Tag: Moon

Moon Dust Is Super Toxic to Human Cells

In space, they say, no one can hear you sneeze. But Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt was doing a lot of that inside the Challenger command module when he visited the moon in 1972.

One day, after a lunar walk, Schmitt accidentally breathed in some of the abundant moon dust that he and his commander had tracked back in to the Challenger living quarters.

For a full day, Schmitt suffered from what he described as “lunar hay fever.” His eyes watered, his throat throbbed, and he broke into a sneezing fit.

No, Schmitt wasn’t allergic to the moon. NASA scientists now understand that pieces of moon dust — especially the smallest, sharpest particles — pose clear health risks to astronauts.

A recent study published in the April issue of the journal GeoHealth examined exactly how dangerous that dust can be on a cellular level — and the results are as ominous as the dark side of the moon.

In several lab tests, a single scoop of replica moon dust proved toxic enough to kill up to 90 percent of the lung and brain cells exposed to it.




A dusty dilemma

Dust on the moon behaves a little differently than dust on Earth. For starters, it’s sharp. Because there’s no wind on the moon, the dust never erodes.

Instead, grains of moon dust — which are largely the products of micrometeorite impacts — remain sharp and abrasive and can easily slice into an astronaut’s lung cells if breathed in too deeply.

On top of this, moon dust can float. With no atmosphere to protect the moon from constant bombardment by solar winds and the charged particles they carry, lunar soil can become electrostatically charged like clothing with static cling.

This charge can be so strong that the soil particles actually levitate above the lunar surface,” the authors wrote in the new study.

From there, it’s easy enough for dust to cling in the nooks and crannies of an astronaut’s spacesuit and follow him or her back inside living quarters.

These loose particles can clog sensitive equipment, jam zippers, ruin clothing and — as Schmitt discovered — wreak havoc on the human body if accidentally ingested by astronauts.

But as humans explore the moon in future decades, chance exposures are likely, the researchers wrote.

Fortunately, NASA has taken this problem seriously for a long time and is developing several dust-mitigation methods.

One promising strategy: Cover sensitive surfaces with an Electrodynamic Dust Shield — essentially, electrically charged panels that shoot currents through thin wires to zap dust away.

Early lab tests have shown that the shields work well, and some sample panels are currently being tested on the International Space Station. Whether the panels could be incorporated into astronauts’ spacesuits remain to be seen.

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Why Do People Believe The Moon Landing Is A Hoax

From Apollo 15.

Forty-nine years ago Friday, the Apollo 11 spacecraft delivered the first astronauts to the surface of the moon.

The footprints Buzz Aldrin left in lunar soil are still around — and so are the throngs of conspiracy theorists who claim the entire landing was faked.

For one thing, they argue, the flag the crew planted seemed to flutter in videos, which shouldn’t happen since there’s no wind on the moon. Besides, wouldn’t mini-meteors have killed the astronauts the moment they ventured outside?

The “moon landing hoax” was among the first conspiracy theories to gain traction with the American public. In the years since, the theories have multiplied like jack rabbits, swarming all corners of the cultural landscape.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, some fringe activists insisted the U.S. government, rather than al-Qaeda, had planned the attacks.

Conspiracies about President Trump’s ties to Russia compete with all the real news on the topic.

Pizzagate” conspiracists claimed Hillary Clinton was operating a pedophile ring in a D.C. pizza parlor, leading one true believer to fire a gun in the restaurant.

It’s tempting to dismiss conspiracy theorists as wearers of tinfoil hats. But the theories should be taken seriously for their effects on political and social discourse — and research suggests that, under the right circumstances, many people are susceptible to their allure.




While people’s attraction to conspiracy theories might seem illogical, it stems from a very logical desire to make sense of the world.

Assigning meaning to what happens has helped humans to thrive as a species, and conspiracy theories are internally cohesive stories that “help us to understand the unknown whenever things happen that are fearful or unexpected,” said Jan-Willem van Prooijen, a social psychologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam.

For some believers, the sense of comfort and clarity such stories bring can override the question of their truth value.

Conspiracy theorists often have a high degree of tolerance for contradiction that allows them to ignore evidence against their theories.

Conspiracy theories also supply a seductive ego boost. Believers often consider themselves part of a select in-group that — unlike the deluded masses — has figured out what’s really going on.

Rejection and hardship can intensify people’s need to believe a story that empowers them or justifies their situation, whether the story is true.

People who are dissatisfied with the state of the world — such as the unemployed or those who support extreme ideologies — are highly vulnerable to conspiracy theories, van Prooijen said: “If people are satisfied, they are less likely to pursue this sort of theory.

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China Launches Lunar Rover To Far Side Of The Moon

China is poised to become the first country to explore the far side of the moon with the launch of a lunar rover Saturday, another step to its goal of becoming a space superpower.

The Chang’e 4 lunar mission lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province in the early morning, confirmed by the Twitter account of the country’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

It’s expected to land in early January after 26 days of flight, said China’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The lander will conduct the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment, observe whether plants will grow in the low-gravity environment, and explore whether there is water or other resources at the poles.

Another function of the mission is to study the interaction between solar winds and the moon surface using a new rover.




Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it’s an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can ‘listen’ to the deeper reaches of the cosmos,” said Tongjie Liu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center for the China National Space Administration.

Because the far side of the moon is free from interference from radio frequencies, the mission requires a relay satellite to transmit signals that was launched into place this year.

The Chang’e 4 rover is 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and about 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide and tall, with two foldable solar panels and six wheels.

China is anxious to get into the record books with its space achievements,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College and an expert on China’s space program.

Beijing plans to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbital and rover exploration, followed by a mission that would include collection of surface samples from the Red Planet.

In comparison, despite its recent success in sending a robotic lander to Mars, the US space agency NASA has faced years of budgetary constraints.

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Planets Can Be Big, Small, But All Round

The eight planets in our solar system differ in lots of ways. They are different sizes. They are different distances from the sun. Some are small and rocky, and others are big and gassy.

But they’re all nice and round. Why is that? Why aren’t they shaped like cubes, pyramids, or discs?

Planets form when material in space starts to bump and clump together. After a while it has enough stuff to have a good amount of gravity.

That’s the force that holds stuff together in space. When a forming planet is big enough, it starts to clear its path around the star it orbits. It uses its gravity to snag bits of space stuff.

A planet’s gravity pulls equally from all sides. Gravity pulls from the center to the edges like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. This makes the overall shape of a planet a sphere, which is a three-dimensional circle.




Are they all perfect, though?

While all the planets in our solar system are nice and round, some are rounder than others. Mercury and Venus are the roundest of all. They are nearly perfect spheres, like marbles.

But some planets aren’t quite so perfectly round. Saturn and Jupiter are bit thicker in the middle. As they spin around, they bulge out along the equator. Why does that happen?

When something spins, like a planet as it rotates, things on the outer edge have to move faster than things on the inside to keep up.

This is true for anything that spins, like a wheel, a DVD, or a fan. Things along the edge have to travel the farthest and fastest.

Along the equator of a planet, a circle half way between the north and south poles, gravity is holding the edges in but, as it spins, stuff wants to spin out like mud flying off a tire.

Saturn and Jupiter are really big and spinning really fast but gravity still manages to hold them together. That’s why they bulge in the middle. We call the extra width the equatorial bulge.

Saturn bulges the most of all the planets in our solar system. If you compare the diameter from pole to pole to the diameter along the equator, it’s not the same.

Saturn is 10.7% thicker around the middle. Jupiter is 6.9% thicker around the middle. Instead of being perfectly round like marbles, they are like basketballs squished down while someone sits on them.

What about the other planets?

Earth and Mars are small and don’t spin around as fast as the gas giants. They aren’t perfect spheres, but they are rounder than Saturn and Jupiter.

Earth is 0.3% thicker in the middle, and Mars is 0.6% thicker in the middle. Since they’re not even one whole percentage point thicker in the middle, it’s safe to say they’re very round.

As for Uranus and Neptune, they’re in between. Uranus is 2.3% thicker in the middle. Neptune is 1.7% thicker. They’re not perfectly round, but they’re pretty close.

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Future Spacecraft Landing On Jupiter’s Moon Europa May Have To Navigate Jagged Blades Of Ice

Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, is a prime candidate in the search for life elsewhere in our Solar System — but landing a spacecraft on the moon may be even more difficult than we thought.

Certain patches of ice on Europa could be rough and jagged, resembling sharp blades, according to a new modeling. And that may make it hard for future probes to touch down gently on the surface.

It’s possible that conditions in areas around Europa’s equator may be just right to form what are known as “penitentes.” These are unique ice formations found here on Earth in places like the Andes Mountains.

Penitentes form on Earth when super-cold ice sits in direct sunlight for long periods of time, causing patches in the ice to turn directly from a solid to a gas.

In a new study, published today in Nature Geoscience, researchers found that the exact conditions needed to create this phenomena are present on parts of Europa too.

Scientists still hope to confirm the finding with visual evidence of penitentes on Europa. But the new model is a key piece of information that could help inform NASA’s future missions.

Right now, the space agency is working on two different missions to the moon.




The first, Europa Clipper, is slated to launch sometime around 2022 and will send a spacecraft to fly by Europa and possibly zoom through the world’s plumes — suspected geysers that spew water from a vast ocean below the moon’s icy crust.

In the meantime, NASA is in the very early stages of designing a lander that could also travel to Europa someday, touch down on the surface, and then drill into the ice. That way, it could potentially sample the unseen water below.

But if parts of the surface are truly shaped like blades, it would be extremely hazardous for a conventional lander. This new research could help NASA decide which areas to avoid when considering landing spots on Europa.

And it’s possible that the upcoming Europa Clipper mission will get even more detailed images of the moon’s surface, to confirm if these formations are actually there.

We’re really hoping that the Clipper mission will tell us one way or the other,” Daniel Hobley, a geologist and planetary scientist at Cardiff University in the UK, as well as lead author on the study SAID.

We should be able to take pictures of good enough quality to prove it.”

However, answers will come soon with Europa Clipper, which will fly within 16 miles of Europa’s surface. The spacecraft also has a camera and instruments with higher resolution than Galileo had.

It will be flying over the equatorial region, which is where these features are predicted to exist,” Phillips says. “I think Europa Clipper is well-suited to see any actual evidence for these formations.

Even if ice blades are found, it’s not a showstopper for a future lander. The new study only found these high sublimation rates occurring in a narrow band around the equator, but areas closer to the poles don’t seem to have the same conditions.

There are still lots of places on the surface of Europa that would be really interesting potential landing sites that are well outside of this band,” says Phillips. “There’s no reason to shoot for the equator over anywhere else.

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Astronomers May Have Discovered The First Moon Ever Found Outside Our Solar System

An artistic rendering of the Kepler-1625b planetary system.

A pair of astronomers believes they’ve found a moon orbiting a planet outside our Solar System — something that has never before been confirmed to exist.

Though they aren’t totally certain of their discovery yet, the find opens up the possibility that more distant moons are out there. And that could change our understanding of how the Universe is structured.

The astronomy team from Columbia University found this distant satellite, known as an exomoon, using two of NASA’s space telescopes.

They first spotted a signal from the object in data collected by the planet-hunting telescope Kepler, and then they followed up with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is in orbit around Earth.

Thanks to the observations from these two spacecraft, the team suspect this moon orbits around a Jupiter-sized planet located about 4,000 light-years from Earth. And this planet, dubbed Kepler-1625b, orbits around a star similar to our Sun.

Scientists have strongly believed for decades that moons exist outside our Solar System, but these objects have remained elusive for scientists up until now.




There have been just a couple of candidates that astronomers have speculated about in the past, but nothing has been confirmed.

That’s because moons are thought to be too small and too faint to pick up from Earth. However, this suspected exomoon, detailed today in the journal Science Advances, is particularly large, about the size of Neptune, making it one of the few targets that our telescopes can detect.

You can make the argument that this is the lowest hanging fruit,” Alex Teachey, an astronomy graduate student at Columbia University and one of the lead authors on the paper said.

“Because it is so large, in some ways, this is the first thing we should detect because it is the easiest.”

Teachey argues that finding more moons outside our Solar System will change our understanding of how planetary systems formed thousands of light-years away.

Our cosmic neighborhood is filled with moons, and they explain a lot about how our planets came to be. Exomoons could tell similar tales.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

However, none of our moons come close to the size of this one, which creates a puzzle for astronomers.

Because it is so unusual, or at least has not been anticipated largely by the community, this poses new challenges to explain it,” says Teachey. “How do you get something like this?

It was only a few decades ago — in the late 1980s and early 1990s — that astronomers confirmed the existence of planets outside our Solar System.

Since then, thousands of these distant worlds, known as exoplanets, have been confirmed by spacecraft like Kepler and other telescopes.

Perhaps the most popular way to find exoplanets is by staring at stars, waiting for them to flicker. When a planet crosses “in front” of its host star, it dims the stars’ light ever so slightly.

These dips in brightness can be used to determine how big a planet is and the kind of orbit it’s on.

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Who Is SpaceX’s Mystery Moon Passenger?

The moon is essentially grey, no color. Looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand.

This was how Jim Lovell described the lunar surface in 1968 from his perch about 60 miles above the moon.

Lovell and his fellow NASA astronauts never touched down, but they returned to Earth with memories of what was, at the time, the closest view a human being had ever experienced of the planet’s rocky companion.

Nearly 50 years after the Apollo 8 mission, SpaceX wants to give someone that view again.

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company announced Thursday that it will send a private passenger to fly around the moon on its next launch system, the Big Falcon Rocket. The voyage is “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space,” SpaceX said on Twitter.

SpaceX did not give a potential launch date or other details, but those may come Monday night, when the company said it would reveal the identity of the passenger.

This gives us a full weekend to speculate, and speculate we will. Because this trip, if it indeed moves forward—SpaceX previously announced and scrapped a similar plan—would make history.

And not because the voyage would be developed, funded, and operated by a commercial company, rather than NASA, but because the passenger is probably unlike anyone who has made the journey before.

Only 24 people have been to the moon. They were all American, male, and white.

So, who could this mystery moon traveler be?




In February of last year, SpaceX announced it would send two paying customers on a trip around the moon aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket sometime in 2018.

The plan never materialized, likely because Musk eventually decided not to certify the Heavy for human spaceflight and focused on the development of the BFR instead.

The identities of these private citizens were never revealed, though Musk did say that “it’s nobody from Hollywood.” The passenger SpaceX plans to fly on the BFR may be one of them.

The passenger doesn’t have to be a U.S. citizen.

SpaceX will someday fly Americans, yes, but these will be the astronauts that NASA has chosen to test the company’s crew transportation system, which the space agency wants to use to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Unlike that project, the BFR is not affiliated with or funded by NASA. After the announcement Thursday, when a Twitter user mused whether the lucky passenger may be Musk himself, Musk responded with the emoji for the Japanese flag, prompting some to throw out names of wealthy Japanese individuals with an interest in tech.

Russia, China, and India have all said they hope to put their astronauts on the moon, with India aiming to do so as early as 2022. SpaceX may beat them, and give another country the historic first.

Perhaps the voyage will record another first, for women. The Soviet Union sent the first woman to space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. Twenty years later, the United States sent Sally Ride.

As of March of this year, 60 women from nine countries have gone to space, and several of them have made multiple trips, according to NASA. But none have been to the moon.

If this concept becomes reality, the mystery passenger—and the flight engineers picked to accompany them—will have plenty of leg room.

Their experience will be very unlike that of Jim Lovell and his fellow astronauts, who were packed like spacefaring sardines in the lunar module.

The view, however, will be the same. The window will fill up with the slate gray of the moon, with the texture of the ridges and craters of its surface.

And then, as the spaceship circles the moon, the Earth will slink into view from behind it. “Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” exclaimed one of the NASA astronauts 60 years ago when he snapped a photograph of that view, the now iconic “Earthrise” shot.

Whomever the mystery SpaceX passenger is, let’s hope they don’t forget to pack a camera.

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Everything You Need To Know About China’s Ambitious Space Plans

By 2030, China wants to be a major space power. To achieve that, it’s got some out-of-this-world ideas.

From building its own space station, to capturing an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon, China’s space programme is often depicted as ludicrous and unfeasible. But it would be foolish to overlook its potential.

China is quickly becoming one of the most ambitious and pioneering nations when it comes to exploring space.

Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world,” Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said in January. So what are its plans?

Dark side of the Moon

One of China’s nearest goals is the plan to land a rover on the dark side of the Moon in 2018.

China’s Chang’e 4 mission is the next in line after Chang’e 3, which saw the popular Jade Rabbit lunar rover named after the Chinese Moon goddess. The plan is to study the geology of the Moon’s far side.

As the Moon orbits Earth, it is tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces us.

The far side of the Moon is not always dark, it is illuminated when the side facing the Earth is in darkness; it is just called the dark side of the Moon because we never see it.Landing there would be a significant first.




Asteroid chasing

China plans to visit the asteroid 2010 TK7 in 2026

China made headlines earlier this year when its plans to capture an asteroid were revealed, and somewhat mocked.

The idea of taking an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon was reported by state media, but a detailed description of those specific plans is yet to be published.

However, a new study has revealed what China does plan to do in terms of asteroid chasing.

China’s latest proposal involves studying a chaotic asteroid.

A pair of Chinese researchers has published a paper in Advances in Space Research, outlining a plan to send a spacecraft to the asteroid 2010 TK7, which is on a bizarrely eccentric orbit around the Sun.

The mission will follow in the footsteps of NASA’s Rosetta spacecraft, which had a rendezvous with a comet. The plan is to launch the spacecraft in November 2021, with the manoeuvre happening in August 2025.

Space Station

Drawing of China’s large orbital station.

Not content with sending humans to asteroids, the Moon and Mars, China also plans on building its very own space station.

The first part of the Chinese large modular space station is expected to go into orbit around Earth in 2019 with the final sections in place by 2022.

The station will host three crew members, unlike previous efforts which could not support any crew.

The first Chinese space station, Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Place’ launched in 2011, was only supposed to stay in orbit for two years.

Seven years later, and we are being told the satellite is out of control, and will crash into our planet in the next few months.

In 2011 it was decided China was not allowed to be part of the International Space Station (ISS) collaboration, when the US Congress passed a law saying it was concerned about national security.

An artists’s impression of how China’s Mars rover will look.

The ISS is a joint mission between the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe. Plans to collaborate are continuing, as Nasa and Russia announced a deal to work together building a new space station around the Moon.

But this doesn’t rule China out of the picture completely. “The US-Russian agreement is in principle only,” Logsdon sats. “Neither country has a funded program for such a station yet.

If the Trump administration does fund such a US station, partnerships with many countries, not just Russia, will be sought. The issue then is whether Congress will allow Nasa to work with China.

The future of China’s space exploration is diverse and exciting. With many ambitious plans, and a few failures under its belt, it remains to be seen whether China will meet its ambitious goals.

What is clear, however, is the country is not wasting any time trying to become the leader of the next space race.

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Mars Is Spectacular This Month – Here’s The Best Way To Spy The Red Planet

If you look at the sky tonight and spot a very bright star, it may well be a planet. Mars is the closest it has been to Earth for 15 years – and therefore the brightest.

Mars shines through reflected light,” says Robert Massey, the deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society.

That means that when it’s closer to the Earth it appears brighter, because its apparent size is bigger.” It won’t be this visible again until 2035.

So, how best to see it? First, make sure tall trees or buildings are not obscuring the view. Ideally, you want a clear horizon. Then, look south.




It will be obvious, because it’s bright, it doesn’t twinkle and it has a distinct reddish tinge,” says Massey, who suggests Somerset, Devon and Dorset as good locations for spotting it.

The best Mars-gazing time is 1am, but it rises earlier in the evening.

You can see Mars with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars would help,” says Massey. “If you have a small telescope, you may be lucky to see a polar ice cap.

If you are an amateur with good equipment, the details to look out for are two polar ice caps, mountains or volcanoes, and sunken, crater-like features. Massey suggests contacting your local astronomical society about public viewing events.

Hubble’s views of Mars at two recent oppositions

When is the best time to see Mars?

According to NASA, Mars Opposition begins Friday, July 27 around midnight.

Mars will be visible between Friday, July 27 and Monday, July 30, making its closest approach — 35.8 million miles to be exact — on Tuesday, July 31 at around 4 a.m. E.T.

Mars will be at its brightest Friday night due to an opposition surge that is affected by the planet’s angle of the sun — giving you the clearest view of the Red Planet.

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NASA Is Planning To Make Water And Oxygen On The Moon And Mars By 2020

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins works with a Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System tank aboard the International Space Station.

NASA is forging ahead with plans to make water, oxygen, and hydrogen on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

If we ever want to colonize other planets, it is vital that we find a way of extracting these vital gases and liquids from moons and planets, rather than transporting them from Earth.

The current plan is to land a rover on the Moon in 2018 that will try to extract hydrogen, water, and oxygen — and then hopefully, Curiosity’s successor will try to convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen in 2020 when it lands on Mars.

In 2018, NASA hopes to put a rover on the Moon that will carry the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction) science payload.

RESOLVE will contain the various tools necessary to carry out in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).




Basically, RESOLVE will sift through the Moon’s regolith (loose surface soil) and heat them up, looking for traces of hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combined to make water.

There is also some evidence that there’s water ice on the surface of the Moon — RESOLVE will find out for certain by heating the soil and seeing of water vapor emerges.

A similar payload would be attached to Curiosity’s successor, which is currently being specced out by NASA and will hopefully launch in 2020.

This second IRSU experiment will probably suck in carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, filter out the dust, and then process the CO2 into oxygen.

If either tech demonstration works as planned, future missions might include large-scale ISRU devices that are capable of producing significant amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and water on the Moon or Mars.

This would probably be the most important advance since we first landed on the Moon in the ’60s. Basically, as it stands, space travel needs lots of hydrogen and oxygen and water.

Water has the unfortunate characteristic of being both heavy and incompressible, meaning it’s very difficult and expensive to lift large amounts of it into space (gravity can be really annoying sometimes).

Likewise, unless we come up with some other way of powering our spacecraft, it’s infeasible to carry the rocket fuel that we’d need for exploration from Earth.

In short, if we want to colonize space, we really, really need some kind of base outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, preferably on the Moon — but Mars would be good, too.

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