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The NGTS telescope array

Earth-bound exoplanet hunter's eyes blink open

The European Space Observatory (ESO) is reporting “first light” from the world's latest exoplanet hunter, an Earth-based optical instrument in Chile. The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) at the ESO's Paranal observatory in the north of the country will, like NASA's Kepler space telescope, try to detect exoplanets as they …

TERROR in SPACE: ISS 'NAUTS FLEE 'gas leak' to Russian module

Updated The US section of the International Space Station has been evacuated due to the detection of "harmful emissions". The Russian Federal Space agency said a leak from the cooling system took place around 11.44 MSK (7:44 GMT). "Currently, the US segment of the ISS is isolated, the crew is safe and is located on the Russian segment. …
Kat Hall, 14 Jan 2015
New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto

PlayStation-processor-powered plutonium probe prepares Pluto pics

After a trip of nearly three billion miles, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, our first probe to Pluto, will on Wednesday start sending back up-close pictures of the dwarf planet. The craft was sent into our Solar System's obsidian void on January 19, 2006 – back when Pluto was still considered a planet in its own right. Later …
Iain Thomson, 14 Jan 2015
Willowra Road Closed map from the Northern Territory government

Australian desert deluge demonstrates why we're doing it

It rained in central Australia last week. And in Willowra, the remote community we visited to figure out what happens when the Internet comes to town and performed a Windows 7 upgrade, it rained so much that last Saturday the town got three times its mean monthly rainfall. And that was on top of Friday's rain, which doubled the …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Jan 2015

BATMAN LASER builds smaller, faster hard drives

Swiss boffins working at the Paul Scherrer Institute have explained a mechanism allowing magnetic bits to be switched using lasers, and have turned up an accidental nano-scale Batman logo. The boffins, as part of an international team with collaborators in Germany, the Netherlands and Japan, reckon their work could let storage …

Professor's BEAGLE lost for 10 years FOUND ON MARS

The long-lost, dustbin-lid sized British Mars lander Beagle 2 - whose fate had been unknown since it departed from its Mars Express mothership in orbit above the red planet on Christmas Day 2003 - seems likely to have been found at last. The UK Space Agency has scheduled a press briefing on the Beagle for Friday and is refusing …
Lewis Page, 13 Jan 2015
Friends Reunited, new homepage, credit Friends Reunited screengrab

Computers know you better than your friends

Your Facebook Likes provide a signal to your personality so accurate, a computer can know you better than everyone but your very nearest and dearest, claim Cambridge boffins. In a study published at PNAS (abstract here, PDF here), the researchers used Facebook Likes as the signal to model a computer-based “personality judgement …
SpaceX launch

SpaceX drone hovership ROCKET LANDER BURN: Musk to try again

Pic SpaceX boss Elon Musk says his boffins have worked out what caused his company's Falcon 9 rocket to miss its floating landing pad – and that a solution has already been decided. The top half of the multistage rocket successfully delivered its cargo pod of supplies to the International Space Station on Monday after the bottom …
Iain Thomson, 12 Jan 2015
SpaceX concept of DragonLab - a Dragon re-entry capsule with unpressurised trunk attached

ROBOT-ON-DRAGON GRABHAND ACTION: SpaceX supply podule arrives at ISS

Elon Musk’s Dragon module has successfully docked with the ISS Harmony module for its resupply mission. NASA tweeted that the Dragon berthed at 5:54 ET and secured: #Dragon now bolted to #ISS! #ISScargo unloading scheduled to begin Tuesday. What's aboard: http://t.co/kluw3s9KkY pic.twitter.com/muCo16MDIU — NASA (@NASA) January …
Simon Rockman, 12 Jan 2015
Terminators

Hawking and friends: Artificial Intelligence 'must do what we want it to do'

Rise of the Machines More than 150 scientists, academics and entrepreneurs - including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Nobel prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek - have added their names to an open letter calling for greater caution in the use of artificial intelligence. The letter was penned by the Future of Life Institute, a volunteer-run …
Kat Hall, 12 Jan 2015
ANU's Manjin Zhong

Boffins' quantum USB stick trumps fibre optic reliability

The lifetime of quantum memories – a crucial component of practical quantum computing and communications – is typically less than a second. Now, work led by the Australian National University has turned up quantum states that last as long as six hours. That “coherence time” – how long an entangled state can be preserved – is …
Cosmic rays hitting Earth

India digs deep to bury neutrino-hunting chamber

India is joining the world of exotic particle research, announcing US$235 million worth of funding for a neutrino observatory in the country's south. Approval for the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO), proposed in 2013, means construction of the underground complex can now begin. The 1,300 metre deep cavern under the …
SpaceX barge landing spot

SpaceX in ROCKET HOVERSHIP PRANG: 'Close – but no cigar,' says Musk

Vid SpaceX's attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating hovership in the Atlantic Ocean ended in failure in the early hours of Saturday morning. Youtube Video Billionaire Elon Musk tweeted about his firm's efforts to recover the rocket, after lift-off and separation from the Dragon private space podule, which is now winging …
Kelly Fiveash, 10 Jan 2015
Plate of lengua ready to serve

Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Hot Spanish tongue action

Let's face it, anyone with any sense knows cows are far more agreeable when they're in pieces, and while throwing prime bovine bits on the barbecue is one the discerning gourmet's preferred methods of serving Miss Daisy, there are parts which, for whatever reason, have fallen from favour among Brit carnivores. We can't speak for …
Lester Haines, 10 Jan 2015
Comet Lovejoy

Comet Lovejoy's greenish glow visible with naked eye this weekend

Northern stargazers in low-light environments should be able to pick up a greenish-looking space rock in the night's sky – as Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) makes its closest approach to Earth in living memory. Comet Lovejoy expelling carbon So long, won't see you later Lovejoy, named after the Australian amateur astronomer Terry …
Iain Thomson, 10 Jan 2015
3D flexible silicon structures

Boffins erect semi-hard 3D silicon: Pop-up micro-machines breakthrough

Pic Researchers have found a way to make tiny 3D structures out of silicon that "pop up" into shape when glued to an elastic substrate, paving the way to new forms of electronics. The minute shapes mimic complex mechanisms in biology – such as the internal structure of teeth and networks of veins and brain cells – and could be used …
Iain Thomson, 10 Jan 2015
Opportunity's View from Atop 'Cape Tribulation': Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA closing on fix for Opportunity rover's 'amnesia'

NASA says it's close to a fix for the flash memory problems plaguing the plucky Opportunity rover, which is now nearing its eleventh year of Martian trundling. The problems surfaced last year and created a form of amnesia that NASA boffins decided was caused by one of seven memory banks aboard the rover. The good news is that …
Darren Pauli, 9 Jan 2015

What an ACE-HOLE! This super-software will whip you at poker, hands down

Researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, think they've made the perfect poker-playing program – and are inviting people to try their hand against it. The software, dubbed Cepheus, is a machine-learning system that has been taught to play a variant of Texas Hold 'em called heads-up limit, where players can only bet fixed …
Iain Thomson, 9 Jan 2015
NASA travel poster for Kepler-16b crop

Boffins open 'space travel bureau': Come relax on exoplanet Kepler-16b, says NASA

Pics NASA appears to be transforming itself into an intergalactic travel agency after issuing a series of cheery posters of exoplanets. "Kepler-186f is the first Earth-size planet discovered in the potentially 'habitable zone' around another star, where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface," said NASA's blurb. Visit …
germs

Hey, bacteria: Resistance is FUTILE – boffins grow new super-antibiotic

A new type of antibiotic developed from soil culture could solve one of the most pressing medical problems of the modern age: antibiotic resistance. A paper in the journal Nature details how the new antibiotic, dubbed teixobactin, proved completely effective at healing mice infected with the most common drug-resistant forms of …
Iain Thomson, 8 Jan 2015
The SPIDER instrument prior to launch

Antarctic boffins hope stratospheric gravity wave hunter returns to Earth

Boffins in Antarctica are nervously watching the skies for the planned descent of an instrument package hoisted into the stratosphere on January 1 with the aim of seeking out gravity waves. The experiment, called SPIDER, combines a polarimeter designed to look for signals that would either validate or exclude “GUT-scale” (grand …
Possible fossil strata on Mars

ALIEN fossils ON MARS: Curiosity snaps evidence of life

Pics Photographs of rocks taken by NASA's Curiosity rover may confirm that life as we know it once existed on Mars. The pictures were shot at the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay, which used to be a huge lake back when Mars had surface water. Dr Nora Noffke, who has spent 20 years studying fossils of early microbes, said …
Iain Thomson, 7 Jan 2015

LOHAN sponsor Pulse-Eight: Supplier of hi-def TV to dogs

It's fair to say that providing high-definition video to dogs was not a mission priority for the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team, but when a certain Pulse-Eight answered our Kickstarter tin-rattling last year, we were suddenly presented with the chance to push the envelope of canine entertainment solutions. UK- …
Lester Haines, 7 Jan 2015

ALIEN EARTH: Red sun's habitable world spotted 470 light years away

The discovery of new planets likely to be able to support life along Earthly lines has been announced, with one of the most promising candidates for alien and/or human habitability located just 470 light-years away. The new exoplanets have been discovered by analysis of data from the Kepler space telescope, and bear the tags …
Lewis Page, 7 Jan 2015
Bill Gates

BILL GATES DRINKS 'boiled and treated' POO. Ah, 'delicious'

Haters might say the man responsible for bringing the world the Microsoft empire has finally had a taste of his own medicine, with Bill Gates admitting on Monday to having swallowed liquid poo. El Reg couldn't possibly comment. In a blog post this week, Gates wrote about trialling a machine that turns faeces into drinking water …
Kat Hall, 7 Jan 2015
Robonaut shakes hands with with his human counterpart. Pic: NASA

ISS Robonaut gets LEGLESS ... in spaaaace

There's nothing to spoil an unboxing like a product that doesn't work. That's the unfortunate fate of NASA's beloved Robonaut 2 project: during December, International Space Station (ISS) astronauts tried adding legs to the machine, but they didn't work. Robonaut has been helping with ISS chores for some time. Last year, …
Eagle Nebula in 2015

Hubble 'scope snaps ENORMO SPACE ERECTION: Pillars of Creation 20 years on

Pics Nearly 20 years ago, the Hubble space telescope took one of its most iconic pictures – the Pillars of Creation. Now a new image has been taken, showing how the star nursery has changed in the last two decades. Eagle Nebula comparison What a difference a couple of decades makes (click to enlarge) The image, presented at …
Iain Thomson, 7 Jan 2015

Alien Earths are out there: Our home is not 'unique'

New research suggests planets similar to our Earth are much more common across the galaxy than previously thought. And the boffins behind this revelation have also come up with a simple chemical recipe for creating habitable worlds suitable for use by advanced super-powered intelligences and/or deities etc. "Our solar system is …
Lewis Page, 6 Jan 2015
SpaceX Falcon 9 on its launch pad

SpaceX ROCKET HOVER-SHIP space station mission now on Friday

An attempt to launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and land it on a floating robotic 'spaceport drone ship' has been delayed until January 9. The experiment was to be part of a SpaceX plans to be able to return, refurbish and re-use key elements of its rockets. The flight was aborted at the last minute due to a problem with the …
Kat Hall, 6 Jan 2015
Angry old man

A Cambridge boffin told me YOU'RE A BIG, FAT LIAR

Cambridge University boffins have begun exploring an alternative to the traditional polygraph approach to detecting liars and cheats. Instead of calculating variations in a person's respiration, pulse and sweat production, the fib-detecting tech looks at the subject's body movements. As a first stage in investigating the …
John Leyden, 6 Jan 2015
Privacy image

Boffins spy I in your little eye

Researchers from the University of York's psychology school have found that faces reflected in your eyes can be captured in high enough resolution to be identified. To demonstrate not only that the images exist, but that they can be identified, Rob Jenkins and Christie Kerr got volunteers to perform recognition tasks. Using a …
The mission patch for SpaceX's fifth resupply mission

SpaceX: CATS with FRIKKIN' LASERS to blast off to space station

Pic While the rest of us are taking down the Christmas decorations, the astronauts on the International Space Station are still waiting for their presents – and Elon Musk's SpaceX rocketeers plan to fire them into orbit on Tuesday, weather permitting. This resupply mission will try to haul up some of the cargo that should have been …
Iain Thomson, 5 Jan 2015
NASA graphic of space debris in low Earth orbit. Pic: NASA

RMIT boffins fast-track space junk search

Researchers at Australia s RMIT University, working with EOS Space Systems, reckon they can plot the trajectory of space junk with just two five-second samples of the target's trajectory. EOS has previously proposed using lasers to bump objects in orbit, and is building a joint tracking facility in Western Australia with …
SMAP water scanning satellite

NASA to launch microwave SPACE LASSO to probe Earth's wet spots

Video At the end of the month, NASA will launch one of its most unusual satellites yet: a radar hurling a 19-foot-long (6-metre) mesh antenna around its head every four seconds. "We call it the spinning lasso," said Wendy Edelstein, instrument manager for the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) sensor built by NASA's Jet Propulsion …
Iain Thomson, 5 Jan 2015
Falcon 1 launches from Kwajalein

You're late, Falcon 9: Look what you've done to NASA’s DSCOVR launch!

The delay of the SpaceX Falcon launch - slated for December 2014 - has had a knock-on impact on another NASA mission, with the agency announcing that its DSCOVR blast-off will have to wait until after 29 January. A joint NASA/NOAA project, DSCOVR (the Deep Space Climate Observatory) will provide real-time solar wind monitoring, …
Monty Python foot UHDTV

This one shall pass! Not even a flesh wound from ‘Monty Python’ SPACE ROCK

It would probably be a real downer if an asteroid that impacts Earth had a funny name, so Reg readers will be pleased to know that's not going to happen. Asteroid 13681 Monty Python will is making its closest pass as we speak – but at 2.4 Astronomical Units, or more than twice the average Earth-Sun distance, and it's too far …
Artist's impression of Philae on Comet 67P

Ground control to 2014: A year in SPAAAAAAAAAACE

Review of 2014 The year 2014 belonged, without question, to the comet-chasing Rosetta mission, which moved humanity’s space exploration programme forward by landing on a moving space rock out in the depths of the cosmos for the first time ever. The first step in the epic journey this year was accomplished in January, when boffins at the …
SpaceX barge landing spot

SpaceX six days from historic rocket landing attempt

On January 6, SpaceX will launch a critical supply mission to the International Space Station, but just as important as what is going up is what’ll (hopefully) come down. The CRS-5 mission was due to have taken place this month but the launch was delayed to allow NASA to add vitally needed supplies that were destroyed when …
Iain Thomson, 1 Jan 2015
Opportunity in clean room

NASA preps lobotomy for Opportunity rover to cure amnesia

NASA engineers are preparing a radical fix that could help the Opportunity Mars rover regain its fading faculties and continue its Red Planet mission. The rover, which has spent ten years rolling across the Martian plains, has been having memory problems for the last six months because the cells in its flash memory have been …
Iain Thomson, 31 Dec 2014

*HIC*... tweet: Sloshed birdsh shlur songs, boffins say

Pissed birds' songs become slurred in a similar way to that of humans' speech after a night on the sauce. That's the conclusion from brain boffins who studied zebra finches to try to get a better handle on the effects of alcohol on cognitive function. Little is apparently known about booze-related garbled speech. Researchers …
Kelly Fiveash, 30 Dec 2014
Earth

Euro SPACEMAN snaps incredible images of our Blue Planet

Vid ESA 'naut Alexander Gerst captured some breathtaking images of Earth during his six-month stint on the International Space Station. This timelapse video brings together 12,500 photos snapped by Gerst while he was part of the Blue Dot mission from May to November this year. Youtube Video Highlights include stunning auroras, …
Team Register, 28 Dec 2014

Festive post-pub noshtastic neckfiller: HEARTY HOG MAW

We're now well into the season of festive excess, and doubtless readers will already be sustaining a severe pummelling to livers and credit cards in equal measure. We can't do much to mitigate the effects of excess Yule spending, but we can offer you something substantial and yet a bit different to soak up the booze: the hearty …
Lester Haines, 26 Dec 2014