Category: News Posts

Exoplanet Shines With Glowing Water Atmosphere

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An international team of researchers, led by the University of Exeter with contributions from the University of Maryland, made the new discovery by observing glowing water molecules in WASP-121b’s atmosphere using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Previous research spanning the past decade has indicated possible evidence for stratospheres on other exoplanets, but this is the first time that glowing water molecules have been detected – the clearest signal yet to indicate an exoplanet stratosphere.




To study the gas giant’s stratosphere, scientists used spectroscopy to analyze how the planet’s brightness changed at different wavelengths of light.

Water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere, for example, behaves in predictable ways in response to certain wavelengths of light, depending on the temperature of the water.

At cooler temperatures, water vapor blocks light from beneath it. But at higher temperatures, the water molecules glow.

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The phenomenon is similar to what happens with fireworks, which get their colors when metallic substances are heated and vaporized, moving their electrons into higher energy states.

Depending on the material, these electrons will emit light at specific wavelengths as they lose energy. For example, sodium produces orange-yellow light and strontium produces red light.

The water molecules in the atmosphere of WASP-121b similarly give off radiation as they lose energy, but it is in the form of infrared light, which the human eye is unable to detect.

The exoplanet orbits its host star every 1.3 days, and the two bodies are about as close as they can be to each other without the star’s gravity ripping the planet apart.

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This close proximity also means that the top of the atmosphere is heated to a blazing hot 2,500 degrees Celsius — the temperature at which iron exists in gas rather than solid form.

In Earth’s stratosphere, ozone traps ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which raises the temperature of this layer of atmosphere.

Other solar system bodies have stratospheres, too – methane is responsible for heating in the stratospheres of Jupiter and Saturn’s moon Titan, for example.

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In solar system planets, the change in temperature within a stratosphere is typically less than 100 degrees Celsius. However, on WASP-121b, the temperature in the stratosphere rises by 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Vanadium oxide and titanium oxide gases are candidate heat sources, as they strongly absorb starlight at visible wavelengths, much like ozone absorbs UV radiation.

These compounds are expected to be present in only the hottest of hot Jupiter, such as WASP-121b, as high temperatures are required to keep them in the gaseous state.

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Indeed, vanadium oxide and titanium oxide are commonly seen in brown dwarfs, ‘failed stars’ that have some commonalities with exoplanets.

NASA’s forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to follow up on the atmospheres of planets like WASP-121b with higher sensitivity than any telescope currently in space.

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Green Flash: Sunset Phenomenon

green-flash

A green flash, which occurs more commonly at sunset but can also occur at sunrise is a phenomenon in which part of the sun can be observed suddenly and briefly changing color.

It usually lasts only a second or two which is why it is referred a flash as the sun changes from red or orange at sunset, for example.

The green flash is viewable because refraction bends the light of the sun. The atmosphere acts as a weak prism, which separates light into various colors.




When the sun’s disk is fully visible above the horizon, the different colors of light rays overlap to an extent where each individual color can’t be seen by the naked eye.

As the sun sinks into the Pacific, its last light seems to glow green. This “green flash,” caused by light refracting in the atmosphere, is rarely seen.

But Nigella Hillgarth, the director of the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, got lucky one night.

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I often work late and have developed the habit of taking photos of the incredible sunsets over the Pacific from the Aquarium,” Hillgarth said.

One evening, I was snapping away and caught the green flash as it appeared. I was hoping for a green flash, but was very excited when one actually happened and I caught it!

When the sun starts to dip below the horizon the colors of the spectrum disappear one at a time, starting with those with the longest wavelengths to those with the shortest. At sunrise, the process is reversed, and a green flash may occur as the top of the sun peeks above the horizon.

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It is a primarily a green flash because more green light gets through and therefore is more clearly seen.

Sometimes, when the air is especially clear, enough of the blue or violet light rays make it through the atmosphere, causing a blue flash to be visible. However, green is the most common hue reported and captured in photos.

Most green flashes fall into two categories: inferior mirage flashes and mock mirage flashes.

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Inferior mirage flashes, which accounts for about two-thirds of all green flash sightings, are oval and flat and occur close to sea level and when the surface is warmer than the air above.

Mock mirage flashes occur higher up in the sky and when conditions on the surface are colder than the air above. The flashes appear to be thin, pointy strips being sliced from the sun.

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Attached To Technology And Paying A Price

When one of the most important e-mail messages of his life landed in his in-box a few years ago, Kord Campbell overlooked it.

Not just for a day or two, but 12 days. He finally saw it while sifting through old messages: a big company wanted to buy his Internet start-up.

I stood up from my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s kind of hard to miss an e-mail like that, but I did.

The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing.

While he managed to salvage the $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor, Mr. Campbell continues to struggle with the effects of the deluge of data.

Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.




His wife, Brenda, complains, “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.”

This is your brain on computers.

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks.

And for millions of people like Mr. Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.

While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise.

Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.

And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.

The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists.

She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess.

Technology use can benefit the brain in some ways, researchers say. Imaging studies show the brains of Internet users become more efficient at finding information. And players of some video games develop better visual acuity.

More broadly, cellphones and computers have transformed life. They let people escape their cubicles and work anywhere. They shrink distances and handle countless mundane tasks, freeing up time for more exciting pursuits.

For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as e-mail and TV, has exploded. In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960.

And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.

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Trump’s Space Force Logos Are Just As Dumb As Space Force, According Professional Designers

According to astronaut Mark Kelly and plenty of other experts, Donald Trump’s Space Force is, simply put, a pretty dumb idea.

Nonetheless, last night the president’s reelection campaign released a slew of possible Space Force logos–and they’re right in line with the stupefyingly bad design Trump’s team is known for.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence announced the Space Force concept last June, proposing a new branch of the military that will be aimed at space.

We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said at the time. The idea was met with widespread derision from Kelly and others, for several reasons.

The United States already has a Space Command. It’s been around since 1982. Space defense is also one of the U.S.




Air Force’s core missions, which currently involves monitoring space from natural and third-country threats, protecting military satellites, and foiling Mulder and Scully’s efforts to unveil an alien conspiracy to take over Earth.

Before we get to the logos, let’s take a moment to breathe, because these logos aren’t official in any way. They weren’t created by anyone at the Pentagon, NASA, or any other federal agency.

They were created by the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign PAC. And, as Parscale notes, they’re going to be used to “commemorate” the Space Force with a new “line of gear.”

In other words, this is for merch. Still, let’s take a look.

The first logo is a blatant copy of the current NASA logo, aka the “meatball,” which was designed by NASA employee James Modarelli, in 1959.

The Trump knockoff replaces the classic mid-century typeface with an anachronistic 1980s font, which itself bastardizes the beautiful NASA Worm logo, from 1975.

Meanwhile, the swoop is now an inexplicable shade of mustard, and space itself is now a red state. I guess it’ll match the MAGA hats?

The second logo returns to dark blue, eliminating the delta wing but retaining the white orbital line and some of the “stars” of the NASA logo.

It features a strangely stylized 1940s novella version of a rocket, its powerful engine fumes symbolized by . . . an inverted “flammable” icon. An oddly kerned, Art Deco-tinged typeface completes this atrocity.

Here we have what looks like a poor misrepresentation of the retired space shuttle trying to escape the deadly embrace of a red space snake. Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Perhaps the most absurd aspect of this project is the fact that the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign is asking people to choose a logo for a military branch that doesn’t exist, and probably never will.

Even if Space Force–and the further needless spending on the military-aerospace-industrial complex it would enable–is realized, its identity will be developed according to the Pentagon’s standard government-contracting processes.

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From Samurai Swords To Impressive, Handmade Kitchen Knives.

If you do a bit of kitchen knife research, you will soon discover a recurring theme, as well as some odd advice. The recurring theme is that the three key knives everyone must own are a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.

The odd advice is after those three, what you choose to add to your collection is personal. As someone whose job it is to definitively point people toward the best next thing, this “personal choice” business is disconcerting. Also, it’s true.




The two offerings from Kikuichi Cutlery are a Japanese take on a Western-style chef’s knife known as a gyuto, and a six-inch bunka which resembles a santoku with a more aggressive snout.

First, they’re beautiful. The Shun had an elegant a shimmering blade and a black handle made of resin and hardwood, while the Kikuichis had such a stunning simplicity that they clearly meant business.

 

The latter, made by a team of elderly expert blade smiths known as the “young knife makers” association’ in Japan’s Sakai City, were sure to be special.

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First Study Shows That Cannabis Could Help Treat Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Which Affect Millions

Chemicals in cannabis can mimic the signals the body uses to regulate inflammation in the gut and could help treat serious chronic bowel conditions like Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis, scientists have said.

Research from the University of Bath said the findings could help explain why some patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) report medical marijuana can help their symptoms.

The trials are only in mice at this stage, but could lead to new drug targets for disorders which affect millions of people around the world.

Professor Randy Mrsny, from the University of Bath’s Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, said: “We need to be clear that while this is a plausible explanation for why marijuana users have reported cannabis relieves symptoms of IBD, we have only worked in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans.

However our results may provide a mechanistic explanation for anecdotal data that cannabinoid exposure benefits some colitis patients.




“For the first time we have identified a counterbalance to the inflammation response in the intestine and we hope that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases.”

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease and affect 300,000 people in the UK, according to Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

They are chronic conditions and over a life-time the repeated damage from inflammation to the cells of the gut and intestine can require surgery for complications.

The researchers from Bath worked with colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to conduct their study, which is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

They found gut inflammation is regulated by two processes, which are constantly in flux to respond to changing conditions in intestines.

Previous research identified the first process – a pathway promoting an aggressive immune response in the gut, which is useful to destroy dangerous pathogens but can damage the lining of the intestine when immune cells attack indiscriminately.

The second process, revealed in the new research, turns off this inflammation response via molecules transported across the cells lining the gut into the intestine cavity.

This response requires a naturally-produced molecule called endocannabinoid, which is very similar to cannabinoid molecules found in cannabis, the researchers say.

If the endocannabinoid is not present, inflammation is not kept in balance and can flare up as the body’s immune system cells attack the intestinal lining.

The researchers believe that, because cannabis use introduces cannabinoids into the body, these molecules could help relieve gut inflammation as the naturally produced endocannabinoids would.

Professor Beth McCormick, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said: “There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana, but there hasn’t been a lot of science to back it up.

For the first time, we have an understanding of the molecules involved in the process and how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation.

“This gives clinical researchers a new drug target to explore to treat patients that suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, and perhaps other diseases, as well.”

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Is Headed To The Sun. So, What’s Next?

After decades of scientific brainstorming and years of construction, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is safely on its way to flying seven times closer to the sun than any mission has before.

Now that the spacecraft is finally off the ground, it won’t be long before scientists can start digging into its data — and that data will keep coming for seven years.

There’s definitely a coiled-spring feeling,” project scientist Nicola Fox, a solar scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told Space.com earlier this week, before the launch. “We’re just ready for her to leave this planet.

And now, the spacecraft has finally left Earth. Here’s where the journey will take it.

The $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe needed a ton of speed to escape Earth’s orbit, hence the total of three rocket stages that fired during the launch.

That will carry it to the neighborhood of Venus in just six weeks, arriving by late September.

On Sept. 28, the spacecraft will need to pull off a careful maneuver designed to gently slow it down and begin its calculated dance with the sun.




That maneuver, called a gravity assist, will pass a little of the spacecraft’s acceleration to the planet and edge the probe a little closer to the sun.

The Parker Solar Probe will then begin its first of 24 orbits around the sun, with its first close approach, or perihelion, coming on Nov. 1.

Each orbit will be petal-shaped, skimming over the sun closely and then flying out farther into space to close out the orbit.

The bulk of the probe’s science work will come when it is within a quarter of the distance between Earth and the sun — although the team is hoping that the instruments can be turned on for as much of the mission as possible.

The early orbits, while remaining farther away from the sun, will be special because the spacecraft will spend its time close to the sun in essentially the equivalent of geosynchronous orbit, hovering over the same region.

Not a lot of people appreciate how entertaining these periods are going to be,” Justin Kasper, a physicist at the University of Michigan and principal investigator for one of the probe’s instruments said.

During these periods, which scientists call fast radial scans, the spacecraft will swoop in at a speed that closely matches the sun’s speed of rotation, and then swoop out again.

While the spacecraft keeps pace with the sun’s rotation, it will be able to watch how the same region of the sun behaves over a period of about 10 days.

That means there’s plenty of science to look forward to years before the spacecraft completes its closest approach to the sun near the end of the mission.

It might take us five years to get to our closest orbit, but we should have some amazing insights into our sun just this winter,” Kasper said.

We’re going to have some amazing observations this November with that first perihelion.”

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Simple Tricks For Better Gas Mileage

No matter what kind of car you drive, you can be getting better fuel economy than what you’re getting now. Did you know you can get better mileage by never filling up your tank?

It’s true, and most of these tips and tricks will extend the range for any car ever made, even if it’s electric. Some of them are effortless, and some require dedication, but they’ll all work.

Ditch the MPG ratings

Numbers can be manipulated any which way you want, but the simple truth is that MPG doesn’t really tell you how much money you’re spending on fuel.

G/100miles, on the other hand, will. How do you figure it out? Just type in your MPG in Google as “XX MPG per 100 miles,” and multiply your answer by whatever you pay for fuel in your area. Bam.

Now you know how much or little the following tips will help you, so you can see if it’s worth it.




Lay off the damn loud pedal

You’ve heard this one before about a million times, and you know what? It’s still true.

Every time I see some moron in a Prius out accelerate me off a light I wish I had the legal right to pull him or her over, pry their eyes open Clockwork Orange-style and force them to watch Jeremy Clarkson getting better fuel economy in a BMW M3 than the Stig in a Prius.

Even the worst fuel-sipping cars made will become gas guzzlers when you floor it. More acceleration requires more energy. Guess where your car gets its energy from.

And the brake

Obviously you’ll have to stop at some point, but if you know you’re turning soon or there’s a sharp bend in the road, coast for a bit.

There are two reasons for this. 1) all your brakes do is convert your forward momentum into heat energy, and even the best energy recovery systems don’t capture 90% of that energy.

2) if you don’t slow down for a turn you have to take it faster, which is not only fun, it means you don’t have to accelerate as much.

Last year, I compared hypermiling in a hybrid to some seriously fun driving. After 100 miles, the difference was one freaking dollar’s worth of fuel.

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Donald Trump Wants ‘Space Force’ By 2020

Mike Pence, the US vice president, has announced plans to create a standalone “Space Force” by 2020, becoming the sixth branch of America’s military.

Mr Pence said the “time has come” for America to “prepare for the next battlefield” and secure America’s “dominance” among the stars.

Space Force’ is the name given by Donald Trump to the idea of a new, free-standing military department focussed specifically on space. Currently such issues largely fall under the Air Force.

Mr Trump has strongly championed the idea of creating a space-focused military service with the same stature as the Air Force and the Army, turning his dreams of a “Space Force” into a rallying cry for supporters at political events.

His 2020 reelection campaign sent a fundraising email on Thursday asking supporters to vote on their favourite Space Force logo for future Trump campaign merchandise, offering a choice of six.




Mr Trump – who tweeted “Space Force all the way!” on Thursday – and his supporters point to how adversaries such as China and Russia are increasingly deploying satellites as proof that action is needed.

There is a fear that America has become increasingly reliant on satellites for communication, navigation and intelligence and could be left exposed if the equipment is attacked.

However detractors insist setting up a standalone military department would be bureaucratic and counter-productive.

James Mattis, the US defence secretary, has previously voiced such concerns – though now appears more supportive.

There are currently five branches to the US armed forces: The Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. Space Force would become the sixth.

The first step would be creating a US Space Command by the end of the year. The Trump administration would then seek funding and the legal approval to create a standalone military department next year.

Congress has the ultimate sign-off – meaning that the US president alone cannot create Space Force. The proposals are likely to trigger a political battle on Capitol Hill.

The White House said in a statement that “President Trump knows that space is integral to our American way of life and economic prosperity, and is a vital domain for national defence.”

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NASA Launches Parker Solar Probe Mission To ‘Touch The Sun’

 

The first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the Sun blast off on Saturday, on a mission to plunge into our star’s sizzling atmosphere and unlock the mysteries of the center of the solar system.

NASA’s car-sized, $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida during a 65-minute launch window that opens at 3:33 am (0733 GMT).

By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the unmanned probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around the Sun.

We are going to be in an area that is so exciting, where solar wind — we believe — will be accelerating,” said NASA planetary science division director Jim Green.

Where we see huge magnetic fields that are passing by us, as coronal mass ejections make their way out into the solar system.

Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.




But these solar outbursts are poorly understood.

The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth,” said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of Michigan.

Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 11.43 centimetres thick.

The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the fiery star, coming within 6.16 million kilometres of the Sun’s surface.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent to up to about 500 times the Sun’s radiation on Earth.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute — some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

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