India’s Glowing Border Is Visible From Space

THANKS TO NEARLY 1,200 MILES OF FLOODLIGHTS

Published on www.newser.com

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2015 4:18 PM CDT

(NEWSER) – An astronaut above the International Space Station has captured a stunning image of what NASArefers to as “one of the few places on Earth where an international boundary can be seen at night.” The Sept. 23 image shows the glowing, snaking border between India and Pakistan, visible because of the Indian floodlights that dot much of the way. The Wall Street Journal notes two other such borders: the boundary lines between the Koreas and between South Africa and Zimbabwe. In those cases, a dearth of electric lights on one side makes clear the difference. The India and Pakistan boundary is visible because of lights that wind their way through nearly 1,200 miles (the full border is about 2,000 miles long). Their intended purpose is to discourage militants from crossing from Pakistan into the part of Kashmir controlled by India, per the Journal.

The Economic Times in March reported that due to the huge cost of lighting the border—owing to the electricity used and the diesel generators stationed there as back-up—the country intends to replace the floodlights with LED bulbs in the coming years. A pilot program along the border in Punjab will test out the LED bulbs, which can have 50 times the lifespan of regular ones. A neat note from NASA regarding distances, time, and progress: It points out that in 327 BC Alexander the Great traveled through the Indus River valley, which is identified in the image. He entered from the northwest and exited near Karachi, at which point he headed back to what is now Iraq. The journey took him “many months”; the ISS covers the same distance in three minutes. (See an incredible picture of the moon that NASA recently captured.)

The stunning image. The India-Pakistan boundary appears as a glowing line in a photo taken from the International Space Station on Sept. 23, 2015.
(NASA)

Welcome to the dark side: Comet’s hidden face emerges

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    Comet 67P’s “dark side,” its southern polar region, as imaged by Rosetta’s Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System. This region, in shadow for 5.5 years, has only recently been touched by sunlight. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team)

For a long five and a half years, Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s southern side has been shrouded by darkness. Now, it’s coming into the light, and new microwave images, taken before the big reveal, suggest that the comet’s “dark side” may have a very unusual composition.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe has been orbiting and investigating Comet 67P since August 2014 with the help of its Philae comet lander. The probe pulled together the most detailed portrait ever of a comet, but had one particular blind spot: the comet’s southern side, which is dark for over 5.5 years before a brief, searing-hot year in the light during the comet’s closest approach to the sun. Until that time, only Rosetta’s microwave instrument, MIRO, could make any sense of the blackness.

“We observed the ‘dark side’ of the comet with MIRO on many occasions after Rosetta’s arrival at 67P/C-G, and these unique data are telling us something very intriguing about the material just below its surface,” Mathieu Choukroun, lead author of the new study and researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said in a statement. [Spectacular Comet Photos from Rosetta]

The group investigated data from that region from August to October 2014, and found evidence suggesting a large amount of ice had built up. MIRO’s measurements indicated that material very near the surface is transparent, probably consisting of water ice or carbon-dioxide ice. This is very different from the dusty surface elsewhere on the comet.

Potentially, the researchers said in the statement, the water and gases were released when the comet’s south pole last saw sunlight, while the comet was closest to the sun. That material then condensed and coated the surface when the area plunged back into darkness. But there’s no way to know exactly how that occurred until that region’s shape is understood better, the researchers said.

“We plan to revisit the MIRO data using an updated version of the shape model, to verify these early results and refine the interpretation of the measurements,” Choukroun said.

Luckily, there isn’t long to wait: Data collected from May 2015 to early 2016 will reveal the full dark side at last. Once all Rosetta’s instruments have been focused on that part of the comet, the whole story should be clearer.

Matt Taylor, Rosetta’s project scientist, said in the statement that the probe has flown over the southern region several times since the area’s summer began, especially around the time the comet was closest to the sun, Aug. 13 — which iswhen the comet shows the most activity.

“First, we observed these dark regions with MIRO, the only instrument able to do so at the time, and we tried to interpret these unique data,” Taylor said. “Now, as these regions became warmer and brighter around perihelion, we can observe them with other instruments, too.”

“We hope that by combining data from all these instruments, we will be able to confirm whether or not the [comet’s] south pole had a different composition and whether or not it is changing seasonally,” added Mark Hofstadter, MIRO’s principal investigator.

The new research was recently accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

 

Originally available here

Lockheed Martin just cleared a key hurdle in the construction of its futuristic ‘Space Fence’

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 (Lockheed Martin)

After a rigorous three-day demonstration and testing review, the United States Air Force just officially signed off on Lockheed Martin’s revolutionary space debris surveillance system, the Space Fence. Announced Sept. 28 via a press release, the company’s Critical Design Review victory now allows it to begin construction of the $914 million sensor located just over 2,100 miles southwest of Honolulu on Kwajalein Island. Once construction completes, the Space Fence will then allow the Air Force to more accurately detect and track the millions of objects currently orbiting Earth. If you’ve ever taken a gander at what this debris field looks like, it’s absolutely staggering.

The culmination of a contract previously won by Lockheed Martin in June of 2014, the Space Fence surveillance system has been on the Department of Defense’s radar for some time. In light of the increasing amount of orbiting space junk and debris, the DOD has long desired a way to distinguish what exactly exists within the near-Earth space environment. Lockheed’s initial proposal, an S-band phased-array radar system, particularly piqued the interest of the U.S. government due to its estimated ability to track baseball-sized objects nearly 2,000 miles away.

With 21,000 pages of design documents, an extensive eight-day Design Walkthrough, and now a three-day Critical Design Review in the rear view for Lockheed, equipment and facility production should commence soon. Early estimates indicate the Space Fence to be somewhat operational by as soon as 2018, with full-scale operation expected around 2022.

Related: NASA says a simple greenhouse will allow astronauts to grow food on Mars

“Completion of CDR marks the end of the design phase and the start of radar production and facility construction of the Space Fence system,” says Steve Bruce, vice president for Advanced Systems at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training company. “Once complete, Space Fence will deliver revolutionary capability to the U.S. Air Force with a flexible system capable of adapting to future missions requiring new tracking and coverage approaches.”

Despite the U.S. Air Force signing off on the Space Fence, Lockheed faces an uphill battle in successfully getting the system up and running. Not only is Kwajalein Island located in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, the built facilities need to boast an infrastructure capable of tolerating high winds and possible seismic activity, all while remaining accurate during operation.

However, with nearly a billion dollars at its disposal for the project (and likely more, because who has ever completed a job for exactly what they quoted?) there should be little doubt Lockheed possesses the engineering know-how and resources required to get the job done.

Originally available here

Oddly gigantic supermassive black hole puzzles scientists

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An artist’s illustration shows a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun at the center, surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole in what is termed an accretion disk in this NASA illustration released on Feb. 27, 2013. (REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout)

The supermassive black hole at the heart of a recently discovered galaxy is much larger than it should be, and astronomers don’t know why.

The galaxy, known as SAGE0536AGN, lies about 2 billion light-years from Earth and contains roughly 25 billion times the mass of the sun. Galaxies of this size typically harbor central black holes with the equivalent of 12 million solar masses or so, but SAGE0536AGN’s is about 30 times that heavy, weighing in at 350 million solar masses, a new study reports.

“Galaxies have a vast mass, and so do the black holes in their cores,” lead author Jacco van Loon, an astrophysicist at Keele University in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. “This one, though, is really too big for its boots — it simply shouldn’t be possible for it to be so large.”

Supermassive black holes and their host galaxies generally grow in concert, but the SAGE0536AGN system isn’t playing by that rule. The central black hole may have grown much faster than the galaxy, or perhaps the galaxy stopped growing early on for some reason while the black hole kept gobbling up material, researchers said.

“Time will tell whether SAGE0536AGN really is an oddball, or simply the first in a new class of galaxies,” officials with the Royal Astronomical Society said in the same statement.

SAGE0536AGN was discovered in 2011 by researchers analyzing data gathered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Researchers think the galaxy is at least 9 billion years old.

Van Loon and co-author Anne Sansom, of the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom, studied SAGE0536AGN using the Southern African Large Telescope. The duo measured how fast gas is swirling around the supermassive black hole by noting how hydrogen emissions were shifted by the Doppler effect — the same phenomenon that explains why an ambulance siren sounds relatively high-pitched when it’s approaching an observer, and lower-pitched when it’s driving away.

The speed of the gas is determined by the black hole’s mass, so the researchers were then able to calculate that SAGE0536AGN’s behemoth is as heavy as 350 million suns.

That’s pretty big, but it’s by no means a record-setter. Some supermassive black holes at the hearts of galaxies contain billions of solar masses.

The new study was published online this month in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

 

 

Originally available here

Mars has flowing liquid water, NASA confirms

NASA confirms evidence that liquid water flows on Mars

NASA has confirmed the existence of flowing liquid salty water on Mars, fueling the possibility of life on the Red Planet.

“Today, we’re revolutionizing our understanding of the planet,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, during a press conference Monday. “Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past – under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars.”

Related: Supermoon lunar eclipse in pictures

Speculation has been mounting that NASA’s announcement would involve flowing water. Scientists have long known that there is frozen water at Mars’ poles, but they have never discovered liquid water. The discovery could have huge consequences for future expeditions, including NASA’s goal of sending a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s.

Scientists have based their findings on an analysis of the mysterious dark streaks on Mars’ surface called Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL). The streaks have intrigued scientists for some time, fading during cooler months and recurring annually at nearly the same locations. “The dark streaks form in late spring, grow through the summer and disappear by the fall,” explained Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters.

Using an an imaging spectrometer on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Obiter (MRO), scientists detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where the streaks occur. Experts believe that the hydrated salts are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate.

Mary Beth Wilhelm of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. and the Georgia Institute of Technology said the evidence of salty water could have major implications. “Our results may point to more habitable conditions on the near surface of Mars than formerly thought,” she said.

“This is tremendously exciting,” added Green. “We now have a great opportunity to be in the right locations to investigate that.”

Related: NASA releases stunning image of a supernova’s remnants

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide, according to NASA. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Armed with the latest RSL findings, scientists are keen to undertake more research over the coming years. “The only way that we will be able to tell if there is life on Mars will be to bring a sample back,” said Meyer.

Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, a non-profit organization that aims to advance the goal of sending humans to Mars within the next two decades, welcomed Monday’s NASA announcement. “We’ve been speculating about whether there is liquid water on Mars for some time, but now that it has been confirmed, it might have some significant implications,” he told FoxNews.com. “First, it greatly enhances the chances of past or present life on Mars.  Everywhere there is liquid water on  earth, there is life. Is that true on Mars? We don’t know.”

Carberry added that water on Mars could also benefit future explorers. “If they can access the water, it will add significantly to the sustainability of human presence on Mars,” he said.

Mars has flowing liquid water, NASA confirms

092815_nasa_presser_1280

NASA has confirmed the existence of flowing liquid salty water on Mars, fueling the possibility of life on the Red Planet.

“Today, we’re revolutionizing our understanding of the planet,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, during a press conference Monday. “Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past – under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars.”

Related: Supermoon lunar eclipse in pictures

Speculation has been mounting that NASA’s announcement would involve flowing water. Scientists have long known that there is frozen water at Mars’ poles, but they have never discovered liquid water. The discovery could have huge consequences for future expeditions, including NASA’s goal of sending a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s.

Scientists have based their findings on an analysis of the mysterious dark streaks on Mars’ surface called Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL). The streaks have intrigued scientists for some time, fading during cooler months and recurring annually at nearly the same locations. “The dark streaks form in late spring, grow through the summer and disappear by the fall,” explained Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters.

Using an an imaging spectrometer on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Obiter (MRO), scientists detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where the streaks occur. Experts believe that the hydrated salts are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate.

Mary Beth Wilhelm of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. and the Georgia Institute of Technology said the evidence of salty water could have major implications. “Our results may point to more habitable conditions on the near surface of Mars than formerly thought,” she said.

“This is tremendously exciting,” added Green. “We now have a great opportunity to be in the right locations to investigate that.”

Related: NASA releases stunning image of a supernova’s remnants

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide, according to NASA. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Armed with the latest RSL findings, scientists are keen to undertake more research over the coming years. “The only way that we will be able to tell if there is life on Mars will be to bring a sample back,” said Meyer.

Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, a non-profit organization that aims to advance the goal of sending humans to Mars within the next two decades, welcomed Monday’s NASA announcement. “We’ve been speculating about whether there is liquid water on Mars for some time, but now that it has been confirmed, it might have some significant implications,” he told FoxNews.com. “First, it greatly enhances the chances of past or present life on Mars.  Everywhere there is liquid water on  earth, there is life. Is that true on Mars? We don’t know.”

Carberry added that water on Mars could also benefit future explorers. “If they can access the water, it will add significantly to the sustainability of human presence on Mars,” he said.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

 

Originally available here

NASA releases stunning image of a supernova’s remnants

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Veil Nebula. (NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team)

NASA has released a stunning image of the remnants of a supernova taken by the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The image reveals a small section of the expanding remains of a massive starthat exploded about 8,000 years ago, according to the space agency. “Called the Veil Nebula, the debris is one of the best-known supernova remnants, deriving its name from its delicate, draped filamentary structures,” it said, in a statement. “The entire nebula is 110 light-years across, covering six full moons on the sky as seen from Earth, and resides about 2,100 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.”

Related: What you need to know about Sunday’s rare supermoon eclipse

The view is made up of six Hubble pictures of an area roughly two light-years across.

“This close-up look unveils wisps of gas, which are all that remain of what was once a star 20 times more massive than our sun,” said NASA. “The fast-moving blast wave from the ancient explosion is plowing into a wall of cool, denser interstellar gas, emitting light. The nebula lies along the edge of a large bubble of low-density gas that was blown into space by the dying star prior to its self-detonation.”

Related: The best of Hubble: NASA marks telescope’s 25th anniversary

NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope on April 24 1990 aboard the shuttle Discovery. The agency partners with the European Space Agency on the project, with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland managing the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, which is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, conducts Hubble science operations.

Originally available here

Sunday’s rare supermoon eclipse: What you need to know

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Stargazers are in for a treat Sunday when a supermoon combines with a lunar eclipse for the first time since 1982.

The supermoon eclipse will last 1 hour and 11 minutes, and will be visible to North and South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific, according to NASA. Weather permitting, the supermoon will be visible after nightfall, and the eclipse will cast it into shadow beginning at 8:11 p.m. ET. The total eclipse starts at 10:11 p.m. ET, peaking at 10:47 p.m. ET.

A rare phenomenon, there have only been five supermoon eclipses since 1900 (in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982). After Sunday, the next supermoon eclipse will occur in 2033.

A supermoon occurs when a new or full moon is at its closest to the Earth. “Because the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle, the moon is sometimes closer to the Earth than at other times during its orbit,” said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement. “When the moon is farthest away it’s known as apogee, and when it’s closest it’s known as perigee. On Sept. 27, we’re going to have a perigee full moon—the closest full moon of the year.”

Related: Supermoon lunar eclipse: How science explains the epic night sky event

The space agency explains that, at perigee, the moon is about 31,000 miles closer to Earth than at apogee. This proximity makes the moon appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter in the sky than an apogee full moon, hence the term “supermoon.”

Sunday’s eclipse, however, poses a challenge for the space agency’s solar-powered Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been orbiting the moon for over 6 years. “LRO is not designed to operate during eclipses,” Petro told FoxNews.com, noting that NASA has a plan in place for Sunday’s eclipse. “We heat the spacecraft up because it gets very cold during the eclipse, we also turn off all the instruments except for one,” he explained.

The sole LRO instrument that will remain operational is the spacecraft’s Diviner, a radiometer that measures reflected energy off the surface of the moon.

“This is a long eclipse – we have been through one that was a bit longer than that, so we have that experience,” said Petro.

With LRO in orbit behind the moon on Sunday, the spacecraft will be out of sunlight for a little over three hours. “That’s essentially as long as we have been through before,” said Petro. “Our primary objective is to keep the spacecraft safe – we’re extremely confident.”

Lunar eclipses have long been a source of fascination.

“Throughout human history, lunar eclipses have been viewed with awe and sometimes fear,” explained NASA, in a statement. “Today, we know that a total lunar eclipse happens when the full moon passes through the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, the umbra.”

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Originally available here

Stunning 7-mile scale model of the solar system created in Nevada

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 (Vimeo video screenshot of the “To Scale: The Solar System” film by Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh.)

A group of friends has created a stunning 7-mile scale model of the solar system on a dry lakebed in Nevada.

“The only way to see a scale model of the solar system was to build one,” explained science film-maker, noting the vast distances between planets. The visually striking project is documented in “To Scale: The Solar System” a 7-minute short film by Overstreet and Alex Gorosh.

Related: NASA releases dramatic new Pluto images

In the scale model Mercury, Venus and Earth are, respectively, 224 feet, 447 feet and 579 feet away from the Sun. Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus are, respectively, 0.57 miles, 1.1 miles and 2.1 miles from the fiery orb with Neptune 3.5 miles away, right on the edge of the solar system.

In reality, Neptune is around 2.8 billion miles from the Sun.

The group used cars to trace the planets’ orbits. Time lapse shots were taken from the top of a nearby mountain, creating a striking representation of the vast solar system.

Originally available here

NASA releases dramatic new Pluto images

 

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Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

NASA has released more stunning images from New Horizons’ historic flyby of Pluto, which show icy mountains, fog, and the dwarf planet’s landscape dramatically backlit by the sun.

The images, released Thursday, were taken on July 14 and downlinked to Earth on Sept. 13.

Related: New Horizons spacecraft makes historic Pluto flyby

NASA released the first images from New Horizons’ Pluto flyby in July. The spacecraft began its yearlong download of new images and other data over the Labor Day weekend.

Related: NASA releases first Pluto flyby images

Thanks to favorable backlighting and high resolution, an image taken by New Horizons’ Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) also reveals new details of hazes throughout Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere. The image shows more than a dozen thin haze layers extending from near the ground to at least 60 miles above the dwarf planet’s surface, according to NASA.

“In addition to being visually stunning, these low-lying hazes hint at the weather changing from day to day on Pluto, just like it does here on Earth,” said Will Grundy, lead of the New Horizons Composition team from Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Ariz., in a statement released by NASA.

Earlier this month NASA released images showing Pluto’s stunning range of surface features, from heavily cratered terrain to icy plains.

Launched in 2006, New Horizons passed by Jupiter in 2007 on its journey to Pluto. The fastest spacecraft ever, the probe traveled at 30,000 mph on its epic trip.

 

originally available here