Jupiter Down Under

Jupiter Down Under

This image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft provides a never-before-seen perspective on Jupiter’s south pole.

The JunoCam instrument acquired the view on August 27, 2016, when the spacecraft was about 58,700 miles (94,500 kilometers) above the polar region. At this point, the spacecraft was about an hour past its closest approach, and fine detail in the south polar region is clearly resolved.

Unlike the equatorial region’s familiar structure of belts and zones, the poles are mottled by clockwise and counterclockwise rotating storms of various sizes, similar to giant versions of terrestrial hurricanes. The south pole has never been seen from this viewpoint, although the Cassini spacecraft was able to observe most of the polar region at highly oblique angles as it flew past Jupiter on its way to Saturn in 2000 .

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

Advertisements

Juno on Jupiter’s Doorstep

Juno on Jupiter’s Doorstep

NASA’s Juno spacecraft obtained this color view on June 21, 2016, at a distance of 6.8 million miles (10.9 million kilometers) from Jupiter. Juno will arrive at Jupiter on July 4.

As Juno makes its initial approach, the giant planet’s four largest moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — are visible, and the alternating light and dark bands of the planet’s clouds are just beginning to come into view.

Juno is approaching over Jupiter’s north pole, affording the spacecraft a unique perspective on the Jupiter system. Previous missions that imaged Jupiter on approach saw the system from much lower latitudes, closer to the planet’s equator.

The scene was captured by the mission’s imaging camera, called JunoCam, which is designed to acquire high resolution views of features in Jupiter’s atmosphere from very close to the planet.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

McLaren needs a 20-year-old Compaq laptop to maintain its F1 supercar

McLaren needs a 20-year-old Compaq laptop to maintain its F1 supercar

McLaren’s F1 supercar is special in more ways than one. Even now it’s still the world’s fastest production car with a naturally aspirated engine, and McLaren only built 106 F1s in total. Jalopnik visited McLaren recently, and discovered another special aspect to the F1: a 20-year-old laptop. McLaren is still servicing the existing 100 F1s with a Compaq laptop from the early ‘90s.

“The reason we need those specific Compaq laptops is that they run a bespoke CA card which is installed into them,” explains a McLaren spokesperson to Jalopnik. “The CA card is an interface between the laptop software (which is DOS-based) and the car.” If you’ve never heard of a CA card, then Jalopnik commenter Mike Herbst helpfully explains it’s a Conditional Access card. Modern PCs use smart cards or USB keys with special access codes to access sensitive systems, and the CA card was used as custom hardware as part of an integrated system for security and copy protection.

McLaren F1

McLaren has been sourcing Compaq LTE 5280 laptops to keep servicing the F1s, but the company is “working on an new interface which will be compatible with modern laptops” so it won’t have to keep hunting for these ancient machines. For now, a 20-year-old Compaq is the key to servicing one of the world’s fastest production cars. If you’re interested in buying the F1 that McLaren is selling, you won’t be able to plug in any old laptop and disable any of those annoying dash warnings. That’s probably the least of your worries when the supercar will likely sell for more than $10 million.

NASA’s Kepler Discovers First Earth-Size Planet In The ‘Habitable Zone’ of Another Star

NASA’s Kepler Discovers First Earth-Size Planet In The ‘Habitable Zone’ of Another Star

 

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.

While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth and understanding their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth.

kepler186f_comparisongraphic.jpg
The diagram compares the planets of our inner solar system to Kepler-186, a five-planet star system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The five planets of Kepler-186 orbit an M dwarf, a star that is is half the size and mass of the sun.
Credits: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

“The discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Future NASA missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing humankind’s quest to find truly Earth-like worlds.”

Although the size of Kepler-186f is known, its mass and composition are not. Previous research, however, suggests that a planet the size of Kepler-186f is likely to be rocky.

“We know of just one planet where life exists — Earth. When we search for life outside our solar system we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth,” said Elisa Quintana, research scientist at the SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science. “Finding a habitable zone planet comparable to Earth in size is a major step forward.”

Kepler-186f resides in the Kepler-186 system, about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system is also home to four companion planets, which orbit a star half the size and mass of our sun. The star is classified as an M dwarf, or red dwarf, a class of stars that makes up 70 percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

“M dwarfs are the most numerous stars,” said Quintana. “The first signs of other life in the galaxy may well come from planets orbiting an M dwarf.”

Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130-days and receives one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun, placing it nearer the outer edge of the habitable zone. On the surface of Kepler-186f, the brightness of its star at high noon is only as bright as our sun appears to us about an hour before sunset.

“Being in the habitable zone does not mean we know this planet is habitable. The temperature on the planet is strongly dependent on what kind of atmosphere the planet has,” said Thomas Barclay, research scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at Ames, and co-author of the paper. “Kepler-186f can be thought of as an Earth-cousin rather than an Earth-twin. It has many properties that resemble Earth.”

The four companion planets, Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d, and Kepler-186e, whiz around their sun every four, seven, 13, and 22 days, respectively, making them too hot for life as we know it. These four inner planets all measure less than 1.5 times the size of Earth.

The next steps in the search for distant life include looking for true Earth-twins — Earth-size planets orbiting within the habitable zone of a sun-like star — and measuring the their chemical compositions. The Kepler Space Telescope, which simultaneously and continuously measured the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, is NASA’s first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun.

Ames is responsible for Kepler’s ground system development, mission operations, and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA’s 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific research, education and public outreach.  The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit Project Page

Here’s what Nintendo’s weird U-shaped controller patent might actually be for

Here’s what Nintendo’s weird U-shaped controller patent might actually be for

Late last week a Nintendo patent application for a strange U-shaped controller surfaced in the gaming forum NeoGAF. The patent application, which was reportedly filed in October of 2014 and has been roughly translated into English, suggests that Nintendo had plans for a motion-based controller with a variety of fitness-related sensors, including a gyroscope, acceleration sensors, and temperature sensors.

“The main object of the present invention is to provide a novel training equipment, training system and an input device,” the application reads. It references use of a balance ball, and is also referred to as an “exercise appliance and health appliance.”

Even after reading a good part of the application, the horseshoe-like device is still shrouded in mystery. Here are five things the patent application might actually be for:

1. Some type of dedicated health controller that will work with Nintendo‘s next big console, codenamed NX. “NX” is expected to come out by the end of this year and has beendescribed by Nintendo as a something “unique and different,” not just the “next version of the Wii or Wii U.”

2. A non-wearable wearable that would work with Nintendo‘s stalled “quality of life” health platform, which the company first spoke about in 2014 and said would launch in April 2015 (but then never did), and now its fate seems totally up in the air…

Nintendo-patent-horseshoe-boomerang

3. An hand controller that will work with a yet-to-be-announced Nintendo AR / VR headset, which will transport us all into a magical world of warp pipes, labyrinth dungeons, and rainbow roads.

4. An actual horseshoe — but a “smart” one. If there are apps for logging saddle hoursand tracking your horse’s weight, why not make a horseshoe that will wirelessly send all of that data to an app? Horses need Fitbits, too? It would be a slight deviation fromNintendo‘s, um, stable of products, but Nintendo has done stranger things before. (Okay, we don’t really think it’s a horseshoe.)

5. Nothing. Tech companies file patent applications all the time. And Nintendo has a history of filing bizarre patent applications. This U-shaped motion-sensing controller device may never come to market.

Then again, maybe we’ll all be sitting on balance balls holding boomerang controllers in our hands, tracking our activity levels — or inactivity levels — soon enough.

Dark Matter Particle Could be Size of Human Cell

Dark Matter Particle Could be Size of Human Cell
Dark matter could be made of particles that each weigh almost as much as a human cell and are nearly dense enough to become miniature black holes, new research suggests.
While dark matter is thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe, scientists don’t know what this strange stuff is made of. True to its name, dark matter is invisible — it does not emit, reflect or even block light. As a result, dark matter can currently be studied only through its gravitational effects on normal matter. The nature of dark matter is currently one of the greatest mysteries in science.
                              
If dark matter is made of such superheavy particles, astronomers could detect evidence of them in the afterglow of the Big Bang, the authors of a new research study said.
Previous dark matter research has mostly ruled out all known ordinary materials as candidates for what makes up this mysterious stuff. Gravitational effects attributed to dark matter include the orbital motions of galaxies: The combined mass of the visible matter in a galaxy, such as stars and gas clouds, cannot account for a galaxy’s motion, so an additional, invisible mass must be present. The consensus so far among scientists is that this missing mass is made up of a new species of particles that interact only very weakly with ordinary matter. These new particles would exist outside the Standard Model of particle physics, which is the best current description of the subatomic world.
Some dark matter models suggest that this cosmic substance is made of weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, that are thought to be about 100 times the mass of a proton, said study co-author McCullen Sandora, a cosmologist at the University of Southern Denmark. However, despite many searches, researchers have not conclusively detected any WIMPs so far, leaving open the possibility that dark matter particles could be made of something significantly different.
Now Sandora and his colleagues are exploring the upper mass limit of dark matter — that is, they’re trying to discover just how massive these individual particles could possibly be, based on what scientists know about them. In this new model, known as Planckian interacting dark matter, each of the weakly interacting particles weighs about 1019 or 10 billion billion times more than a proton, or “about as heavy as a particle can be before it becomes a miniature black hole,” Sandora told Space.com.
A particle that is 1019 the mass of a proton weighs about 1 microgram. In comparison, research suggests that a typical human cell weighs about 3.5 micrograms.
The genesis of the idea for these supermassive particles “began with a feeling of despondency that the ongoing efforts to produce or detect WIMPs don’t seem to be yielding any promising clues,” Sandora said. “We can’t rule out the WIMP scenario yet, but with each passing year, it’s getting more and more suspect that we haven’t been able to achieve this yet. In fact, so far there have been no definitive hints that there is any new physics beyond the Standard Model at any accessible energy scales, so we were driven to think of the ultimate limit to this scenario.”

Belgian man wanted over Paris attacks is arrested

Belgian man wanted over Paris attacks is arrested

Mohamed Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian wanted in connection with November’s Islamic State attacks in Paris, has been arrested, a police source confirmed to AFP on Friday.

Abrini has been on Europe’s most wanted list since being identified on CCTV in a car with terror suspect Salah Abdeslam two days before the attacks in the French capital on 13 November.

Abrini was at the wheel of the Renault Clio that was later used by a team of gunmen in the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam, Abrini’s childhood friend, was arrested in Brussels two weeks ago, four days before Isis suicide bombers struck the city’s airport and a metro station.

The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed it had made several arrests related to the deadly attacks in Brussels on 22 March but gave no further details.

There was no official comment on whether Abrini was also connected to the Brussels metro and airport attacks.

Belgian police are continuing to search for a third airport bomber known as the man in the hat, seen with two suicide bombers on security camera footage at Brussels airport on 22 March.

The man in the hat left a bag containing a bomb at the airport before walking out of the terminal and crossing Brussels on foot.