Month: December, 2017

President Trump Directs NASA To Return To The Moon, Then Aim For Mars

President Donald Trump signed his administration’s first space policy directive today (Dec. 11), which formally directs NASA to focus on returning humans to the moon.

President Trump signed the order during a ceremony in the Oval Office, surrounded by members of the recently re-established National Space Council (NSC).

As well as active NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Peggy Whitson, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and retired astronaut Jack Schmitt, who flew to the moon on the Apollo 17 mission.

The directive I’m signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” Trump said during the ceremony.

It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use.”




This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.

Space Policy Directive 1 makes official a recommendation approved by the NSC in October. Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as chairman of the NSC, also spoke at the signing.

NASA recently announced that for human astronauts, the path to Mars will include a stop at the moon, where the agency may build a facility currently being called the Deep Space Gateway.

That structure could serve as a kind of way station between the Earth and the Red Planet.

Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said he thinks the new directive could provide “a sense of urgency” to NASA’s spaceflight pursuits.

He noted that there are “a lot of people that want to help [NASA]” reach those goals, including international space partners and commercial space partners in the U.S.A.

In a separate statement, NASA officials said that the directive also officially ends NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which would have sent robotic probes and then humans to an asteroid.

The Space Policy Directive 1 will “more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans [to] the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars,” agency officials said.

Both the president and the vice president said today that NASA’s focus on its human spaceflight program will help create jobs for the country, and both men briefly mentioned the defense and military applications of the space program.

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The World’s Smallest Bottle Opener Makes A Penny Look Massive

There’s no denying that a standard bottle opener key chain is convenient to have in the moment, but the rest of the time you end up with a clunky, unwelcome addition to your keys.

Why can’t you do the same amount of work with less? Enter the Pry.Me Bottle Titanium Bottle Opener.

It doesn’t have the iconic wave shape of most key chain openers or the wide rectangular opening of larger openers.




It is just a nice looking adornment that waits in the shadows of your keys until it is needed.

Despite its small size, Pry.Me is able to hold up to 164,000 times its own weight. Two Pry.Me openers hooked together have pulled a car across a parking lot and one hooked to a tree has held a 180lb friend off of the ground.

On top of this, we are offing Pry.Me in a special finish called Orbital Grey. The finish was developed for use on the NASA solar arrays currently up in space.

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Scientists Are Slowly Unlocking The Secrets Of The Earth’s Mysterious Hum

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

— Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”

The world hums. It shivers endlessly.

It’s a low, ceaseless droning of unclear origin that rolls imperceptibly beneath our feet, impossible to hear with human ears.

A researcher once described it to HuffPost as the sound of static on an old TV, slowed down 10,000 times.

It’s comforting to think of Earth as solid and immovable, but that’s false. The world is vibrating, stretching and compressing. We’re shaking right along with it.

The earth is ringing like a bell all the time,” said Spahr Webb, a seismologist at Columbia University.

The hum is everywhere. Its ultralow frequencies have been recorded in Antarctica and Algeria, and — as announced this week by the American Geophysical Union — on the floor of the Indian Ocean.

We still don’t know what causes it.




Some have theorized that it’s the echo of colliding ocean waves, or the movements of the atmosphere, or vibrations born of sea and sky alike.

But if we could hear this music more clearly, scientists around the world say, it could reveal deep secrets about the earth beneath us, or even teach us to map out alien planets.

And the hum is getting clearer all the time.

Earth vibrates at different frequencies and amplitudes, for different reasons, and not all those vibrations are the ‘hum’. Earthquakes are like huge gong bangs.

When an enormous quake hit Japan in 2011, Webb said, the globe kept ringing for a month afterward.

People sitting on the other side of the world bounced up and down about a centimeter, though so slowly they didn’t feel a thing.

In 1998, a team of researchers analyzed data from a gravimeter in east Antarctica and realized that some of these vibrations never actually stop.

The phenomenon became popularly known as the “hum of the Earth.

Webb was one of many researchers who searched for the hum’s cause in the 21st century.

Some thought interactions between the atmosphere and solid ground caused the shaking, though he discounts the idea.

Sometimes waves sloshing in opposite directions intersect, sending vibrations deep down into Earth’s crust.

Sometimes a wave on a shallow coast somewhere ripples over the rough sea floor and adds its own frequencies to the hum.

Whatever the origin, the result is a harmony of ultralow frequencies that resonate almost identically all over the globe.

And that’s potentially invaluable to those who want to know what goes on beneath its surface, where the core spins and tectonic plates shift.

Scientists already measure how fast earthquake waves travel through different regions of the underground to make detailed subterranean maps.

The scientists collected data from seismometer stations that had been placed in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar several years ago.

These stations were meant to study volcanic hot spots nothing to do with the hum but the team worked out a method to clean the data of ocean currents, waves, glitches and other noise.

It peaked between 2.9 and 4.5 millihertz, they said — a tighter range than the first hum researchers in the 1990s had recorded.

It was also similar to measurements taken from a land-based station in Algeria.

So more evidence that the hum goes all the way around the world; and more hope that we may one day reveal all that goes on beneath it.

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NASA Reveals That Our Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Is Shaped Like A Cigar

A newly discovered object from another star system that’s passing through ours is shaped like a giant cigar with a reddish hue, astronomers have revealed.

The asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to one-quarter mile (400 meters) long and highly-elongated – perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide.

That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date.

While its elongated shape is quite surprising, and unlike asteroids seen in our solar system, it may provide new clues into how other solar systems formed.

The observations and analyses were funded in part by NASA and appear in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Nature.




They suggest this unusual object had been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system.

For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now, for the first time, we have direct evidence they exist,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own.”

Combining the images from the FORS instrument on the ESO telescope using four different filters with those of other large telescopes.

A team of astronomers led by Karen Meech of the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii found that ‘Oumuamua varies in brightness by a factor of ten as it spins on its axis every 7.3 hours.

No known asteroid or comet from our solar system varies so widely in brightness, with such a large ratio between length and width.

The most elongated objects we have seen to date are no more than three times longer than they are wide.

This unusually big variation in brightness means that the object is highly elongated: about ten times as long as it is wide, with a complex, convoluted shape,” said Meech.

These properties suggest that ‘Oumuamua is dense, comprised of rock and possibly metals, has no water or ice, and that its surface was reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over hundreds of millions of years.

Scientists are certain this asteroid or comet originated outside our solar system.

First spotted last month by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, it will stick around for another few years before departing our sun’s neighborhood.

Jewitt and his international team observed the object for five nights in late October using the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands and the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.

At approximately 100 feet by 100 feet by 600 feet, the object has proportions roughly similar to a fire extinguisher — though not nearly as red, Jewitt said.

The slightly red hue specifically pale pink and varying brightness are remarkably similar to asteroids in our own solar system, he noted.

In a paper to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the scientists report that our solar system could be packed with 10,000 such interstellar travelers at any given time.

It takes 10 years to cross our solar system, providing plenty of future viewing opportunities, the scientists said.

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World’s Heaviest Bony Fish Identified And Correctly Named

Last December 6 in Tokyo, the world’s heaviest bony fish ever caught – weighing a whopping 2,300 kilogrammes – has been identified and correctly named by Japanese experts.

The fish is a Mola alexandrini bump-head sunfish, and not a member of the more commonly known Mola mola ocean sunfish species as originally thought, according to researchers from Hiroshima University.

Bony fish have skeletons made of bone rather than cartilage, as is the case for sharks or rays.

In the study, published in the journal Ichthyological Research, researchers led by Etsuro Sawai referred to more than one thousand documents and specimens from around the world – some of which date back 500 years.

Their aim was to clarify the scientific names for the species of the genus Mola in fish.




They also solved a case of mistaken identity. The Guinness World Records lists the world’s heaviest bony fish as Mola mola, researchers said.

However, Sawai’s team found a female Mola alexandrini specimen of 2,300 kilogramme and 2.72 meter caught off the Japanese coast in 1996 as the heaviest bony fish ever recorded.

Sawai’s team re-identified it as actually being a Mola alexandrini based on its characteristic head bump, chin bump and rounded clavus although this specimen was identified Mola mola until now.

Ocean sunfishes count among the world’s largest bony fish, and have for centuries attracted interest from seafarers because of their impressive size and shape, researchers said.

Specimens can measure up to three meters (total length), and many weighing more than two thousand kilogrammes have been caught.

Instead of a caudal fin, sunfish have a broad rudder-like lobe called a clavus, they said.

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It Was A Universe-Shaking Announcement. But What Is A Neutron Star Anyway?

Last October 16, 2017, astronomers made a universe-shaking announcement about the detection of reverberations from the collision of two neutron stars.

It is another triumph for LIGO, short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, the instrument that has opened a new window into the universe by detecting shakings in the fabric of space-time known as gravitational waves.

Previously, LIGO, had detected three mergers of black holes. Scientists who helped create LIGO also just won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The new discovery sheds light on a smaller, different type of rumbling, one that can be both seen and heard. Here are answers to some questions you might have about the discovery.




What’s a neutron star?

Let’s back up a step: what’s a neutron? An atom consists of a heavy center known as the nucleus, surrounded by a cloud of tiny negatively charged electrons.

In the nucleus are two types of particles: positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons.

A neutron star, as its name suggests, is a star that consists almost entirely of neutrons.

Here’s how that neutron star formed:

For most of their existence, stars emit light through fusion the merging of hydrogen atoms into helium, which releases gargantuan amounts of energy.

When a large star probably at least six times the mass of the sun exhausts its hydrogen, it begins to collapse.

The collapse accelerates so quickly that it sets off cataclysmic explosion known as a supernova. What’s left over is an extremely dense cinder that is only about six miles wide, but packs in more mass than the sun.

The pressure is so great that electrons and protons are squeezed together into neutrons.

A single thimbleful of a neutron star weighs as much as several million elephants.

How does a neutron star differ from a black hole?

A neutron star is a stellar cinder that stopped collapsing.

But when even larger stars explode, the remaining core is so dense that the core continues collapsing until it turns into a black hole. Here’s our guide to black holes.

What happens when two neutron stars collide?

In the case of the discovery that was detailed last October 16, 2017, the merging objects were probably survivors of massive stars that had been orbiting each other and had each puffed up and then died in spectacular supernova explosions.

Making reasonable assumptions about their spins, the astronomers calculated that these neutron stars were about 1.1 and 1.6 times as massive as the sun, smack in the known range of neutron stars.

As they approached each other, swirling a thousand times a second, tidal forces bulged their surfaces outward. Quite a bit of the material was ejected and formed a fat doughnut around the merging stars.

At the moment they touched each other, a shock wave squeezed more material out of their polar regions, but the doughnut and extreme magnetic fields confined the material into an ultra-high-speed jet emitting a blitzkrieg of radiation.

That blast set off the gravitational waves detected by LIGO, as well as the light show spotted by a variety of telescopes.

What are gravitational waves?

Watch this video we made in 2016 when LIGO first detected them to learn more about these ripples in space-time that confirmed key aspects of Albert Einstein’s theories.

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How To Master Any Language On Your Next Vacation With This Application

uTalk is an app available for iPhone users and supports over 120 languages.

It offers a free introduction to all languages; from there, the basic package is $9.99, and the premium package is $15.99.

If you can swing it, premium package recommend, as it comes with an extensive phrasebook, so you’re never without a dictionary.

A huge advantage to uTalk is that it’s fully functional offline, so if you’re in an area without internet or don’t want to rack up huge data fees while away from WiFi, you can still use it to your heart’s content.

uTalk lessons are structured similarly. They are organized by topics, the majority of which are centered around real-life themes, such as going shopping or spending a day at the beach.

These topics are especially useful for those who are in a foreign country for business or vacation, as they deal with things that travelers frequently encounter.




uTalk also includes lessons on basic features of language, such as the alphabet and numbers.

As mentioned above, premium users are armed with an extensive phrasebook, which can be of great utility when you see a sign with a word you don’t recognize.

The most favorite use of the phrasebook was in conjunction with reading foreign-language books: simply read at your leisure, and when you encounter a word you don’t know, quickly look it up in the phrasebook.

Though the lessons cover useful topics, they don’t seem to be organized in any meaningful way, which means they should be viewed as standalone lessons rather than part of a sequence.

In the future, we’d like to see a bit more structure regarding the order of the lessons (e.g., learning basic numbers before asking for directions).

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Which Came First, The Lizard Or The Egg?

Evolution has been caught in the act, according to scientists who are decoding how a species of Australian lizard is abandoning egg-laying in favor of live birth.

Along the warm coastal lowlands of New South Wales, the yellow-bellied three-toed skink lays eggs to reproduce.

But individuals of the same species living in the state’s higher, colder mountains are almost all giving birth to live young.

Only two other modern reptiles—another skink species and a European lizard—use both types of reproduction.

Evolutionary records shows that nearly a hundred reptile lineages have independently made the transition from egg-laying to live birth in the past, and today about 20 percent of all living snakes and lizards give birth to live young only.

But modern reptiles that have live young provide only a single snapshot on a long evolutionary time line, said study co-author James Stewart, a biologist at East Tennessee State University.




The dual behavior of the yellow-bellied three-toed skink therefore offers scientists a rare opportunity.

One of the mysteries of how reptiles switch from eggs to live babies is how the young get their nourishment before birth.

In mammals a highly specialized placenta connects the fetus to the uterus wall, allowing the baby to take up oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood and pass back waste.

In egg-laying species, the embryo gets nourishment from the yolk, but calcium absorbed from the porous shell is also an important nutrient source.

Some fish and reptiles, meanwhile, use a mix of both birthing styles. The mother forms eggs, but then retains them inside her body until the very last stages of embryonic development.

The shells of these eggs thin dramatically so that the embryos can breathe, until live babies are born covered with only thin membranes—all that remains of the shells.

This adaptation presents a potential nourishment problem: A thinner shell has less calcium, which could cause deficiencies for the young reptiles.

Stewart and colleagues, who have studied skinks for years, decided to look for clues to the nutrient problem in the structure and chemistry of the yellow-bellied three-toed skink’s uterus.

Both birthing styles come with evolutionary tradeoffs: Eggs are more vulnerable to external threats, such as extreme weather and predators, but internal fetuses can be more taxing for the mother.

For the skinks, moms in balmier climates may opt to conserve their own bodies’ resources by depositing eggs on the ground for the final week or so of development.

Moms in harsh mountain climates, by contrast, might find that it’s more efficient to protect their young by keeping them longer inside their bodies.

In general, the results suggest the move from egg-laying to live birth in reptiles is fairly common—at least in historic terms—because it’s relatively easy to make the switch, Stewart said.

We tend to think of this as a very complex transition,” he said, “but it’s looking like it might be much simpler in some cases than we thought.

The skink-evolution research was published online August 16 by the Journal of Morphology.

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Mystery Of The Zombie Star That Won’t Die

A brightly burning ‘zombie‘ supernova that refuses to die has left astronomers baffled.

The star, which lies half a billion light years away, has exploded numerous times since 1954.

This has stumped astronomers as supernovas are generally considered to explode just once and standard theoretical models cannot explain its behaviour.

Researchers at Las Cumbres Observatory in Goleta, California, have been studying the phenomenon, which was first observed in 2014 by the Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory telescope near San Diego.

In January 2015 the event, known as iPTF14hls, was classified as a type II-P supernova, which results from the rapid collapse and violent explosion of a single massive star.




This type of supernova gives off a distinctive flash and tend to stay bright for around 100 days and supernovae lasting more than 130 days are extremely rare.

But iPTF14hls remained bright for almost two years (600 days), with the brightness of the light it emitted varying by up to 50 per cent over this time, as if it were exploding over and over again.

The evolution of the event also seems to be taking place roughly ten times slower than others of its type.

Adding to the puzzle, telescope imagery uncovered by the team suggests explosions may have taken place at the same location in 1954.

Supernovae are known to explode only once, shine for a few months and then fade, but iPTF14hls experienced at least two explosions, 60 years apart.

Writing in an opinion piece for the journal Nature, Stan Woosley, a professor of astronomy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said of the findings.

As of now, no detailed model has been published that can explain the observed emission and constant temperature of iPTF14hls, let alone the possible eruption 60 years before the supernova.

“A better understanding could provide insight into the evolution of the most massive stars, the production of the brightest supernovae and possibly the birth of black holes that have masses near 40 solar masses, such as those associated with the first direct detection of gravitational waves.”

“For now, the supernova offers astronomers their greatest thrill: something they do not understand.”

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