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Boffins with frickin' laser beams chase universe's mysterious trihydrogen

Scientists are getting closer to piecing together the chemical reactions that form trihydrogen, one of the most abundant yet mysterious ions floating around in space. Trihydrogen, H3+, is an important molecule. It is believed that the tiny ion kickstarted a whole chain of reactions that led to the birth of the first stars in …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Jul 2017

RED ALERT! High-speed alien fugitives are invading our Milky Way

Rare hypervelocity stars tearing through the Milky Way galaxy are runaway suns that have escaped neighbouring galaxies, according to research presented at this year’s National Astronomy Meeting in Hull, England. Hypervelocity stars are travelling between 300 and 700 kilometers (186 and 435 miles) per second faster than our …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Jul 2017
THistle, the national flower of scotland, being bothered by a bee. Photo by Shutterstock

Boffins' five eyes surprise: Bees correct colour for ambient light

Camera designers will get to add a technique borrowed from nature to improve how they handle colour, courtesy of the humble honey bee. Boffins at Australia's RMIT University in Melbourne (with colleagues from Monash and Deakin Universities and the University of Melbourne) looked at how honey bees process colour information, …
New MH 370 flaperon drift modelling

MH370 researchers refine their prediction of the place nobody looked

Australian researchers who haven't given up on finding Malaysian Airlines MH 370 have told a conference in Darwin they believe they know where it is likely to be. The flight set off an international mystery when it disappeared in March 2014, presumably crashing into the Indian Ocean. The search that followed cost $180 million …
Funicular Caingorm Mountain Railway photo by David Spooner

Extreme trainspotting on Britain's highest (and windiest) railway

Geek's Guide to Britain The world's highest railway is the Xining-Golmud-Lhasa railway at 5,068m (16,627ft) above sea level and running 815km (506 miles). As much a political piece as a transport corridor, the line was designed to fuse China with Tibet – the country the People's Republic invaded and annexed in 1950. Britain's highest railway is …
David Spooner, 04 Jul 2017
Falcon9

SpaceX halts Intelsat 35e launch twice in a row

SpaceX's current launch, carrying the geosynchronous satellite Intelsat 35e, hasn't got off the ground yet: two launches in a row have been pulled at the last minute. Elon Musk's company is trying to get its third flight up in two weeks, but it's going to have to wait for July 4. The original July 2 launch was scrubbed by the …
NIST's LEGO watt balance

Constant work makes the kilo walk the Planck

While business around the world closed out a financial quarter or a financial year ahead of June 30, US boffins were working to a different deadline: linking the kilogram to electromagnetism. Part of the world of metrology's long project to redefine the world's fundamental measurements, the aim is to define the kilogram in …
asteroid

NASA: Bring on the asteroid, so we can chuck a fridge at it

NASA has okayed one of its save-the-world-from-asteroids proposals to move to the preliminary design phase, on the way to a hoped-for launch early in the 2020s. If it goes ahead, the DART – Double Asteroid Redirection Test – will start with what the space agency describes as “a non-threatening small asteroid”. That way, …
Long March

China pollutes ocean with bloody big rocket

China's latest Long March-5 Y2 the launch has gone awry for reasons not yet made public. The launch took place from a spaceport in Hainan province. The rocket was carrying an experimental satellite, and the 57-metre long booster left the launch site without incident. Youtube Video Shortly afterwards, Xinhua tersely Tweeted …

Sailor Moon? More like sail to the Moon: Japan vows to set foot on lunar soil by 2030

Japan's national space agency JAXA has announced plans to send a lone astronaut to the moon by 2030. It's a big step for Japan, since its astronauts have never set foot in space beyond the International Space Station. The proposal was presented this week during a panel with the country's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports …
Katyanna Quach, 30 Jun 2017

Shock: NASA denies secret child sex slave cannibal colony on Mars

NASA has not enslaved a colony of children on Mars nor is it using them for vile orgies on the Red Planet nor feasting on them to harvest their precious bone marrow, officials have told The Register. We had our doubts, too. Asking the US space agency's spokespeople to confirm or deny the existence of a murderous conspiracy in …
Iain Thomson, 30 Jun 2017
asteroid

Did you know? Today is International Asteroid Day! Wouldn't it be amazing if one were to...

Space scientists and enthusiasts are today celebrating International Asteroid Day – with events in 190 countries and a 24-hour telethon with boffins from NASA, ESA, and JAXA plus assorted celebrities. The date, Friday, June 30, is no accident. It was picked to commemorate the largest meteorite explosion ever recorded in human …
Iain Thomson, 30 Jun 2017
Testing traction control at JPL

NASA tells Curiosity: Quit showing off, no 'wheelies' please

After 18 months of testing, NASA's pushed a patch to the Mars Curiosity Rover – to extend its wheels' life, and eliminate over-exuberant climbs causing “wheelies”. Written by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Jeff Biesiadecki and Olivier Toupet, the software update went live earlier this month, having been uploaded to the …

Talk about cutting-edge technology! Boffins fire world's sharpest laser

A team of physicists claims to have created the world's sharpest laser, with a line width frequency of only 10 millihertz – opening up the possibility of improving the accuracy of optical clocks and radioastronomy experiments. Lasers are, ideally, a concentrated stream of photons at a single frequency. But in reality the light …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Jun 2017

Astroboffins dig into the weird backwards orbit of the Bee-Zed asteroid

Asteroid 2015 BZ509 – also known as Bee-Zed – is the only asteroid in our solar system with a confirmed retrograde orbit lasting 12 years; the same orbital period as Jupiter. The discovery was published in Nature in March by a team of physicists led by Paul Wiegert, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Jun 2017
Black holes merging

Ever wondered why the universe only has black holes in S or XXXL? No? Boffins have an answer

Astronomers looking for black holes have been baffled by the same question for decades: we've found large and small holes, but where are all the medium-sized black holes? It’s a mystery that Tal Alexander, a physics professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Ben Bar-Or, a scholar at the Institute of Advanced …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Jun 2017
NASA's Low Boom Flight Demonstration aircraft

Concorde without the cacophony: NASA thinks it's cracked quiet supersonic flight

NASA says the preliminary design review of its Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) project suggests it is possible to create a supersonic aircraft that doesn't produce a sonic boom. We've been able to build supersonic passenger planes for decades, but they're tricky things. Russia's Tupolev Tu-144 proved highly unreliable. …
Simon Sharwood, 27 Jun 2017

India's Martian MOM clocks up 1,000 days circling the red planet

India's Mars Orbiter Mission – aka MOM – has celebrated its 1,000th Earth day in orbit around the red planet. The probe arrived on November 5, 2013 and last week ticked over into four figures. The mission cost a pittance or, as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) puts it, MOM “is credited with many laurels like cost- …
Simon Sharwood, 27 Jun 2017

No way to sugarcoat this: I'm afraid Uranus opens and closes to accept particle streams

Scientists digging through old readings from NASA’s Voyager 2 mission in 1986 have found that Uranus’ magnetic field swings open and shut like the aperture of a revolving door. Uranus doesn’t just have a funny name, it has a silly orbit too. It’s the only planet in the Solar System to lie on its side – almost 98˚ from its …
Katyanna Quach, 27 Jun 2017
Blinded me with science

Researchers blind autonomous cars by tricking LIDAR

If you've ever been dazzled by some idiot's high-beam driving towards you at night, you'd probably welcome a self-driving car – except one of the key “eyes”, LIDAR, can also be blinded, or tricked into reacting to objects that aren't there. LIDAR - Light Detection and Ranging - is an important self-driving vehicle technology: …

Researchers solve screen glare nightmare with 'moth-eye' antireflective film

A new anti-glare film could help us see our phones a little bit better on a bright day. "Ambient light is everywhere," says Jiun-Haw Lee, an electrical engineer at National Taiwan University in Taipei. Natural light lowers the contrast of display screens, making them appear much darker. That's because when light from the sun …
Andrew Silver, 26 Jun 2017
SpaceX barge

SpaceX nails two launches and barge landings in one weekend

No matter what you did over the weekend, you'll struggle to top Elon Musk's after his space trucking venture launched 11 satellites atop two rockets, both of which stuck perfect landings on barges. Mission “BulgariaSat-1” kicked off the fun with a Friday launch of a geosynchronous satellite that will improve telecommunications …
Simon Sharwood, 26 Jun 2017
Space, image via shutterstock

NASA? More like NASAI: Brainy robots 'crucial' to space exploration

Autonomous space robots are going to be key to making new discoveries and exploring the furthest reaches of our Solar System and beyond, according to NASA scientists. “By making their own exploration decisions, robotic spacecraft can conduct traditional science investigations more efficiently and even achieve otherwise …
Katyanna Quach, 23 Jun 2017

PLATO mission to find alien life is given the thumbs up

The European Space Agency’s PLATO mission hunting for habitable exoplanets has been given the green light to move from blueprint into construction. It was previously selected in 2014 as part of the ESA’s Cosmic Vision Programme, but the launch date has been pushed out two years from 2024 to 2026. The goal is to detect Earth- …
Katyanna Quach, 22 Jun 2017

Darkness to fall over North America from a total solar eclipse

America will witness, for the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse stretching from coast to coast on August 21. The Sun, Moon and Earth will sit perfectly in a line. The Moon will block out the Sun, making the solar corona, a crown of hot plasma, visible. A shadow of darkness will be cast over the Earth in a 70-mile ( …
Katyanna Quach, 21 Jun 2017

No, really. You can see through walls using drones and Wi-Fi

Video Drones can perform three-dimensional imaging of objects through walls using Wi-Fi, a team of researchers demonstrated for the first time. Chitra Karanam, a PhD student, and Yasamin Mostofi, a professor at the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, presented their …
Katyanna Quach, 20 Jun 2017
Black hole - spaghetti visualisation. Artist's impression.  NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA

Melbourne Uni hoping to hoist tiny telescope to look at BIG explosions

A couple of years after it was first conceived, a Melbourne University-led infrared astronomy cubesat proposal called SkyHopper is gathering momentum. Vulture South found itself intrigued by a simple question, which we found time to put to one of the project's founders, astrophysicist Dr Katie Mack: what useful astronomy can …

Medicxi launches $300m European late-stage life sciences fund backed by Google company

Venture capital group Medicxi has announced a $300m late-stage life sciences fund that is backed by Novartis, the European Investment Fund (EIF) and Verily Life Sciences, the healthcare division of Google's holding company Alphabet. The Medicxi Growth 1 (MG1) fund will invest in European biotechnology groups looking to run …
OUT-LAW.COM, 20 Jun 2017

NASA's Kepler space telescope finishes its original mission catalog

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has finished cataloging possible planets in the direction of the Cygnus constellation. At a news conference today, NASA astrobuffs announced that the telescope has identified 219 new planet candidates. Ten are about the size of the Earth and are in the “Goldilocks zone” – they’re at the magic …

Is your research hot or not? US boffins create ‘Tinder for preprints’

Boffins have created an app that lets users rate academic preprints and find people with similar academic tastes - and hope to use the results to spot trends in academic publishing. Jeff Leak, associate professor of biostatics at the Johns Hopkins University and a member of the institution’s data science lab, says the app, …
Rebecca Hill, 19 Jun 2017
pizza

Elon Musk reveals Mars colony rocket capable of bringing pizza joints to the red planet

Elon Musk has published his blueprint for “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species” by establishing a self-sufficient city on Mars. Elon Musk's Mars colonisation plan in a nutshell Musk reckons humanity needs to get off-planet before an extinction event comes along and that Mars is the best candidate for that effort: Venus …
Simon Sharwood, 19 Jun 2017

You wait ages for a sun, then two come along at once: All stars have twins, say astroboffins

Nearly all stars, including our Sun, are born from hot, dense molecular clouds and come in pairs, according to a paper to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Binary star systems are common in space. It was estimated that up to 80 per cent of massive, bright O‑type and B‑type stars are locked …
Katyanna Quach, 17 Jun 2017

As you head off to space with Li-ion batts, don't forget to inject that liquefied gas into them

In 1991, Sony launched the world’s first commercial lithium-ion battery... and since then the design hasn’t changed all that much. Now, new research suggests that incorporating liquefied gas can allow lithium-ion batteries to work at much lower temperatures than previously possible. Lithium-ion batteries are cheap, pretty …
Andrew Silver, 16 Jun 2017

Just like knotted-up headphones: Entangled photons stay entwined over record distance

Pairs of entangled photons created on a satellite orbiting Earth have survived the long, perilous trip from space to ground stations. Crucially, they are still linked despite being picked up by receivers over 1,200km (745mi) apart – the longest link ever seen before. “This is a scientific breakthrough,” says Rupert Ursin, a …
Andrew Silver, 16 Jun 2017
A dentist examining teeth

Fear the dentist? Strap on some nerd goggles

Wearing a virtual-reality headset in the dentist's chair could make you more relaxed, a new study suggests. "We know lots of people are scared of dentists," says Sabine Pahl, a psychologist at England's Plymouth University, who worked on the project. Previous research has shown that virtual reality can make kids calmer when …
Andrew Silver, 14 Jun 2017
Voyager mission logo

Voyager 1 passes another milestone: It's now 138AU from home

Voyager 1 has just ticked off another milestone: on Tuesday it reached 138 astronomical units from Earth, or about 20,600,000,000km from the planet on which you're (presumably!) reading this story. It's not an achievement that will be widely noticed or celebrated, because every kilometre it travels sets a new record for the …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Jun 2017

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