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laser truck

US military's latest toy set: Record-breaking laser death star, er, truck

Vid Lockheed Martin says it is ready to deliver its most powerful laser weapon yet to the US military. This Death-Star-on-wheels can shoot down drones, missiles, and similar stuff, we're told. The American weapons conglomerate self-funded the building of a 30kW test system and then scaled the design up. The 60kW version is mounted …
Iain Thomson, 17 Mar 2017
The Italian town of Brindisi and surrounds shot by ESA Sentinel B

A big day for the ESA: Sentinel snaps and ExoMars brakes

If you're trying to sell something to the European Space Agency, today could be the day to move in and close the deal because there should be smiles all round after two missions achieved important milestones. The most visible achievement is depicted above (here for mobile readers): the Italian port city of Brindisi, as …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Mar 2017
trinity

60 slow-mo A-bomb test videos explode onto YouTube

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has released a recently-declassified collection of films depicting atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted between 1945 and 1962. The United States conducted extensive atmospheric testing during those years, and the Laboratory says they were all captured on film by multiple …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Mar 2017
trump

NASA swerves serious cash cuts – but Earth climate probes, asteroid snatcher face axe

While some government departments are facing swinging cuts in President Trump's "America First" proposed budget, NASA appears to have escaped lightly – so far. Funding was cut by $200m, and the total going to America's space agency is $19.1bn per year. Even so, NASA has had to cancel some popular programs. The mission to catch …
Iain Thomson, 16 Mar 2017
NASA image - Van Allen Belts

Van Allen surprise: fewer nasty particles than NASA expected

Video After a three-year search, NASA's Van Allen Probes have worked out there's far fewer high-energy electrons in the Van Allen Belts than previously thought. That's good news, because electrons moving at relativistic speeds are a danger to navigation, as NASA explains in a paper that's just landed in the Journal of Geophysical …

SpaceX yoinks $96m GPS launch deal from under ULA's nose

The US Air Force has awarded a $96m contract to SpaceX to launch one of its next-generation GPS satellites, in a competitive contract that left the United Launch Alliance in the dust. The launch, which must take place by April 30, 2019, will see the GPS III satellite launched from SpaceX's spaceport. As it's a low-Earth orbit …
Iain Thomson, 15 Mar 2017

Dark matter drought hits older galaxies: Boffins are, rightly, baffled

The mystery surrounding dark matter deepens: scientists have discovered that the puzzling substance was less dominant in our universe's early galaxies. Although no one knows what dark matter is made out of, physicists generally agree that it exists, and that it can be observed albeit indirectly. In the 1970s, astronomers …
Katyanna Quach, 15 Mar 2017

Oxford Uni boffins say internet filters probably won't protect teens

Researchers from the University of Oxford have suggested that, instead of rolling out internet filters, those who are concerned about what teenagers encounter online should spend some time helping their parents parent them. The research paper, "Internet Filtering Technology and Aversive Online Experiences in Adolescents", was …

Blast from the past: Mass birth of early supermassive black holes explained at last

The earliest supermassive black holes have always puzzled astronomers. These ancient voids – about a billion times the mass of the Sun – were discovered more than a decade ago and formed only 800,000 years after the Big Bang. It should take millions of years for black holes to accumulate that much mass, so finding these giants …
Katyanna Quach, 14 Mar 2017

Time crystals really do exist, say physicists*

A new quantum state of matter has been experimentally observed for the first time, according to two papers published in Nature. In 2012, Frank Wilczek, a Nobel-prize winning physicist proposed the idea of "time crystals": an open, ground state system that breaks time translational symmetry. The name is a little confusing as …
Katyanna Quach, 14 Mar 2017
ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter

NASA finds India's missing lunar orbiter with Earth-bound radar

In 2009, a lunar orbiter launched by India went quiet and was never heard from again. Fast-forward eight years and NASA say it's spotted it using an Earth-based radar. The Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter was supposed to spend two years on its mission, but after 312 days its communications systems …

If fast radio bursts really are revving up interstellar sailcraft, here's the maths

Astrophysicists think that mysterious short millisecond-long blip of radiation may be distant aliens powering up their sailcraft. Over 20 such FRBs (fast radio bursts) have been detected since 2007. Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics speculates that the mysterious bursts could be powering interstellar …
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Mar 2017
Gwynne Shotwell

What went up, Musk come down again: SpaceX to blast sat into orbit with used rocket

March is going to be a crunch month for SpaceX: it hopes to, for the first time ever, launch a commercial satellite into orbit using a previously used rocket. One of the Falcon 9 boosters Elon Musk's upstart has successfully blasted off and landed has been extensively refurbished for the mission. SpaceX's president Gwynne …
Iain Thomson, 9 Mar 2017
NASA Cold Atom Lab concept image

NASA's atom-chiller ready to fly to the ISS

Plenty of readers will agree that the International Space Station would be a cool place to work, and it's getting cooler: a billionth of a degree above 0K (in a very small spot). If all goes to plan, August's SpaceX CRS-12 supply mission to the ISS will carry NASA's long-planned Cold Atom Laboratory, an experiment to help …
New Glenn

Your Amazon order is confirmed: Eutelsat via Blue Origin. Estimated delivery date: 2022

Video Blue Origin, the orbital delivery service funded by Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos, has taken its first satellite launch booking. We're told the sat will be put into orbit in 2021 or 2022 – basically, once Bezos has finished building the rocket to do the job. If all goes to plan, Blue Origin will launch a communications satellite …
Iain Thomson, 8 Mar 2017

Raw TRAPPIST-1 data lands tomorrow for crowdsourced hijinks

Astronomers and the astro-curious but software-savvy will be hovering over a download link waiting for midday Tuesday (US Eastern Time), when Kepler data for the TRAPPIST-1 system is published. If you managed to sleep through this year's biggest astronomy excitement so far: TRAPPIST-1 set a record for exoplanet discovery. …
Cracks on Phoebus - NASA Goddard

Mars orbiter FLOORS IT to avoid hitting MOON

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft last week made a hasty burn to avoid a likely collision with Martian moon Phobos. NASA says that without the burn, the probe and the moon stood “a good chance of hitting each other on Monday, March 6th”. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) figured that out about …
Akatsuki

Japan's Venus probe power plight panacea: Turn it off and on again ...and again and again...

The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has said it is shutting down two of the five cameras on its planetary probe around Venus due to power glitches. The Akatsuki craft has been in orbit around the acid-death world since 2015, five years after it was due to get there. The satellite's main engine failed mid-flight and it took …
Iain Thomson, 4 Mar 2017

BONG! Lasers crack Big Ben frequency riddle BONG! No idea what to do with this info BONG!

Vibrations emitted by Britain’s most famous bell have been mapped for the first time by engineers from the University of Leicester. As everyone must know by now, Big Ben is housed at the top of Elizabeth Tower, London, and chimes faithfully every hour over the capital. Its deep bong can be heard whenever a giant 200kg hammer …
haematite

Move over, Bernie Ecclestone. Scientists unearth Earth's oldest fossil yet: 4bn years old

Video As far as we know, nearly four billion years ago nothing walked the lands of Earth, but there was life in the seas. Now British boffins think they've found a fossil record of some of the earliest lifeforms on the planet. The structures are tubes and filaments made of haematite – a form of iron oxide – that the team postulate …
Iain Thomson, 1 Mar 2017
Tasmanian fireball

Fireball in Tasmania: Possible CubeSat re-entry sparks alien panic

A small satellite burning up in the atmosphere has led to big excitement. As the skies lit up over Tasmania on the morning of February 28, so did Facebook with speculation that included - sigh - alien interventions. The reality looks far more prosaic: a Lemur-2 CubeSat owned by Spire Global came to Earth. Between September …
GOES-16 Earth with Moon

LUNAR-CY! SpaceX announces a Moon trip-for-two it'll inevitably miss the deadline on

Two unnamed and presumably very well-heeled people have booked a flight around the Moon using unproven hardware from SpaceX. The announcement was made on Monday by CEO Elon Musk. He said the two passengers will be launched in a Dragon 2 capsule using Falcon Heavy rockets for a trip around our natural satellite. They will …
Iain Thomson, 27 Feb 2017

Machines taught how to 'smell' by new algorithm. How will they cope with shower-dodging nerds?

Machines don’t have noses – but they can now attempt to identify scents thanks to a nifty new algorithm. A big international group of scientists pooled together to launch the Dream Olfaction Prediction Challenge, a crowd-sourced competition to learn how to predict the scent of molecules. Essentially, the idea is to craft …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Feb 2017

Bee boffins prove sesame-seed brain is all you need to play football (well, that explains a lot)

Video The humble bumblebee can be taught how to play soccer, even though its brain is only around the size of a sesame seed. Previous studies into apoid behavior have revealed a surprisingly complex world. The fuzzy creatures can find their way home despite flying miles away to collect nectar; memorize and recognize objects; and …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Feb 2017
Vega configurations

Experimental satellite-slinger seeks cargo: What could go wrong?

If you've got an application for a small satellite and a stomach for risk, the European Space Agency wants to hear from you. Next year, it's planning a multi-launch demonstration from its Vega spacecraft on a proof-of-concept flight for the Small Satellites Mission Service. The test launch of the Small Satellites Mission …
Graduate student Seongjun Park holds an example of a new flexible fiber

MIT goes down to the wire: Brain cable pipes electricity, chemicals, light straight into minds

MIT brain boffins have developed a tiny fiber that can carry chemical, electrical, and optical signals back and forth between the brain and an external device, offering an improved path for testing brain functions and interactions. The fiber is 200 micrometers wide, comparable to the width of a human hair. Described in a paper …
Thomas Claburn, 23 Feb 2017

Radioactive leak riddle: Now Team America sniffs Europe's skies for iodine isotope source

The US military has sent one of its atmosphere-analyzing aircraft to Europe to hunt the source of a radioactive leak on the continent. Last week, the French nuclear watchdog the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) issued an alert after sensors in Norway, and then much of the rest of Europe, detected …
Iain Thomson, 23 Feb 2017
dragon

LOST IN SPAAAAAACE! SpaceX aborts Space Station podule berthing

SpaceX today called off an attempt to berth its Dragon cargo capsule with the International Space Station after the, er, podule got a bit lost. It's fine, though: they'll try again on Thursday. The capsule, which was successfully launched into space on Sunday, was due to hook up with the orbiting science lab on Wednesday …
Iain Thomson, 22 Feb 2017
trappist1

Pack your bags! NASA spots SEVEN nearby Earth-sized alien worlds

Pics and video NASA has discovered a mini solar system of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a small cool dwarf star, including three within the Goldilocks zone where liquid water is possible. Last year, a telescope in Chile – dubbed the TRAPPIST aka the TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope – spotted two planets orbiting an …
Iain Thomson, 22 Feb 2017
Glory hole

Gulp! Drones dodge spray from California's gaping moist glory hole

Vid + pics Drone operators have been gazing in fascination as, for the first time in over a decade, the Lake Berryessa glory hole has been swallowing up excess water and shooting it down into Putah Creek. Youtube Video A glory hole – or to give it the proper name, a morning glory spillway (named after the beautiful flower's shape) – is …
Iain Thomson, 22 Feb 2017
Pluto

Amid new push to make Pluto a planet again... Get over it, ice-world's assassin tells El Reg

The ongoing argument over whether Pluto is an actual planet or just a dwarf on the outskirts of the Solar System has heated up again – with a new proposal to reapply planetary status to the distant iceball. In a vote in 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to reduce the status of Pluto to that of a dwarf …
Iain Thomson, 21 Feb 2017
Yoda

Automated, insight cannot be: Jedi master of statistics was good – but beware the daft side

So, farewell then Hans Rosling, educator and "Jedi master of data visualisation". For in a world increasingly addicted to alternative facts, you pioneered software – Gapminder – and a viewer-friendly approach with bubble charts that allowed you to communicate simple important messages about the world through the medium of the …
Jane Fae , 21 Feb 2017
A kite

NASA extends trial of steerable robo-stunt kite parachute

NASA will soon be testing high-altitude parachute systems that let astroboffins land valuable scientific research payloads from altitudes of 60,000 feet. The technique, using parafoils – cellular aerofoils of the same sort used to make high-performance stunt kites – will, so NASA hopes, allow it to recover scientific …
Gareth Corfield, 21 Feb 2017
ESA's Phobos 3D image

European Space Agency slaps CC licences on its pics and vids

The European Space Agency has flung the data doors open: from today, it's adopted an open access policy for its trove of images and videos. As the agency explains, its adoption the Creative Commons Attribution – ShareAlike 3.0 Intergovernmental Organisation (it even abbreviates to a mouthful: CC BY SA IGO 3.0) licence as its …

SpaceX blasts back into the rocket trucking business

Elon Musk's rocket trucking business, SpaceX, is rolling on the celestial highway again after successfully launching a Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket, then landing the rocket's first stage back on terra firma. The mission marks a second successful return to space (the first being this one) after a satellite launch …
Simon Sharwood, 19 Feb 2017

Jun-OH-NO! NASA's Jupiter probe in busted helium-valve drama

NASA's Juno probe will not venture any closer to Jupiter, and will stay in its current 53-day orbit for the remainder of its mission. That's due to faulty helium valves in the propulsion system, space boffins announced today. The spacecraft has been circling the gas giant since July 2016. NASA scientists had planned to fire …
Katyanna Quach, 18 Feb 2017

Dead cockroaches make excellent magnets – now what are we supposed to do with this info?

Fun Fact: Dead cockroaches stay magnetized far longer than their live brethren, according to real actual science. In a bizarre experiment, a team of international physicists gassed a group of roaches to death with nitrogen before rinsing them in an ultrasonic bath. The luckier ones were kept alive and fed an unlimited diet of …
Katyanna Quach, 17 Feb 2017
NASA's exploding star illustration

Baby supernova spotted, just three hours old and a real cutie

In the kind of observational serendipity that astro-boffins live for: spotting the explosion of a supernova mere hours after the explosion's light started reaching Earth. The catch, made in 2013 by the venerable Samuel Oschin 48-inch telescope as part of the Palomar Transient Factory Survey, is the “youngest” supernova …
Astronaut

Get it while it's hot: NASA's Space Poo contest winners wipe up $30k

US Air Force Colonel Thatcher Cardon, MD, has won a competition to develop a new diaper to cradle astronauts' soiled nethers for up to six days of spacefaring. While no details were given on the design of the space nappy, Cardon has been declared the recipient of $15,000 for submitting his MACES Perineal Access & Toileting …

Finally, a use for your mobile phone: Snapping ALIEN signal blurts

Friends, take out your mobiles in the name of science! Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are trying to look for fast radio bursts in the Milky Way galaxy with “low-cost radio receivers.” And by that, they mean, your smartphones. Galactic fast radio bursts (FRBs) have left astronomers scratching …
Katyanna Quach, 15 Feb 2017
Graphene photo via Shutterstock

GRAPHENE: £120m down, UK.gov finds it's still a long way from commercial potential

Graphene, the material with many extraordinary properties, has swallowed around £120m in UK government funds, but development and commercialisation is proving tortuously slow and increasingly dogged with disappointment. So concerned are MPs with the lack of progress that late last year they conducted a series of hearings via …
Marcus Gibson, 14 Feb 2017
The Martian

NASA picks three Martian wet patches for 2020 splashdown

NASA has decided its Mars 2020 mission will land a rover in one of three places, all of which are thought to have once seen liquid water flowing. While the rest of us spent last week tut-tutting about IBM's teleworking turnaround, NASA boffins gathered at the Doubletree Hotel in Monrovia, CA, where they conducted a workshop to …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Feb 2017

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