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An extraordinary account of the impact space weather had on military operations in Vietnam in 1972 was found buried in the U.S. Navy archives, according to a newly published article in Space Weather. On August 4, 1972, the crew of a U.S. Task Force 77 aircraft flying near a naval minefield in the waters off Hon La observed 20 to 25 explosions over about 30 seconds. They also witnessed an additional 25 to 30 mud spots in the waters nearby. Destructor sea mines had been deployed here during Operation Pocket Money, a mining campaign launched in 1972 against principal North Vietnamese ports. There was no obvious reason why the mines should have detonated. But it has now emerged the U.S. Navy soon turned its attention to extreme solar activity at the time as a probable cause. The more we can understand the impact of such space weather on technology then the better we can be prepared for any future extreme solar activity. A solar theory As detailed in a now declassified&n...

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After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicates our sky is filled with billions of hidden planets – more planets even than stars – NASA’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life. "As NASA's first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, an...

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CHINA is launching a bizarre bid to control Earth’s weather so it can shift rain clouds thousands of miles from its soaking south to its parched north. Six satellites will form a ring to spot water-laden clouds and create an atmospheric corridor to allow them to move to the arid regions, state media said. Tianhe — which translates as "Sky River" — is being developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology and will reportedly be launched in 2020. China’s damp southern regions often flood while the north suffers drought. But the problem is having enough rain clouds to instigate downpours with. Now state scientists and researchers are pursuing weather modification techniques to guide clouds north to the Yellow River basin, which is particularly dry. The idea of controlling the weather is far from new in China. In 2008 the country "seeded" clouds with silver iodide to ensure they rained away from the Beijing Olympics. Long term the goal is to push 5 billion cu...

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"Interstellar objects could potentially plant life from another planetary system in the solar system," Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist at Harvard University and senior author on both of the new studies, told Space.com.  The group calculated the rate at which the sun and Jupiter together might gravitationally capture interstellar objects such as 'Oumuamua and found the largest body they could trap was a few dozen miles wide. They performed similar calculations for the Alpha Centauri A and B binary system and found it could capture Earth-size interstellar objects. The researchers also estimated that an interstellar object about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) wide might typically strike Earth every 10 million to 100 million years. Such collisions might have helped deliver organic compounds or even microbes to Earth, they said.  "Life can spread across vast distances," study lead author Manasvi Lingam, an applied mathematician at Harvard University, told Space.com. Lingam and Loeb detail...

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WASHINGTON — Astroscale, a company developing technologies to capture and deorbit space debris, announced Oct. 31 it raised a $50 millionSeries D round that brings its total to date to $102 million. Astroscale, headquartered in Singapore but with its main research and development offices in Tokyo, said that its new round was led by Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) with participation from several other Japanese investors, including SBI Investment Company Ltd. and Mitsubishi Estate Company Ltd. INCJ, in a separate statement, said it was contributing up to $35 million in new funding, with $25.5 million of that provided now.  The company plans to use the funding to support several ongoing efforts, including the development of a technology demonstration satellite called ELSA-d. That spacecraft, scheduled for launch in early 2020 on a Soyuz rocket, will feature "target" and "chaser" satellites to demonstrate rendezvous and proximity operations. The target spac...

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The Milky Way Has A Giant Skeleton In Its Closet

Wednesday, October 31st 2018 02:27 PM

Scientists have identified the corpse of a galaxy that fell into the Milky Way about 10 billion years ago in what was likely the last major overhaul to our home galaxy during its development. That's the conclusion of new research based on 2 billion measurements of how stars within the Milky Way are moving. Those measurements let scientists identify about 33,000 stars that live in our galaxy but were born elsewhere, carried here during a giant galactic collision. "The Milky Way is a cannibal. It has eaten many dwarf galaxies in the past, and we've just found a major one that it ate in the past," Kathryn Johnston, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York who wasn't involved in the new research, told Space.com. "This is like a police investigation — this one in particular, because it's not a galaxy that we can see today. It's a dead galaxy, so that makes it kind of fun." [Photos: Gaia Spacecraft to Map Milky Way Galaxy] The research is possible because st...

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Space elevators to ferry passengers and cargo to and from orbit could be built using existing materials, if the technology takes inspiration from biology to fix itself when needed, a new study finds. In theory, a space elevator consists of a cable or bundle of cables that extend thousands of miles to a counterweight in space. The rotation of the Earth would keep the cable taut, and climber vehicles would zip up and down the cable at the speed of a train.  The ride up a space elevator would likely take days. However, once a space elevator is built, a trip to space on the technology could be far cheaper and safer than on a rocket. Space-elevator technology is now getting tested in real life in the Japanese STARS-Me experiment (short for Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite-Mini Elevator), which arrived at the International Space Station on Sept. 27 aboard Japan's robotic HTV-7 cargo spacecraft. The concept of the beanstalk-like elevator to space...

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NASA has opened a submission period for commercial moon-lander proposals, noting that selected technology might fly as soon as next year. The call is one of the agency's early steps in its plan to return humans to the moon's surface in the 2020s. That timeline was chosen in part because of the plan NASA has to recruit commercial partnerships to lessen the burden on the agency and its budget. "The strategy is that these early missions will help us prepare for more complex future missions such as searching for useable resources, building up a seismic network to understand the moon's internal structure, and studying the lunar mineralogy and chemistry to understand the moon's origins," Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration at NASA, said in a statement. NASA is keeping an open mind as to what precisely those commercial landers will look like, although the agency does want projects that have a scientific or technological focus. "We are...

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10 Trillion Frame-per-Second Camera Captures Photon Pulses in Mid-Air What happens when a new technology is so advanced and precise that it operates on a scale beyond our ability to accurately characterize and measure? That happens when lasers used to produce ultrashort pulses in the femtosecond range (10 ^-15 seconds) are far too short to visualize. Although some measurements are possible, nothing beats a clear image according to Professor and ultrafast imaging specialist Jinyang Liang of the INRS (Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique), a part of the Universite du Quebec network in Canada. He and his colleagues, led by Caltech’s Lihong Wang, have developed T-CUP, the world’s fastest camera, capable of capturing ten trillion (10 ^13) frames per second. This new camera literally captures photon pulses in mid-air and makes it possible to freeze time and see phenomena in extremely slow motion.   In recent years, the junction between innovations in non-lin...

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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of October 2018

Monday, October 15th 2018 02:56 PM

Welcome to the night sky report for October 2018 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Look for Pegasus, the great winged horse of Greek mythology, prancing across the autumn night sky. Binoculars and small telescopes will reveal the glowing nucleus and spiral arms of our neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. Don’t miss the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks on the night of October 21 to 22.The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard. Planets begin to depart the evening sky as chilly October winds blow. Mars and Saturn still dominate the southern sky, Mars in Capricornus and Saturn in Sagittarius. A modest telescope reveals the rings orbiting Saturn. The waxing moon travels between the two in the middle of the month. The orange disk of Mars decreases in size and its features fade from view as its distance from Earth increases over the cour...

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