted by a friendly security researcher that would have allowed anyone to essentially tweet as anyone else, from Justin Bieber to Donald Trump. “By sharing media with a victim user and then modifying the post request with the victim’s account ID the media in question would be posted from the victim’s account,” Twitter wrote in its summary of the fix. In other words, hackers could craft a malicious tweet that would trick Twitter into displaying it to its hundreds of millions of users as if it came from someone else’s account. The cost of that fix: $7,560—certainly a lot cheaper than the cost of @realdonaldtrump declaring nuclear war in 140 characters.
The Russian hackers who breached the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t just dump their stolen goods on the web and via WikiLeaks. They also communicated directly with GOP staffers. On Thursday the Wall Street Journal reported that Florida-based Republican political operative Aaron Nevins chatted directly with Guccifer 2.0, the so-called hacktivist who US intelligence agencies and cybersecurity companies have determined was a front for Kremlin-based hacker groups. According to the Journal, Guccifer shared elements of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote strategies in key swing states, which had been stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The same hacker persona also then contacted Roger Stone, the Trump ally who later tweeted references predicting leaks from Clinton campaign staffer John Podesta.
Piracy doesn’t pay—at least not when the subtitles in that kung fu film are designed to execute malicious code on your computer. Security firm Checkpoint revealed this week that four different video players—PopcornTime, VLC, Kodi and Stremio, with more than 200 million users combined—all suffered from security flaws that allowed hackers to use subtitle files to gain unintended privileges and run commands on computers’ underlying operating systems. As of Tuesday, at least VLC, the most popular of the affected video players with 170 million users, had patched the bugs Checkpoint identified. But the incident provides another reminder that bittorrent and other filesharing methods can lead people to download and unwittingly run dangerous code on their systems.
Earlier this week, the island nation of New Zealand accomplished a historic first. On Wednesday, May 24th at 16:20 p.m. NZST – 00:20 a.m. EDT; May 23rd, 21:20 p.m. PDT – the country joined the small club of nations that have space launch capability. Taking off from a launch pad located on the Mahia Peninsula (on the North Island), the test flight was also a first for the US/NZ-based company Rocket Lab.
With the successful launch of their test rocket, Rocket Lab has become the latest aerospace firm to join a burgeoning market, where private companies are able to provide regular launch services to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). Whereas other companies like SpaceX are looking to restore domestic heavy-launch capability, companies like Rocket Lab are looking to fill a niche market which would make space more accessible.
The launch was originally pushed back to this past Wednesday, which was the fourth day in a ten-day launch window (running from May 21st to May 30th), due to bad weather. And while no spectators or media outlets were permitted to witness the event, the company recorded the launch and posted it to their website and official Twitter account (shown below).
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLabUSA) May 26, 2017
Though the rocket did not quite reach orbit, it successfully flew along the trajectory that future launches will follow. This test launch was the first of three planned, and carried sensor equipment rather than a conventional payload in order to let engineers on the ground gather data on the flight. As chief executive Peter Beck said in a statement after the rocket took off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1:
“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business.”
The rocket in question was a prototype disposable vehicle known as the Electron rocket. This two-stage rocket is composed of carbon fiber, which allows for durability and reduced weight, and is manufactured in-house. It also relies on a “plug-in payload” design that allows for the separation of the main assembly and payload integration processes.
In short, in the future, customers will be able to load the payload fairing themselves at their own facilities. This is especially useful wherever environmentally-controlled or sealed cargo is involved. They will then be able to have the second stage transported to the Rocket Lab facility for integration. This design is also intended to allow for flexibility, where the launch vehicle can be tailored to meet specific mission requirements.
The first stage of the vehicle is powered by nine Rutherford engines – an oxygen/kerosene pump-fed engine designed and built by Rocket Lab – while the second stage is powered by a single Rutherford. In addition to reducing mass, the engine is also the first oxygen/kerosene engine to make use of 3-D printed components. Each engine offers a liftoff thrust of 18 kilo Newtons, or 4000 pound-force (lbf), and a peak thrust (in vacuum) of 22 kN (41,500 lbf).
Once testing is complete, Rocket Lab intends to maintain a fleet of these rockets, which will be capable of launching payloads of between 150 and 225 kg (330 to 496 lbs) to a 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit. With these parameters in mind, Rocket Lab is clearly aiming to cater to telecommunications companies, internet providers, research institutions and universities.
In short, small satellites are a fast-growing market, but the current space launch environment can be prohibitive to small companies and researchers. As it stands, booking a space launch is a complicated matter, subject to flight schedules, the availability of cargo space, and costs that are outside of many customers’ price range. By developing rockets that are relatively cheap and can be built quickly, those looking to launch small satellite will have increased options.
“We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years. We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point,” said Beck. “We’ve developed everything in house, built the world’s first private orbital launch range, and we’ve done it with a small team.
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLabUSA) May 25, 2017
New Zealand was selected as the location of the company’s launch facility for a number of reasons. Compared to the US and other potential launch sites, New Zealand has less air traffic, which ensures that air carriers don’t need to reroute their flights during a launch. The country is also well-situated to get satellites into a north-to-south orbit around Earth, and launches take place over open water (away from population centers).
On top of that, Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck is a native of New Zealand. In the coming weeks, the company he founded will be looking over its test flight data to prepare for its second test launch, which will take place in a few months. This launch will attempt to reach orbit and maximize the payload the rocket can carry. All told, Rocket Lab has three test flights scheduled for 2017.
Once the company reaches full production, they hope to be conducting a record-setting 50 to 120 launches a year. If possible, this will significantly reduce the costs associated with small payload launches.
“We have learnt so much through this test launch and will learn even more in the weeks to come,” said Beck. “We’re committed to making space accessible and this is a phenomenal milestone in that journey. The applications doing this will open up are endless. Known applications include improved weather reporting, Internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data as well as search and rescue services.”
Rocket Lab is joined by companies like ARCA, which is seeking to lower the costs of small-payload launches through the development of single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) rockets. Their SSTO rocket concept, known as the Haas 2CA, was unveiled in March and is scheduled to begin launch testing next year.
Be sure to check out this video of the launch as well, courtesy of Rocket Lab: