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Space

Saturn's F Ring Is Now Three Times As Wide As During the Voyager Flybys 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-bigger dept.
KentuckyFC writes In 1980 and 1981, Voyager 1 and 2 flew past Saturn providing unprecedented images of its magnificent ring system. At that time, its most distant discrete ring, the F ring, was about 200 kilometres wide. But puzzlingly, images sent back by Cassini show that the ring is now 580 kilometres wide and twice as bright as it was thirty years ago. Now astronomers think they have finally solved the mystery of the expanding F ring. The ring is shepherded by a number of small moons, the most famous of which is Prometheus. These moons interact gravitationally with the ring creating structures such as braids and spokes. The new thinking is that the moons' orbits resonate with the F ring, pushing clouds of dust and ice further away from Saturn. This makes the ring wider. But beyond a certain radius the orbit of the dust becomes unstable and it begins to spiral back towards Saturn and collides with the rest of the ring. This causes a chain reaction of collisions that dramatically increases the number of particles in the ring and hence its brightness. This theory also leads to a prediction--the resonant process is currently at a maximum but should reduce sharply in the coming years, if the theory is correct. So by 2018, the F ring should be back to the same configuration the Voyagers saw in 80/81.
Space

Battle of the Heavy Lift Rockets 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-stay-home dept.
schwit1 writes: Check out this detailed and informative look at the unspoken competiton between NASA's SLS rocket and SpaceX's planned heavy lift rocket. It's being designed to be even more powerful than the Falcon Heavy. Key quote: "It is clear SpaceX envisions a rocket far more powerful than even the fully evolved Block 2 SLS – a NASA rocket that isn't set to be launched until the 2030s." The SpaceX rocket hinges on whether the company can successfully build its new Raptor engine. If they do, they will have their heavy lift rocket in the air and functioning far sooner than NASA, and for far less money.
NASA

NASA's Competition For Dollars 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We often decry the state of funding to NASA. Its limited scope has kept us from returning to the moon for over four decades, maintained only a minimal presence in low-Earth orbit, and failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system. But why is funding such a problem? Jason Callahan, who has worked on several of NASA's annual budgets, says it's not just NASA's small percentage of the federal budget that keeps those projects on the back burner, but also competition for funding between different parts of NASA as well. "[NASA's activities include] space science, including aeronautics research (the first A in NASA), technology development, education, center and agency management, construction, maintenance, and the entire human spaceflight program. The total space science budget has rarely exceeded $5 billion, and has averaged just over half that amount. Remember that space science is more than just planetary: astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science are all funded in this number. Despite this, space science accounts for an average of 17 percent of NASA's total budget, though it has significant fluctuations. In the 1980s, space science was a mere 11 ½ percent of NASA's budget, but in the 2000s, it made up 27 percent."
Space

Astronomers Find What May Be the Closest Exoplanet So Far 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the launch-invasion-fleet dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have found a 5.4 Earth-mass planet orbiting the star Gliese 15A, a red dwarf in a binary system just 11.7 light years away (PDF). Other exoplanets candidates have been found that are closer, but they are as yet unconfirmed. This is more evidence that alien planets are common in the galaxy.
Space

Software Error Caused Soyuz/Galileo Failure 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-anywhere dept.
schwit1 writes An investigation into the recent failed Soyuz launch of the EU's Galileo satellites has found that the Russian Fregat upper stage fired correctly, but its software was programmed for the wrong orbit. From the article: "The failure of the European Union’s Galileo satellites to reach their intended orbital position was likely caused by software errors in the Fregat-MT rocket’s upper-stage, Russian newspaper Izvestia reported Thursday. 'The nonstandard operation of the integrated management system was likely caused by an error in the embedded software. As a result, the upper stage received an incorrect flight assignment, and, operating in full accordance with the embedded software, it has delivered the units to the wrong destination,' an unnamed source from Russian space Agency Roscosmos was quoted as saying by the newspaper."
Space

NASA Telescopes Uncover Early Construction of Giant Galaxy 25

Posted by timothy
from the after-the-completed-sketches-of-course dept.
littlesparkvt (2707383) writes "Astronomers have uncovered for the first time the earliest stages of a massive galaxy forming in the young Universe. The discovery was made possible through combining observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The growing galaxy core is blazing with the light of millions of newborn stars that are forming at a ferocious rate. The paper appears in the journal Nature on 27 August." (Here's the NASA press release.)
NASA

Eye Problems From Space Affect At Least 21 NASA Astronauts 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-gravity-to-balance-eye-fusion dept.
SternisheFan sends this report from Universe Today: How does microgravity affect your health? One of the chief concerns of NASA astronauts these days is changes to eyesight. Some people come back from long-duration stays in space with what appears to be permanent changes, such as requiring glasses when previously they did not. And the numbers are interesting. A few months after NASA [said] 20% of astronauts may face this problem, a new study points out that 21 U.S. astronauts that have flown on the International Space Station for long flights (which tend to be five to six months) face visual problems. These include "hyperopic shift, scotoma and choroidal folds to cotton wool spots, optic nerve sheath distension, globe flattening and edema of the optic nerve," states the University of Houston, which is collaborating with NASA on a long-term study of astronauts while they're in orbit.
Science

Fermilab Begins Testing Holographic Universe Theory 247

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the warp-life-0.1 dept.
Back in 2009, researchers theorized that space could be a hologram. Four years ago, Fermilab proposed testing the theory, and the experiment is finally going online. Jason Koebler writes Operating with cutting-edge technology out of a trailer in rural Illinois, government researchers started today on a set of experiments that they say will help them determine whether or not you and me and everything that exists are living in a two-dimensional holographic universe. In a paper explaining the theory, Craig Hogan, director of the Department of Energy's Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics writes that "some properties of space and time that seem fundamental, including localization [where things are], may actually emerge only as a macroscopic approximation from the flow of information in a quantum system." In other words, the location of places in space may constantly fluctuate ever so slightly, which would suggest we're living in a hologram.
Space

Brown Dwarf With Water Clouds Tentatively Detected Just 7 Light-Years From Earth 85

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the a-bit-chilly dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes Astronomers have found signs of water ice clouds on an object just 7.3 light-years from Earth — less than twice the distance of Alpha Centauri. If confirmed, the discovery is the first sighting of water clouds beyond our solar system. The clouds shroud a Jupiter-sized object known as a brown dwarf and should yield insight into the nature of cool giant planets orbiting other suns.
Security

Project Zero Exploits 'Unexploitable' Glibc Bug 98

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the never-say-never dept.
NotInHere (3654617) writes with news that Google's Project Zero has been busy at work. A month ago they reported an off-by-one error in glibc that would overwrite a word on the heap with NUL and were met with skepticism at its ability to be used in an attack. Google's 'Project Zero' devised an exploit of the out-of-bounds NUL write in glibc to gain root access using the setuid binary pkexec in order to convince skeptical glibc developers. 44 days after being reported, the bug has been fixed. They even managed to defeat address space randomization on 32-bit platforms by tweaking ulimits. 64-bit systems should remain safe if they are using address space randomization.
Space

Exomoon Detection Technique Could Greatly Expand Potential Habitable Systems 66

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the larry-ellison-to-buy-exomoon dept.
Luminary Crush (109477) writes Most of the detected exoplanets thus far have been gas giants which aren't great candidates for life as we know it. However, many of those planets are in fact in the star's habitable zone and could have moons with conditions more favorable. Until now, methods to detect the moons of such gas giants have been elusive, but researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington have discovered a way to detect the interaction of a moon's ionosphere with the parent gas giant from studies of Jupiter's moon Io. The search for 'Pandora' has begun.
Bitcoin

Early Bitcoin User Interviewed By Federal Officers 92

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-wasting-electricity-officer dept.
MrBingoBoingo (3481277) writes Recently a Bitcoin user reports being interviewed over their past use of a now defunct exchange service by agents from the FBI and Treasury Department. This encounter raises concerns that earlier Bitcoin users who entered the space inocuously and without ties to Dark Markets or The Silk Road might need to prepare for Law Enforcement questioning about their early Bitcoin related activities.
Data Storage

Dropbox Caught Between Warring Giants Amazon and Google 275

Posted by Soulskill
from the rsync-is-still-pretty-cheap dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google and Amazon are both aggressively pursuing the cloud storage market, constantly increasing available storage space and constantly dropping prices. On its face, this looks great for the consumer — competition is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, many smaller companies like Box, Dropbox, and Hightail simply aren't able to run their services at a loss like the giants can. Dropbox's Aaron Levie said, "These guys will drive prices to zero. You do not want to wait for Google or Amazon to keep cutting prices on you. 'Free' is not a business model."

The result is that the smaller companies are pivoting to win market share, relying on specific submarkets or stronger feature sets rather than available space or price. "Box is trying to cater to special data storage needs, like digital versions of X-rays for health care companies and other tasks specific to different kinds of customers. Hightail is trying to do something similar for customers like law firms. And Dropbox? It is trying to make sure that its consumer-minded service stays easier to use than what the big guys provide." It's going to be tough for them to hold out, and even tougher for new storage startups to break in. But that might be the only thing keeping us from choosing between the Wal-Mart-A and Wal-Mart-B of online storage.
Mars

Mangalyaan Gets Ready To Enter Mars Orbit 67

Posted by timothy
from the space-is-a-big-place dept.
William Robinson (875390) writes India's Mars Orbiter Mission, known as Mangalyaan is now at a distance of just nine million kilometres from the red planet, and is scheduled to enter the orbit of Mars at 7.30 am on September 24. Mangalyaan was launched on 5th November 2013 by ISRO, presently busy planning to reduce the speed of the spacecraft through the process of firing the LAM engine and bring it to 1.6 km/sec, before it is captured by the planet's gravity. Eventually, the mission's official updates page should catch up.
Transportation

Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine 107

Posted by timothy
from the send-picture-of-rocket dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes The U.S. Air Force on Thursday issued a request for information from industry for the replacement of the Russian-made engines used by ULA's Atlas 5 rocket: "Companies are being asked to respond by Sept. 19 to 35 questions. Among them: "What solution would you recommend to replace the capability currently provided by the RD-180 engine?" Air Force officials have told Congress they only have a broad idea of how to replace the RD-180. Estimates of the investment in money and time necessary to field an American-built alternative vary widely. Congress, meanwhile, is preparing bills that would fund a full-scale engine development program starting next year; the White House is advocating a more deliberate approach that begins with an examination of applicable technologies. In the request for information, the Air Force says it is open to a variety of options including an RD-180 facsimile, a new design, and alternative configurations featuring multiple engines, and even a brand new rocket. The Air Force is also trying to decide on the best acquisition approach. Options include a traditional acquisition or a shared investment as part of a public-private partnership. [emphasis mine]"

The Atlas 5 is built by Lockheed Martin. This is really their problem, not the Air Force or ULA. In addition, the Air Force has other options, both from Boeing's Delta rocket family as well as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
Space

Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids? 187

Posted by timothy
from the will-take-credit-for-the-nobel-prize dept.
I am interested in a telescope for the use of some elementary and middle school aged relatives. Older and younger siblings, and parents, would no doubt get some scope time, too. Telescopes certainly come in a range of prices, from cheap to out of this world, and I am purely a duffer myself. But I enjoy looking at the moon and stars with magnification, and think they would, too. What I'm trying to find might be phrased like this: "the lowest priced scope that's reasonably robust, reasonably accurate, and reasonably usable for kids" -- meaning absolute precision is less important than a focus that is easy to set and doesn't drift. Simplicity in design beats tiny, ill-labeled parts or an incomprehensible manual, even if the complicated one might be slightly better when perfectly tuned. I'd be pleased if some of these kids decide to take up astronomy as a hobby, but don't have any strong expectation that will happen -- besides, if they really get into it, the research for a better one would be another fun project. That said, while I'm price sensitive, I'm not looking *only* at the price tag so much as seeking insight about the cluster of perceived sweet spots when it come to price / performance / personality. By "personality" I mean whether it's friendly, well documented, whether it comes intelligently packaged, whether it's a crapshoot as to whether a scope with the same model name will arrive in good shape, etc -- looking at online reviews, it seems many low-end scopes have a huge variance in reviews. What scopes would you would consider giving to an intelligent 3rd or 4th grader? As a starting point, Google has helped me find some interesting guides that list some scopes that sound reasonable, including a few under or near $100. (Here's one such set of suggestions.) What would you advise buying, from that list or otherwise? (There are some ideas that sound pretty good in this similar question from 2000, but I figure the state of the art has moved on.) I'm more interested in avoiding awful junk than I am expecting treasure: getting reasonable views of the moon is a good start, and getting at least some blurry rings around Saturn would be nice, too. Simply because they are so cheap, I'd like to know if anyone has impressions (worth it? pure junk?) of the Celestron FirstScope models, which are awfully tempting for under $50.
Space

Spot ET's Waste Heat For Chance To Find Alien Life 80

Posted by timothy
from the especially-if-they've-got-grow-lights dept.
mdsolar passes along this selection from New Scientist describing a (comparatively) low-tech means of scanning the skies for extraterrestrial civilizations: The best-known technique used to search for tech-savvy aliens is eavesdropping on their communications with each other. But this approach assumes ET is chatty in channels we can hear. The new approach, dubbed G-HAT for Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies, makes no assumptions about what alien civilisations may be like.

"This approach is very different," says Franck Marchis at the SETI Institute in California, who was not involved in the project. "I like it because it doesn't put any constraints on the origin of the civilisation or their willingness to communicate." Instead, it utilises the laws of thermodynamics. All machines and living things give off heat, and that heat is visible as infrared radiation. The G-HAT team combed through the catalogue of images generated by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, which released an infrared map of the entire sky in 2012. A galaxy should emit about 10 per cent of its light in the mid-infrared range, says team leader Jason Wright at Pennsylvania State University. If it gives off much more, it could be being warmed by vast networks of alien technology – though it could also be a sign of more prosaic processes, such as rapid star formation or an actively feeding black hole at the galaxy's centre.
Space

2 Galileo Satellites Launched To Wrong Orbit 139

Posted by timothy
from the conspiracy-theory dept.
As reported by the BBC, two satellites meant to form part of the EU's Galileo global positioning network have been launched into a wrong, lower orbit, and it is unclear whether they can be salvaged. NASASpaceFlight.com has a more detailed account of the launch, which says [D]espite the Arianespace webcast noting no issue with the launch, it was later admitted the satellites were lofted into the wrong orbit. “Following the announcement made by Arianespace on the anomalies of the orbit injection of the Galileo satellites, the teams of industries and agencies involved in the early operations of the satellites are investigating the potential implications on the mission,” noted a short statement, many hours after the event. It is unlikely the satellites can be eased into their correct orbit, even with a large extension to their transit time. However, ESA are not classing the satellites as lost at this time. “Both satellites have been acquired and are safely controlled and operated from ESOC, ESA’s Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany,” the Agency added. Over the course of the next "year or so," an additional 24 satellites are slated to complete the Galileo constellation, to be launched by a mixed slate of Ariane and Soyuz rockets.
Transportation

Anomaly Triggers Self-Destruct For SpaceX Falcon 9 Test Flight 113

Posted by timothy
from the fly-up-go-boom dept.
SpaceMika (867804) writes "A SpaceX test flight at the McGregor test facility ended explosively on Friday afternoon. A test flight of a three-engine Falcon 9 Dev1 reusable rocket ended in a rapid unscheduled disassembly after an unspecified anomaly triggered the Flight Termination System, destroying the rocket. No injuries were reported." Update: 08/23 13:33 GMT by T : Space.com has video.
Media

A Movie of Triton Made From Voyager 2's Fly-by 25 Years Ago 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
schwit1 writes: Using restored images taken by Voyager 2 when it flew past Neptune's moon Triton 25 years ago, scientists have produced a new map and flyby movie of the moon. "The new Triton map has a resolution of 1,970 feet (600 meters) per pixel. The colors have been enhanced to bring out contrast but are a close approximation to Triton's natural colors. Voyager's "eyes" saw in colors slightly different from human eyes, and this map was produced using orange, green and blue filter images. ... Although Triton is a moon of a planet and Pluto is a dwarf planet, Triton serves as a preview of sorts for the upcoming Pluto encounter. Although both bodies originated in the outer solar system, Triton was captured by Neptune and has undergone a radically different thermal history than Pluto. Tidal heating has likely melted the interior of Triton, producing the volcanoes, fractures and other geological features that Voyager saw on that bitterly cold, icy surface. Pluto is unlikely to be a copy of Triton, but some of the same types of features may be present." Dr. Paul Schenk provides provides further information on his blog, and the movie can be viewed here.

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