Friday, July 13, 2018

// // Leave a Comment

Kepler 186-f is more habitable than previously thought.

An extrasolar world 500 light years away could be the most promising place yet to look for alien life.

In a recent study, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology used computer simulations to analyze the planet's spin-axis dynamics and to determine how much its tilt changes over time.

The findings indicated that Kepler-186f's tilt is actually stable like that of the Earth, meaning that it has seasons and climates, just like our own planet does.

Discovered back in 2014, this intriguing extrasolar world is also situated in its star's habitable zone, meaning that the temperature is 'just right' for liquid water to pool on its surface.

As a possible place to look for alien life, it is certainly a tantalizing target for future observations.

"Our study is among the first to investigate climate stability of exoplanets and adds to the growing understanding of these potentially habitable nearby worlds," said study leader Gongjie Li.

"I don't think we understand enough about the origin of life to rule out the possibility of their presence on planets with irregular seasons," co-author Yutong Shan added. "Even on Earth, life is remarkably diverse and has shown incredible resilience in extraordinarily hostile environments."

"But a climatically stable planet might be a more comfortable place to start."
Read More

Sunday, July 1, 2018

// // Leave a Comment

Mystery of the lost letter of Columbus

A copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus was stolen from the Vatican and replaced with a fake.

The letter, which was acquired by the Vatican Apostolic Library in 1921, was a copy of a letter that Columbus had written in 1493 to describe his first impressions of the Caribbean islands.

Intended for the eyes of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, the letter described a land "full of trees of endless varieties, so high that they seem to touch the sky."

It was valued at a staggering $1.2 million.

In 2011 however, United States Homeland Security Investigations received a tip-off from an old books and manuscripts expert claiming that the Vatican's copy of the letter was actually a forgery.

It later transpired that someone had managed to switch the real one with a near-perfect fake.

It wasn't until last week that the original was finally tracked down and returned to the Vatican.

The identify of the individual responsible for creating the forgery and switching it over continues to remain a mystery. The theft could have been carried out at any time over the last 90 years.

As things stand, it seems unlikely that we will ever know for sure who was behind it.

The forgery that was held in the Vatican had been created with a technique called “stereotyping,” which “reproduces the tactile effects of early printed books,” Povoledo writes. This technique was popular during the 19th and 20th centuries, so it is possible that investigators are dealing with a crime that was committed many years ago. Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, the Vatican’s archivist and librarian, tells Povoledo that if this is indeed the case, “we will probably never know for sure who the forger was.”

Read More

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

// // Leave a Comment

Fish with a bird-like head caught in Chinese river

A fish with a head resembling that of a bird has been caught in a river in China's Guizhou Province.

Recently released footage of the peculiar creature, which looks like an amalgamation of two different types of animals, went viral after it was uploaded on to Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Since then, thousands of Internet users have been attempting to figure out what it is.

According to fish expert Yang Xing from the Guizhou Fisheries Research Institute, the most likely explanation is that the creature is a carp with a prominent head deformity.

"One possibility is that the embryo was damaged when it was growing," he said.

"Another possibility is that the lack of oxygen in [the] water - due to over-crowded fishing farming - caused the fish's head to be deformed."

According to reports, the fish was later released back in to the river.

Read More

Sunday, June 10, 2018

// // Leave a Comment

Curiosity discovers Organic material on Mars

NASA has announced this week that complex organic matter has been found in an ancient lake bed on Mars.

The material was found after the rover drilled into the surface of a 3.5 billion-year-old mudstone at the bottom of the Gale crater.

Researchers have been quick to point out that the discovery does not necessarily mean that there is, or has been, life on the red planet.

The groundbreaking discovery represents the best evidence yet that Mars was once home to lakes filled with the carbon-based compounds necessary for primitive life forms to develop.

Intriguingly, NASA scientists have been unable to determine how this organic matter originally formed, meaning that there is a chance that it was the byproduct of ancient organisms.

It may have also been deposited on Mars by comets or asteroids in the distant past.

Certainly, the presence of these compounds would have helped to sustain any life that did arise.

"We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all sorts of organics. It's a valuable food source for them," said NASA biogeochemist Jennifer Eigenbrode.

"While we don't know the source of the material, the amazing consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars."

"It is not telling us that life was there, but it is saying that everything organisms really needed to live in that kind of environment, all of that was there."

“To me it is amazing that we can show we have organic matter preserved for more than 3bn years in these rocks,” said Kirsten Siebach, a planetary geologist who was not involved in the work at Rice University in Houston, Texas. “This is very promising for the preservation of potential ancient life on the planet.”

“These molecules could have been part of life, but they could also have been food for life,” Siebach added. “To know that the water really was full of organic molecules really opens up the different ways that life could have existed on Mars.”

Read More

Friday, May 25, 2018

// // Leave a Comment

$17B 'holy grail of shipwrecks' discovered

The long-lost 300-year-old Spanish galleon was found with the help of an autonomous underwater vehicle.

Discovered in 2015 off the coast of Colombia by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the wreck had been kept under wraps for the last three years out of respect for the Colombian government.

Known as the San Jose, the 62-gun galleon went down on June 8, 1708 along with 600 members of its crew while engaged in a battle with the British during the War of Spanish Succession.

Incredibly, the wreck is thought to contain a treasure trove which today is worth over $17 billion.

Now new information has been released indicating that the ship, which lies 2,000ft beneath the ocean's surface, was found using an autonomous underwater vehicle known as REMUS 6000.

"The wreck was partially sediment-covered, but with the camera images from the lower altitude missions, we were able to see new details in the wreckage and the resolution was good enough to make out the decorative carving on the cannons," said expedition leader Mike Purcell.

"During that November expedition, we got the first indications of the find from side scan sonar images of the wreck," WHOI expedition leader Mike Purcell explains in a statement.

"From those images, we could see strong sonar signal returns, so we sent REMUS back down for a closer look to collect camera images."

Photographs taken just 9 metres (30 ft) above the wreck identified the vessel's cannons, and later dives uncovered details like engraved dolphins carved into the cannons' bronze, in addition to scattered teacups on the seabed, plus ceramics and other artefacts.

There's no official word yet on when or how these objects will be recovered – not to mention the San José's other considerable riches, which have not yet been detailed.

It remains unclear who will end up with the vessel's vast riches however there have already been several tense legal battles over the matter and the precise location of the vessel is still a secret.

UNESCO has since called on Colombia not to exploit the wreck for commercial purposes.

Read More

Friday, May 11, 2018

// // Leave a Comment

Moon mission 'a step towards Mars', NASA boss says.

The US space agency has emphasized that its Moon ambitions will not distract from its efforts to reach Mars.

In December, instructing Nasa to send astronauts back to the moon, half a century after Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot there. Last week, Nasa issued a draft request for a proposal encouraging the US commercial space industry to help it deliver payloads to the moon.

Last week, NASA seemed to be doubling down on the Moon as a target for future missions when it published a draft request for a proposal encouraging the commercial space industry to assist in its upcoming efforts to land payloads on the lunar surface.

Now though, new administrator Jim Bridenstine has reiterated that Mars is still the main objective.

"If some of you are concerned that our focus in the coming years is the Moon, don't be," he said during a speech at the annual Humans to Mars summit in Washington.

"The president's vision has emphasized that our exploration campaign will establish American leadership in the human exploration of Mars."

"We are doing both the moon and Mars in tandem and the missions are supportive of each other."

"In fact, our return to the surface of the moon will allow us to prove and advance technologies that will feed forward to Mars: precision landing systems, methane engines, orbital habitation, surface habitation, surface mobility, long duration life support operations and much more that will enable us to land the first Americans on the red planet."

According to space subcommittee chairman Senator Ted Cruz, the US is particularly committed to not only landing humans on Mars but to also being the first nation on Earth to do so.

"The first foot that sets foot on Mars will be an American foot, and an American explorer," he said. "That's leadership that I think this country needs and values."

"Restoring America's leadership in space I think is incredibly important."

Source:The Guardian
Read More

Monday, April 23, 2018

// // Leave a Comment

Asteroid mining could be worth trillions

According to Goldman Sachs, asteroid mining has the potential to produce the world's first trillionaires.

The asteroids that pass us by on a regular basis might not seem particularly valuable, but inside many of these spacefaring rocks there lies a fortune in gold, platinum and other minerals that could actually make space mining an extremely viable commercial venture.

Last year, investment banking firm Goldman Sachs published a 98-page report advocating asteroid mining as a potentially lucrative money-making opportunity for those willing to make the investment.

"While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower," wrote aerospace and materials analyst Noah Poponak.

"Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion."

Professor Michio Kaku has also commented on the opportunities of asteroid mining, noting that asteroids are essentially "a flying gold mine in outer space" filled with valuable resources.

Given that a single 3,000ft asteroid could contain as much as $5.4 trillion worth of platinum, anyone who succeeds in tapping in to this plentiful new resource could become very wealthy indeed.Smaller asteroids that don’t exceed 100 feet across are estimated to have precious metal contents of around $50 billion

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agrees with Kaku’s prediction.
“The first trillionaire there will ever be is the person who exploits the natural resources on asteroids.”
Tyson believes that asteroid mining, which opens up a whole new, wider horizon, would help prevent future conflicts over resource access.
“There’s this vast universe of limitless energy and limitless resources. I look at wars fought over access to resources. That could be a thing of the past, once space becomes our backyard,” he said in a statement.
We may even see an asteroid 'gold rush' take place within the not-too-distant future.


Read More