Tag: earth

An Out-Of-Control Chinese Space Lab Is Hurtling Towards Earth

Chinese officials appear to have admitted they lost control of the Tiangong-1, the country’s first space station.

A Chinese space lab, called Tiangong-1, is currently hurtling towards Earth and is expected to re-enter into our atmosphere sometime between now and early next year.

Tiangong-1 or “heavenly palace” was originally launched by China’s National Space Administration back in 2011.

The 12-metre lab, which weighs about 8.5 tonnes, was a major step towards the country’s goal of building a space station by 2020.




It was also where China’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang, flew on a mission in 2012.

But things went wrong when China lost control of the lab last year, and now they are playing a waiting game, trying to anticipate when and where it will fall to Earth.

Space archaeology expert Alice Gorman, from Flinders University, said while China will be able to monitor its descent, it won’t be able to control its landing.

In September 2016, China’s Xinhua news agency reported that Tiangong-1 was “intact and orbiting at an average height of 370 kilometres”.

Since then it has dropped about 60 kilometres, Dr Gorman said.

Dr Gorman said Tiangong-1 is travelling at high speed estimated at about 27,000 kilometres per hour and will burn up when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.

When it hits the atmosphere it will start to slow down and heat up, due to friction and atmospheric compression. As it heats, it will break up into burning fragments,” she said.

Dr Gorman said its likely that some bits of Tiangong-1 will survive re-entry.

Usually these are materials with the highest melting temperature and the most insulation,” she said.

Generally titanium pressure vessels and stainless steel fuel tanks are the most common spacecraft component to survive re-entry.

Dr Gorman said Tiangong-1 had steel alloy tanks, but an analysis of the materials suggested they would burn up long before they reached the ground.

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SpaceX Wants To Build One Rocket To Rule Them All

Elon Musk gave a keynote address yesterday to the International Aeronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

During the 43 minute talk, which is embedded above, Musk laid out SpaceX’s future including colonizing Mars and building one rocket to rule them all.




The talk is fantastic. Elon was Elon and revealed countless details about future SpaceX plans. This is why he’s celebrated in certain circles.

He doesn’t hold back whether on Twitter or during interviews. Unlike other Silicon Valley companies, he seemingly keeps fewer details secret and is more willing to talk about things his companies are building.

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How Cosmic Crashes Could Have Kick-started Plate Tectonics

A rock the size of a small city hurtles towards Earth, smashing a crater bigger than the span between Washington, D.C. and New York City.

The heat and shockwave raises the temperature of the atmosphere above boiling as huge seismic waves ripple through the Earth’s crust.

New research indicates that such an impact may have happened to our planet, although (thankfully) it was long before civilization arose.

About 3.26 billion years ago, an object between 23 and 26 miles wide (37 and 58 kilometers) crashed into the Earth somewhere and left geological evidence behind in South Africa.

Surprisingly, the impact may have made the Earth a friendlier place for life because it corresponds with this planet’s establishment of plate tectonics.




Finding the crater, though, is likely an impossible task. There are few rocks of this age on the entire Earth, the notable exception being the nearly 4-billion-old Canadian Shield that stretches across much of eastern Canada.

Little remains of that era of history, making it necessary for researchers to do detective work to learn more about the impactor.

It’s like the aftermath of a tornado where the insurance company won’t pay because your car was sucked off of your driveway and you can’t find the car, so they can’t pay it,” said Norm Sleep, a geophysicist at Stanford University who led the research.

You don’t know if it was stolen or damaged or wrecked or whatever because you can’t find it. We have the same difficulty.

Sleep and departmental co-author Donald Lowe published their research in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics and Geosystems in April.

The paper is called “Physics of crustal fracturing and chert dike formation triggered by asteroid impact, ∼3.26 Ga, Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa.

The only life in that era was microbial, although Lowe pointed out they would have struggled with their new circumstances. “To say the least, it would have adversely affected life near the surface,” he said.

While whole microbe communities could have been wiped out, on the species level many would have survived.

Life was all over the Earth and not just in the area of the impact, and microbes are better able to withstand sudden temperature changes than more advanced lifeforms.

Perhaps microbes would have suffered after the impact, but in its wake, the impactor could have helped change our planet into one that better supports complex life.

Lowe pointed out that plate tectonics seems to have appeared around 3 billion to 3.2 billion years ago, around the same time the impactor smashed into the Earth.

If enough big objects hit the Earth frequently enough, it could have broken up the primitive plate structure on our planet into the plate tectonics we have today, they said.

This has important implications for life, as other researchers have said that plate tectonics might be necessary for complex life to exist.

Another clue came from the isotopes (types) of chromium. The surface rocks on Earth have a uniform ratio of chromium isotopes, but Lowe and a colleague in San Diego found that the isotopes in this layer had a different ratio.

The unusual proportions, along with the iridium, the platinum and the widespread distribution of the layer, all suggested this was produced by an impact.

The crash happened somewhere far away, though.

In the area around a crater, the rocks of this age would have been destroyed,” Lowe said. “We’ve never found evidence that we were at or close to an actual crater.

Perhaps further examination of the greenstone will turn up more information on this impactor, but similar sites will be hard to come by.There are few regions like the Barberton around

There are few regions like the Barberton around today, so that scientists will have trouble finding other impactors that could have affected plate tectonics.

Life on Earth is also adapted to plate tectonics, he pointed out, and as we have not found life elsewhere it is hard to say if tectonics are necessary for life to exist.

Even when looking outside of the Solar System, it will be a challenge to detect plate tectonics on extrasolar planets because they are so far away.

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End Of The World Is Still Coming Soon, Christian Numerologists Said It Was Just Postponed

The so-called ‘Christian numerologist‘ who alleged that the world would end on September 23 has clarified that the apocalypse has in fact been delayed.

The conspiracy theorist David Meade – who claimed that a mysterious planet would collide with Earth – is now saying that Saturday only marks the beginning of the end of the end of times.

Indeed, Saturday will see the beginning of a number of cataclysmic events that will occur over a number of weeks, that will lead to our demise.

The world is not ending, but the world as we know it is ending.”




Meade added: “A major part of the world will not be the same the beginning of October.

Meade used the ‘biblically significant’ number 33 and his interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Revelation to suggest that the legendary – and widely debunked – planet Nibiru would strike Earth on September 23.

The impact would set in motion cataclysmic events, according to Meade.

Nibiru would strike 33 days after the total solar eclipse. In his analysis, Meade cited how Jesus allegedly lived for 33 years.

I’m talking astronomy. I’m talking the Bible,” Meade said.

Another Christian fringe group, called Unsealed, claims that a Biblical image will appear on the sky on September 23.

In late August, Meade said that ‘Nibiru’ would hit Earth between September 20 and 23.

He said the clues are written on the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt and in the Bible.

The conspirator said: ‘It is very strange indeed that both the Great Sign of Revelation 12 and the Great Pyramid of Giza both point us to one precise moment in time – September 20 to 23, 2017.

Is this the end of the Church Age and the transition to the Day of the Lord? There couldn’t be two greater witnesses.

Earlier this year Mr Meade made a September prediction using verses from the Bible, but he now claims this date is backed up by marking on the pyramids.

Of the pyramid, he said: ‘It faces true north with only 3/60th of a degree of error and is located at the centre of the land mass of the Earth.

The east/west parallel that crosses the most land and the north/south meridian that crosses the most land intersect in two places on the Earth – one in the ocean and the other at the Great Pyramid.

Despite a lack of evidence for the hidden world, which Nasa has previously stated is an ‘internet hoax’, many people believe it is real. The scientific community does not agree Nibiru exists.

Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an internet hoax,” NASA has said previously. “Obviously, it does not exist.

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A NASA Spacecraft Is About To Slingshot Around Earth To Meet Up With An Asteroid

On Friday, a spacecraft the size of an SUV will slingshot around Earth’s South Pole, altering its trajectory through space.

The probe is NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, and its upcoming maneuver around our planet is known as a gravity assist — a way to harness Earth’s gravity to alter its orbit.

The move is critical, since it will put OSIRIS-REx on course to meet up with an asteroid in the fall of 2018.

OSIRIS-REx launched last year with a relatively straightforward purpose: grab a sample of rocks from an asteroid and bring them back to Earth.

If all goes well, the vehicle should retrieve the largest sample ever collected from an asteroid, and give scientists the chance to study the space rock components in more detail than ever before.

But first, the probe has to reach its target — a nearby asteroid named Bennu.




NASA picked Bennu partly because the asteroid’s orbit is similar to Earth’s orbit, and that makes it an easier target to reach.

But their paths aren’t the exact same: Bennu’s orbit is tilted by about six degrees compared to Earth’s. In the past year, OSIRIS-REx has been orbiting in the same plane as Earth, traveling slightly ahead of our planet.

And now it’s time for OSIRIS-REx to match Bennu’s orbit in space.

There are two main options to change a spacecraft’s trajectory: one is to use the vehicle’s onboard engines to propel the spacecraft in a certain direction.

The problem with this option is that it uses up the spacecraft’s finite amount of fuel. And OSIRIS-REx would have needed a lot of fuel to alter its course to reach Bennu in time — more than the vehicle is carrying.

So instead, the probe’s navigators opted to use the second option — a gravity assist. “This was the only option to reach Bennu, launching in 2016,” Michael Moreau, a flight engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said.

This maneuver has been used on many previous space missions, to increase or decrease a spacecraft’s speed and course. It’s essentially an exchange of energy, similar to when a roller coaster speeds up while going down a hill.

When OSIRIS-REx swings by Earth, it will steal a little bit of our planet’s momentum in order to change its orbit. Earth is so massive that the maneuver won’t really affect our planet.

But OSIRIS-REx will change its speed and course by more than 8,400 miles per hour. That’s nearly twice the amount the spacecraft would get if it used up all its fuel.

OSIRIS-REx will approach the Earth at a speed of 19,000 miles per hour, flying over Australia first. It will then make its closest approach to Earth at 12:52PM ET, coming within 11,000 miles of Antarctica.

Around that time, the vehicle will lose contact with NASA since it will be out of range with the space agency’s closest tracking stations.

The blackout should last just 50 minutes, though, and NASA expects to regain communications around 1:40PM ET.

The vehicle is also supposed to come into areas dominated by satellites, but NASA says it has taken steps to make sure no collisions happen during the assist.

After Friday’s maneuver, OSIRIS-REx will cruise through space for another year, reaching Bennu in October.

At that point, the vehicle is supposed to fly around the asteroid for two years, surveying the rock’s surface, before actually grabbing the coveted sample and returning to Earth.

The gravity assist is the first step to getting there, and it’ll allow the mission team to meet up with Bennu exactly when they needed to, while saving on fuel.

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Why It Is So Hard To Predict Where And When Earthquakes Will Strike?

Can earthquakes ever be predicted? This question is timely after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal recently. If authorities had more warning that the earthquake was coming, they may have been able to save more lives.

While Nepal is a documented area of previous seismic activity, at the moment there is no technique that provides predictions of sufficient clarity to allow for evacuations at short notice.

So if we cannot predict these events now, are there avenues of research to provide useful predictions in the future?

The key word here is “useful”. It is possible to make long-term forecasts about future earthquake activity, partly by using the past record of earthquakes as a guide.

There is no reason to believe that a region of the Earth is going to behave differently in the next few thousands of years from its pattern over the same range back in time.




In the short term, seismologists can draw on data from recording stations, with records going back roughly 40 years on a global scale.

Within hours of a major earthquake there are estimates of its epicentre, magnitude (the amount of energy released), the depth at which it originated, the orientation of the geological fault that caused it and the direction in which it moved.

The event in Nepal was a thrust fault, meaning that the upper part of the Earth was shortened by a few metres, with the rock lying above the fault plane moving southwards over the rock lying beneath it.

Gathering the data

Information about past earthquakes comes from a number of sources, not least historical records. But such records are incomplete, even in earthquake-prone countries with long traditions of documenting natural disasters, such as China and Iran.

Other lines of evidence are available, including measuring and dating the offsets of man-made or natural features that can be accurately dated, such as the walls of a castle or a city. Faults cutting the Great Wall of China have been documented in this way.

Seismologists also dig trenches across faults known or suspected to be active, and can recover rocks and sediments affected by earthquakes.

These events can dated, for example by radiocarbon analysis of plant remains disturbed by the faulting.

By combining the earthquake ages with the size of the damaged areas, it is possible to understand earthquake patterns over hundreds or even thousands of years.

Scientists use this information as a guideline for future behaviour, but it is clear that the faults do not slip after the same period of time between earthquakes.

Nor does a fault necessarily rupture in the same place in successive earthquakes.

An earthquake releasing stress along one fault segment may place more stress on an adjacent region, thereby increasing the earthquake likelihood in that area.

This may occur soon after the original event, which explains the phenomenon of aftershocks. Nepal has already seen aftershocks of a magnitude greater than six, and is likely to see more.

Global hotspots

Instrumental and historical records combine to make a global picture of earthquake activity. There are, unfortunately, many danger areas.

Eurasia bears the brunt, because of the collision of the Indian and Arabian plates with the rest of Eurasia. Therefore China, Iran, Pakistan and India all share Nepal’s susceptibility to large earthquakes.

Other danger areas lie along the margins of the Pacific and Indian oceans, where one plate slides under another in a process called subduction. Earthquakes at such plate boundaries can cause devastating tsunamis, like in Japan in 2011.

Newer lines of research include precise measurements of the movement of a fault during earthquakes and the motion of the Earth’s surface between earthquakes.

Across the Himalayas there is around 20mm of convergence (shortening) every year, roughly half of the overall convergence between the Indian and Eurasian plates.

The remainder is accommodated further north, in ranges such as the Tian Shan and the Tibetan Plateau.

In other words, every year a person in Siberia becomes roughly 40 mm closer to a person in central India, as the Earth’s crust deforms across the broad region between them.

This strain builds up over time and is released in an earthquake like the snapping of an elastic band.

Faster strain, longer faults and greater strength in the upper part of the Earth in a particular region can all lead to larger earthquakes.

The Himalayas feature a deadly combination of these factors, leading to very large events of the kind experienced on April 25.

It is not sensible to be naively optimistic about improvements in earthquake prediction, but all research on the past and present behaviour of active faults is to be welcomed.

It is timely that the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has just announced funding for research into earthquakes and resilience to earthquakes.

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Detecting Magnetic Fields On Brown Dwarfs And Exoplanets

Mysterious objects called brown dwarfs are sometimes called “failed stars.

They are too small to fuse hydrogen in their cores, the way most stars do, but also too large to be classified as planets.

But a new study in the journal Nature suggests they succeed in creating powerful auroral displays, similar to the kind seen around the magnetic poles on Earth.

This is a whole new manifestation of magnetic activity for that kind of object,” said Leon Harding, a technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and co-author on the study.

On Earth, auroras are created when charged particles from the solar wind enter our planet’s magnetosphere, a region where Earth’s magnetic field accelerates and sends them toward the poles.

There, they collide with atoms of gas in the atmosphere, resulting in a brilliant display of colors in the sky.




As the electrons spiral down toward the atmosphere, they produce radio emissions, and then when they hit the atmosphere, they excite hydrogen in a process that occurs at Earth and other planets,” said Gregg Hallinan, assistant professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who led the team.

We now know that this kind of auroral behavior is extending all the way from planets up to brown dwarfs.

Brown dwarfs are generally cool, dim objects, but their auroras are about a million times more powerful than auroras on Earth, and if we could somehow see them, they’d be about a million times brighter, Hallinan said.

Additionally, while green is the dominant color of earthly auroras, a vivid red color would stand out in a brown dwarf’s aurora because of the higher hydrogen content of the object’s atmosphere.

The foundation for this discovery began in the early 2000s, when astronomers began finding radio emissions from brown dwarfs.

This was surprising because brown dwarfs do not generate large flares and charged-particle emissions the way the sun and other kinds of stars do. The cause of these radio emissions was a big question.

Harding, working as part of Hallinan’s group while pursuing his doctoral studies, found that there was also periodic variability in the optical wavelength of light coming from brown dwarfs that pulse at radio frequencies.

He published these findings in the Astrophysical Journal.

Harding built an instrument called an optical high-speed photometer, which looks for changes in the light intensity of celestial objects, to examine this phenomenon.

In this new study, researchers examined brown dwarf LSRJ1835+3259, located about 20 light-years from Earth.

Scientists studied it using some of the world’s most powerful telescopes the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array, Socorro, New Mexico, and the W.M. Keck Observatory’s telescopes in Hawaii in addition to the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California.

Given that there’s no stellar wind to create an aurora on a brown dwarf, researchers are unsure what is generating it on LSRJ1835+3259.

An orbiting planet moving through the magnetosphere of the brown dwarf could be generating a current, but scientists will have to map the aurora to figure out its source.

The discovery reported in the July 30, 2015 issue of Nature could help scientists better understand how brown dwarfs generate magnetic fields.

Additionally, brown dwarfs will help scientists study exoplanets, planets outside our solar system, as the atmosphere of cool brown dwarfs is similar to what astronomers expect to find at many exoplanets.

It’s challenging to study the atmosphere of an exoplanet because there’s often a much brighter star nearby, whose light muddles observations. But we can look at the atmosphere of a brown dwarf without this difficulty,” Hallinan said.

Hallinan also hopes to measure the magnetic field of exoplanets using the newly built Owens Valley Long Wavelength Array, funded by Caltech, JPL, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

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How Do We Know That Global Warming Is Real?

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history.

Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era and of human civilization.

Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.




Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale.

This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.

Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA.

There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels.

Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks.This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Will Meet Its Fiery End In Saturn’s Atmosphere On Friday

After 13 years of zooming around Saturn and its many moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has less than four days left at the planetary system before the probe is lost forever. Early Friday morning, Cassini will dive into Saturn’s atmosphere, eventually melting and breaking apart.

The death plunge will put an end to the spacecraft’s mission, one that has taught us more about Saturn and its moons than we ever thought possible.

This final step has long been planned by the Cassini mission team, and it’s meant to protect the Saturn system.

Two of the planet’s moons — Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean, and Titan, with lakes of methane — may have the right conditions to harbor life.




By destroying Cassini, NASA ensures the spacecraft will never accidentally wander near the moons and contaminate them with microbes that may have hitched a ride from Earth.

In April, NASA maneuvered Cassini into its final stage, known as the “Grand Finale” — a path that takes the vehicle between Saturn and its famous rings, and closer to the planet than ever before.

During these week-long orbits, the probe has been gathering some of its most crucial data yet. But the planet’s gravity will eventually get the best of Cassini after the 22nd Grand Finale orbit, pulling the spacecraft into the planet at 6:31AM ET on Friday.

The navigators have no more maneuvers to do,” Scott Edgington, the deputy project scientist for Cassini, tells The Verge. We’re guaranteed to go into Saturn, no matter what happens.

Once Cassini enters Saturn’s atmosphere, it will only be five or six minutes before the probe is taken apart. During the plunge, its instruments will be getting up-close measurements that will be sent back to Earth in real time.

All that data will probably keep researchers busy for awhile. “Some of these analyses will take years for scientists to figure out,” says Edgington. “I would expect to still hear a lot more from in the coming years.

Cassini’s destruction has been in the making for nearly a decade now. The spacecraft was launched in 1997, and it was the first probe intended to orbit and thoroughly study the Saturn system.

After arriving at the planet in 2004, Cassini dropped a probe that landed on Titan, and began mapping out Saturn’s rings and moons, among many other science tasks.

After four years, Cassini’s primary mission ended. But the spacecraft was still fully operational, and the mission team wanted to come up with ways to extend Cassini’s time at Saturn while preserving Enceladus and Titan.

It couldn’t last forever: the spacecraft only has a limited amount of fuel, and eventually the team would lose the ability to maneuver Cassini in space.

So the team came up with a number of different options: one idea was to eject Cassini from the Saturn system.

So far, those orbits have been fruitful. The mission team has learned that the gap between Saturn and its rings is relatively free of large particles, something they didn’t expect.

Plus, the researchers have gotten more in-depth measurements of the structure of Saturn’s magnetic field.

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A Really, Really Big Asteroid Is Going To Fly Past Earth Today!

Today, a three-mile-wide asteroid is going to fly past Earth – the biggest space rock to pass our planet this close in a century.

Asteroid 1981 ET3 – also known as 3122 Florence – will fly past safely today, September 1, 18 times further away than the moon.

While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.




Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.

The asteroid, named for Florence Nightingale, was first spotted in 1981, and the flyby in September will be the closest it’s come to Earth since 1890.

Asteroid Florence was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in March 1981.

It is named in honor of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing.

The 2017 encounter is the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.

This relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for scientists to study this asteroid up close.

Florence is expected to be an excellent target for ground-based radar observations – and will also be visible to amateur astronomers via telescopes.

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