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Boffins discover chemistry that could have produced building blocks of life in space

A team of researchers carried out a series of experiments to study how complex hydrocarbons, an important class of molecules needed to create the building blocks for life, formed in space. Hydrocarbons, compounds made up of differing amounts of carbon and hydrogen, are common on Earth but also outside it. Some hydrocarbons, …
Katyanna Quach, 05 Mar 2018
Red giant and neutron star interaction (pic: ESA)

It's ALIIIIIVE: Boffins detect slow-moving zombie star

The European Space Agency's INTEGRAL space observatory has captured an unusual piece of stellar voodoo: the moment when a dead star was brought back to life by a nearby red giant. The slowly rotating core of the zombie star was revived by x-ray flares from its engorged neighbour, giving rise to a high energy emission from the …
Richard Speed, 05 Mar 2018
microrobot bee concept

I'll bee back: Boffin's bionic bug Band-Aid after real ones all die

From the department of "just because we could, doesn't mean we should" comes news that researchers are planning swarms of robotic bees and spiders. Insisting that micro robots "really aren't anything to worry about", Dr Mostafa Nabawy, Microsystems Research Theme Leader at the University of Manchester and bionic-bug-botherer- …
Richard Speed, 02 Mar 2018

Organic battery tech could work better than a woolly hat in the cold

Brits may soon have one less thing to whinge about during cold snaps – thanks to research into the performance of Li-ion batteries in freezing temperatures. Once the mercury drops below 0°C, commonly used electrolytes start to freeze and ionic conductivity becomes problematic. In other words, a battery that seems to have …
Richard Speed, 02 Mar 2018
Space debris field

Brit military boffins buy airtime on HD eye-in-the-sky video satellite

The RAF has acquired a satellite that can beam live video footage from space, the head of the air force told an industry gathering in Surrey today. The Carbonite-2 satellite, built by Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary Surrey Satellites, based near Guildford, will be used by British military intelligence folk as a concept …
Gareth Corfield, 01 Mar 2018

Paul Allen's six-engined monster plane prepares for space deliveries

The world's largest aircraft, designed to one day fling rockets into space, has tested out its taxiing capabilities at the Mojave Air and Space Port in New Mexico. The 500,000lb (227 metric ton) "Stratolaunch" is the brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and advanced materials aviation wizard Burt Rutan. The pair plan …
Iain Thomson, 01 Mar 2018
The EDGES instrument at Murchison

Deep in remote Oz, an antenna has 'heard' the oldest stars

A group of US researchers working at a remote site in north-west Australia have identified signals from the oldest stars ever observed, born roughly 180 million years after the Big Bang. The observation has also set astronomers a brand-new puzzle: the signal's too strong, and that might indicate an interaction between baryons …

Martian microbes may just be resting – boffins

Demonstrating that scientists can extrapolate with the best of them, researchers have speculated that long dormant microbes on the Red Planet might reawaken with the introduction of liquid water. The Washington State University team, led by astrobiology boffin-in-chief, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, found that microbes lurking in the …
Richard Speed, 28 Feb 2018

Scientists change their minds, think water may be all over the Moon

Boffins at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have announced that water on the Moon may be actually be more widespread over the surface than first thought, and less prone to moving about. The process for actually extracting this water remains unclear and will need to be resolved before thirsty astronauts are to be refreshed …
Richard Speed, 28 Feb 2018
Artist's impression of Proxima Centauri flare

Inviting nearby exoplanet revealed as radiation-baked hell

Seekers of new worlds for humans to colonise will have to look further afield than Proxima Centauri after the detection of huge solar flares showed its planets are probably uninhabitable. Proxima Centauri became a candidate for exploration, colonisation and/or alien investigation in 2016, when its second planet - Proxima …
Blurred stars

Hubble Space Telescope one of 16 suffering data-scrambling sensor error

Users of sixteen of the world's most prestigious optical telescopes - including the Hubble Space Telescope - are revisiting old data in case an analogue-to-digital converter design has polluted the instruments' measurements. Analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs) are where the real world meets the digital, and in the case of …
NGC 3972 (pic: NASA, ESA, A. Riess (STScI/JHU))

Does my boom look big in this? New universe measurements bewilder boffins

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Institute and John Hopkins University have used NASA’s Hubble Telescope to show that the universe is expanding a little bit faster than expected. The Hubble Constant (how fast the universe expands with time) was predicted by the European Space Agency’s Planck observatory to be 67km per second …
Richard Speed, 23 Feb 2018

SpaceX's internet satellites to beam down 'Hello world' from orbit

Video The first two internet-relaying satellites in SpaceX's Starlink constellation have been launched into Earth's orbit – and will begin broadcasting to the world this week. A refurbished Falcon 9 rocket carrying the two birds, as well as the Spanish Paz radar satellite, blasted off today from Space Launch Complex 4 East at …
Iain Thomson, 22 Feb 2018
Supernova sn2016gkg, indicated by red bars (pic: C. Kilpatrick, UC Santa Cruz, and Carnegie Institution for Science, Las Campanas Observatory, Chile)

Amateur astronomer strikes it lucky with first glimpse of a Supernova

Published today in the journal Nature is a description of a rare and difficult to capture event – the birth of a supernova (and the death of a star). Amateur astronomer, Victor Buso, struck lucky in September 2016 when he decided to test out a new camera attached to his 16 inch telescope. Keen to make sure his new toy was …
Richard Speed, 22 Feb 2018

Bright idea: Make H when the Sun shines, and H when it doesn't

Researchers in Cologne, Germany, have successfully demonstrated a solar reactor known as CONTISOL, which promises to be able make hydrogen day and night while running on little more than air and sunlight. Hydrogen is often touted as a zero carbon fuel and promises a future free of potentially nasty emissions. However, the …
Richard Speed, 21 Feb 2018
 Schiaparelli separating from Trace Gas Orbiter. Pic: ESA–D. Ducros

Euro Space Agency probe begins search for guff gas on Mars

The European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is to conduct its final aerobraking manoeuvre this evening prior to starting its mission of sniffing for Martian methane. TGO should finally settle into its proper orbit tonight, 400km above the red planet. It was launched nearly two years ago aboard a Russian Proton …
Richard Speed, 21 Feb 2018
NASA Opportunity Rover on Mars (pic: NASA)

Opportunity knocked? Rover survives Martian winter, may not survive budget cuts

The knives are out for MER-B, better known as the Opportunity rover, at NASA beancounter central. The beloved rover has just passed the 5,000 sol mark on Mars and is approaching the 15th anniversary of its launch (thankfully without the desolate rendition of "Happy Birthday" played by its plutonium-powered successor, Curiosity …
Richard Speed, 19 Feb 2018

Astro-boffinry world rocked to its very core: Shock as Andromeda found to be not much bigger than Milky Way

The Andromeda galaxy is actually roughly the same size as the Milky Way, and may not engulf our galaxy when it is expected to collide in about four billion years time, according to new research. In other words, no, Andromeda is not the vastly larger sprawling galaxy we all thought it was. A paper published earlier this week …
Katyanna Quach, 16 Feb 2018
currywurst sausage covered in sauce and accompanied by fries/chips

Arrrgh! Put down the crisps! 'Ultra-processed' foods linked to cancer!

A study has suggested a link between diets high in ultra-processed foods and an increased risk of cancer – but academics have warned against over-interpreting the results. The work, published in the BMJ, assessed the diets – as reported through a survey – and cancer risk of a group of almost 105,000 French men and women. It …
Rebecca Hill, 15 Feb 2018
Landing Fayfal cable Porthcurno 1906, photo credit: Telegraph Museum Porthcurno

Life's a beach – then you're the comms nexus of the British Empire and Marconi-baiting hax0rs

Geek's Guide to Britain I'm sitting on a perfect sandy beach in dazzling winter sunshine which makes it feel two months warmer than it really is. The beach is nearly empty, although a couple of dogs are enjoying the surf. The nearest road peters out a few hundred yards up a steep valley – the only way here is to walk. Porthcurno beach, just a few miles …
SA Mathieson, 15 Feb 2018

Sorry, Elon, your Tesla roadster won't orbit for billions of years

Explaining why he used his Tesla roadster as the test mass on his Falcon Heavy launch, Elon Musk remarked that he liked the idea of it orbiting for a billion years. If the car endures, a bunch of astroboffins from Canada and the Czech Republic reckon it's going to last just a mere few tens of millions of years. Running the …

Mars is red, Earth is blue. Here's a space laser story for you

NASA has decided to use fragments of Martian meteorites for target practice ahead of the Mars 2020 mission, then send one back to Mars. The instrument doing the shooting is called SHERLOC - short for "Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals" - an instrument scheduled for the Mars …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Feb 2018
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the Bombe machine

National Museum of Computing rattles the bucket: Help shift war-winning proto-puter

Updated The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) has organised a whip-round to move a historic code-breaking computer into a new location at Bletchley Park, England. TNMOC wants to move the world's only working reproduction Turing-Welchman Bombe, as used for deciphering German Enigma messages during the Second World War, into Block H …
Gareth Corfield, 13 Feb 2018

NASA budget shock: Climate studies? GTFO. We're making the Moon great again, says Trump

President Trump's administration has handed down a budget for 2019 to NASA – and it effectively kills off key projects in exchange for a vague promise to go back to the Moon. For the year, America's space agency has been awarded $19.9bn, around $500m more than the previous year, albeit with significant changes of focus. The …
Iain Thomson, 12 Feb 2018
Elon Musk

What did we say about Tesla's self-driving tech? SpaceX Roadster skips Mars, steers to asteroids

Pic The final rocket burn of the SpaceX craft carrying Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster into the cosmos pushed the billionaire's flash jalopy much further than anticipated. It's now heading out toward the Solar System's asteroid belt rather than swinging close by Mars as planned. Yesterday, SpaceX launched its powerful Falcon …
Iain Thomson, 07 Feb 2018
Inside LISA Pathfinder

LISA Pathfinder sniffed out gravitational signals down to micro-Hertz

In other space news today, the boffins in charge of the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder mission have wrapped up the final results for the space-based gravitational wave dry run. The Pathfinder carries a pair of 2 kg free-falling cubes, separated by 38 cm and linked with lasers.The masses move relative to each other in …

Can't wait to get to Mars on a SpaceX ship? It's a cold, dead rock – boffins

SpaceX today parked Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster in Earth's orbit, using a Falcon Heavy lifter, with a rocket strapped to the flash motor to take it on to Mars. The billionaire also wants to set up a base on the Red Planet, and use his rocketry technology to ferry brave folks over there to face certain death, er, glory as early …
Katyanna Quach, 07 Feb 2018
falcon heavy

MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF CARS: SpaceX parks a Tesla in orbit (just don't mention the barge)

Video After years of setbacks, SpaceX today successfully launched its Falcon Heavy three-in-one rocket and delivered into orbit its cherry-red payload – Elon Musk's very own Tesla Roadster. After a morning of delays due to high winds, the mighty rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39, in Florida, USA, at …
Iain Thomson, 06 Feb 2018
NASA Image satellite pre-launch

NASA's zombie IMAGE satellite is powered up and working quite nicely

NASA has updated the status of its once-was-lost, now-is-found IMAGE satellite and revealed the bird's power supplies are operational. The space agency will therefore attempt to revive the mission – if it can find money to fund the effort. As The Register previously reported, IMAGE (the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global …

Women beat men to jobs due to guys' bad social skills. Whoa – you mad, fellas? Maybe these eggheads have a point...

While the world worries about savvy computers taking people's jobs, it may want to focus more on how to retrain its men, who are evidently ill-equipped for work that's increasingly social. For a research paper titled "The 'End of Men' and Rise of Women in the High-Skilled Labor Market," presented by the US-based National …
Thomas Claburn, 06 Feb 2018
Mike Hughes

A Hughes failure: Flat Earther rocketeer can't get it up yet again

Video An American bloke, who reckons Earth is flat as a frisbee, is on a quest to send himself into space to verify his theory. And on Sunday, he failed to even launch a rocket to a few hundred feet. Limousine driver, self-taught rocket maker, and headline generator "Mad" Mike Hughes hoped to blast off his homemade rocket from …
Iain Thomson, 05 Feb 2018
Microlensing Quasar

Exoplanets from another galaxy spotted – take that, Kepler fatigue!

The Kepler Space Telescope has found oodles of exoplants, but now astroboffins have spotted the first exoplanets outside our galaxy. A group of astroboffins from the University of Oklahoma has become the first to demonstrate exoplanet observations in another galaxy – one that's 3.8 billion light years away, or one-third of the …
ISS radio box falling towards earth

Epic spacewalk, epic FAIL: Cosmonauts point new antenna in the wrong direction

A record-breaking spacewalk conducted over the weekend ended with an antenna pointed in the wrong direction on the International Space Station (ISS). The walk by Roscosmos' Alexander Misurkin (commander of Expedition 54) and flight engineer Anton Shkaplerov was scheduled to last 6.5 hours, but blew out to a Russian record of …

Supermassive black holes scoff just one star per year, say space weight watchers

Supermassive black holes in merger galaxies snack on one star every year, according to a paper published on Thursday. The Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or M31, sits next door to the Milky Way only about 2.5 million light years away. It’s a giant spiral galaxy teeming with stars and astroboffins have spotted a pair …
Katyanna Quach, 02 Feb 2018
MIlky Way

Astroboffins spot sneaky signs that the Milky Way devoured smaller galaxies

Astrophysicists have found evidence that the Milky Way has gobbled up neighbouring massive dwarf galaxies over its 13 billion year lifetime. A team of researchers using a spectroscope analysed the starlight from 28 red giant stars hovering on the outer halo of the Milky Way. They then worked out their chemical composition from …
Katyanna Quach, 01 Feb 2018

Dinosaurs gathered at NASA Goddard site for fatal feeding frenzy

NASA is mostly known for exploring space, but it can also uncover wonders closer to home. On a summer’s day in 2012, fossil expert Ray Stanford was dropping off his wife Sheila, who works at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA, when he stumbled across an odd feature stamped into exposed rock on a hillside …
Katyanna Quach, 01 Feb 2018

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