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Now for a really cool micro-drum solo: Boffins chill gizmo below quantum limit

Physicists working at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a way to theoretically cool an object to absolute zero. This groundbreaking technique, detailed in Nature today, has been used to chill a vibrating aluminium membrane to 360 microKelvin, a temperature below the “quantum limit.” …
Katyanna Quach, 12 Jan 2017
Cygnus

Binary star bash-up should add new light to Northern Cross in 2022

Pics and video The stars of the Northern Cross – one of the most recognisable features in the night sky that has been used as a marker for the seasons for thousands of years – should be getting a bright new addition. binary star KIC 9832227 is a stellar peanut 1,800 light years away lies the stellar system of KIC 9832227, two stars …
Iain Thomson, 11 Jan 2017

You know how cop cars pile into each other in old comedy movies? That's how the Moon was built, say boffins

The birth of the Earth’s Moon didn’t begin with a single huge collision – rather it grew as lots of baby moons from smaller impacts fused together, according to a new theory published in Nature Geoscience. Scientists believe that a proto-Earth and a Mars-sized body smashed together in the earlier days of the Solar System to …
Katyanna Quach, 10 Jan 2017
NASA Stereo Science Center asteroid image

Asteroid nearly gave Earth a new feature, two days after its discovery

On Saturday, the Catalina Sky Survey spotted a near-Earth asteroid of respectable heft – and today, it passed between us and the Moon. 2017 AG13 (the Minor Planet Center, MPC, entry is here) is about the size of a 10-storey building. Its velocity to Earth is 11 kilometres per second. It passed at 0.53 Lunar distance, or 203, …
Ocean from above photo via Shutterstock

NASA taps ESA satellite Swarm for salty ocean temperature tales

Research scientists working at NASA have hit upon a potentially revolutionary way of measuring the heat hidden deep in Earth's oceans: track the subtle shifts in our planet's magnetic field caused by tides, swells, eddies, and even tsunamis. Put simply, the salt in ocean water makes it conductive, and as it ebbs and flows it …
Rik Myslewski, 9 Jan 2017
Elon Musk

Weather stops SpaceX from blowing up more satellites

Sorry, Musketeers, you'll have to wait until at least January 14 to see how many satellites SpaceX can get into space. The company's Falcon 9 was due to return to space today, but the weather turned against Elon Musk. The launch will hoist seven Iridium satellites into orbit. SpaceX had gotten as far as completing a test …

Could YOU survive a zombie apocalypse? Uni eggheads say you'd last just 100 days

Physics students at the UK's University of Leicester have concluded that a "real-life zombie outbreak" would all but eliminate humanity in just 100 days. Ignoring more plausible threats like flu pandemic, Pumpkin Spice Latte poisoning, or tweet-triggered nuclear annihilation, Leicester students CT Davies, KJ Cheshire, R …
Elon Musk

Elon's SpaceX gets permission to blow up another satellite or two

America's Federal Aviation Administration has cleared SpaceX to launch satellites into Earth's orbit using the science upstart's rockets. This comes after the watchdog scrutinized the cause of last year's dramatic explosion on a SpaceX launchpad: on September 1, a refueling cockup strongly encouraged a Falcon 9 rocket, along …
Iain Thomson, 6 Jan 2017

Fatal genetic conditions could return in some 'three-parent' babies

Troubling new findings have been discovered that could affect the lives of (misleadingly* branded) "three-parent" offspring born thanks to breakthrough mitochondrial replacement therapy. The technique grabbed the world's attention when in September a baby was born bearing the DNA of three parents, a feat that overcame the …
Darren Pauli, 5 Jan 2017
asteroid mission

NASA plans seven-year trip to Jupiter – can we come with you, please?

Vid NASA has OKed two new missions to study some of the most interesting asteroids in our solar system, as part of its ongoing Discovery mission program. The first mission, named Lucy, will launch in October 2021 and will head off to the gas giant of Jupiter to explore its Trojan zones. These are two points on either side of the …
Iain Thomson, 5 Jan 2017
Gemini's composite image of FRB 121102's host galaxy

Puny galaxy packs a big punch: A gazillion joules' worth of radio bursts

Sorry to say this, but fast radio bursts still aren't alien communications. There is a surprise, however, in the latest science about them – the only repeating burst yet known comes from a "puny" galaxy with no obvious sources for such a cataclysmic cosmic event. We don't know quite what they are, but the galactic mysteries …
Black hole - spaghetti visualisation. Artist's impression.  NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA

NASA eyes up supermassive black holes, neutron stars

NASA will embark on a new mission to explore supermassive black holes, neutron stars, and pulsars hidden within the depths of space. The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission was chosen among 14 other proposals during the rigorous selection process for NASA's Astrophysics Explorer programmes. It's expected to …
Hoags Object

Astroboffins glimpse sighting of ultra-rare circular galaxy

A rarer-than-rare galaxy 359 million light years away from Earth has been spotted by physicists. Designated PGC 1000714 [paywalled], the galaxy is a ring-shape system orbiting a cooler centre without any connection between the two – a formation referred to as Hoag's Object. Just 0.1 per cent of all observed galaxies are Hoag- …
Gavin Clarke, 4 Jan 2017

Speeding jet of Siberian liquid hot Magma getting speedier, satellites find

A speeding jet of magma 420 kilometres wide, described nearly as hot as the Sun's surface underneath Russia is moving three times faster that previously recorded, scientists say. The jet is now travelling at up to 45 kilometres a year underneath Siberia towards Europe, triple the pace of other outer core liquids, thanks to …
Darren Pauli, 4 Jan 2017
Conceptual illiustration of fifth/sixth dimension. Finger presses light net. pHOTO BY shUTTERSTOCK

Uh-oh. LG to use AI to push home appliances to 'another dimension'

CES 2017 LG Electronics is unveiling a range of home appliances embedded with “deep learning technology” during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Riding on the coattails of tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon, the hype around deep learning - a branch of machine learning - shows no sign of fatigue as companies like LG are …
Hubble telescope megamaser

Major maser microwaves Hubble

The name's boring but the science isn't: an entire galaxy spied by the Hubble Space Telescope is acting as a microwave-emitting laser, or maser. Think of the process going on here: in a laser, molecules in a crystal are stimulated to add energy to electrons, and when they shed that energy, they emit coherent light (or, at …

Elon burning to get Falcon back on the launchpad

Only a regulatory sign-off stands between Elon Musk's SpaceX and the restart of its Falcon 9 launch program within a week. With its anomaly investigation complete, the company hopes to launch a Falcon carrying Iridium's NEXT satellite from Vandenberg on January 8. The Elon Musk spaceflight company says the catastrophic …
Artist's impression of Earth-Like worlds. Pic: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

2016 just got a tiny bit longer. Gee, thanks, time lords

Most people are over 2016 - although god knows what next year has in store. But unfortunately they'll have to endure it bit longer: one second longer to be precise. This year the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) will insert the leap second before midnight, in order to keep the timescale based on atomic clocks in sync with …
Kat Hall, 23 Dec 2016
Scotty

Chinese boffins: We're testing an 'impossible' EM Drive IN SPAAAACE

A month after NASA published a paper suggesting a controversial electromagnetic engine design appears to work, Chinese eggheads claim they've had similar results – and have sent an EM Drive into space for testing. At a press conference this month, Dr Chen Yue, the head of the communication satellite division at the China …
Iain Thomson, 22 Dec 2016
I for one welcome our new insect overlords

NASA explains how 'Spiders' grow on Mars

NASA thinks it has found an explanation for the “spiders” it's spotted on Mars. No, you haven't missed news of Martian arachnids. These spiders are a series of erosion channels that meet in a central pit and are common in regions near Mars' South Pole. A decade's worth of data from The High Resolution Imaging Science …
Simon Sharwood, 21 Dec 2016

Ancient water found in Canada is two billion years old – giving hope to Mars colony dreamers

Canada's oldest pool of water, nestled deep within a mine, is approximately two billion years old – and it could have sustained life, scientists have discovered. Scientists collaborated with mining companies to drill deep into the Kidd Mine, Ontario, approximately three kilometers below to discover the oldest water samples. …
Katyanna Quach, 19 Dec 2016
ExoMars 2020

If at first you don't succeed, send another Mars lander – this time a deep driller

Undeterred by the crash of the Schiaparelli Mars probe during the first ExoMars mission, the European Space Agency has signed off contracts that will hopefully deposit a new and more advanced lander directly on the Martian Surface. In one piece. In a ceremony in Rome, ESA inked a deal with private firm Thales Alenia Space to …
Iain Thomson, 17 Dec 2016
CYGNSS

NASA – get this – just launched 8 satellites from a rocket dropped from a plane at 40,000ft

Video NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) has made it safely into orbit after being air-launched from Orbital ATK's Stargazer aircraft. CYGNSS consists of eight mini-satellites that orbit around the tropical zone of Earth that spawns most of our hurricanes and cyclones. The birds will provide daily updates on …
Iain Thomson, 16 Dec 2016
Galileo

Galileo! Galileo! Galileo! Galileo! Galileo fit to go: Europe's GPS-like network switches on

After a long and much-delayed 17-year gestation, Europe's answer to America's GPS system has been switched on. The Galileo network will offer a free service with an accuracy of one metre, and can pinpoint locations down to a few centimetres for paying customers. The service has 18 satellites in orbit, with 30 projected by 2020 …
Iain Thomson, 15 Dec 2016

Climate change bust up: We'll launch our own damn satellites if Trump pulls plug – Gov Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown promises that no matter how "absurd" the upcoming Republican presidential administration's response to climate-change science, the state of California will be ready with a robust response – with weapons ranging from satellites to databases to lawyers. Speaking at the American Geophysical Union's …
Rik Myslewski, 14 Dec 2016
Mindful Bill Gates

Bill Gates joins $170bn climate change investment club

Bill Gates is leading a $1bn climate-change venture with a roll-call of tech’s biggest names. Microsoft’s co-founder has joined Breakthrough Energy, described as investing in “reliable, affordable, zero-carbon energy, food and products for the world.” The first investment is reported to be in clean tech. Gates is reported to …
Gavin Clarke, 13 Dec 2016

SpaceX delays manned Dragon capsule launch

Elon Musk's SpaceX has delayed the first manned launch of its Dragon capsule intended to carry astronauts into orbit by one year. SpaceX intends to send astronauts to the International Space Station via the capsule, which has already made several supply deliveries to the station. The first launch was originally scheduled for …
Kat Hall, 13 Dec 2016
Old school emissions testing at the EU's Joint Research Centre

Europe to launch legal action against countries over diesel emissions cheating

The European Commission has begun legal action against seven member states over emissions cheating in the "dieselgate" scandal. The Commission is frustrated with how national authorities have handled the issue, which began last year when Volkswagen admitted to emissions 'discrepancies' in engines fitted in 11 million vehicles …
OUT-LAW.COM, 13 Dec 2016

Men! If you want to win at board games this Christmas, turn off the rock music – scientists

Chaps, listen. Are you sick of losing at Monopoly every Christmas? Do you dread the sight of backgammon or the sound of rattling Scrabble tiles? The trick to winning board games could be to avoid listening to rock music, apparently. Scientists at Imperial College London have teamed up with musicians from the Royal College of …
Katyanna Quach, 12 Dec 2016
star

Remember that brightest supernova ever seen? It wasn't one

Last year, astronomers spotted what looked like a massive supernova, 200 times brighter than any seen before. Use of the Hubble and Swift orbital telescopes as well as observatories here on Earth to make a close analysis of the event, dubbed ASASSN-15lh, indicates that the flash in the sky might not have been a supernova at …
Iain Thomson, 12 Dec 2016

ESA to try tank-to-tank fuel switch on sat that wasn't designed to do it

The European Space Agency is planning what it thinks is a world-first transfer of fuel between tanks on an orbiting satellite that wasn't designed to do the job. The agency's venerable XMM-Newton X-ray 'scope has been orbiting Earth since 1999, thanks in part to daily engine burns that keep its orbit stable. While the 'scope …
Simon Sharwood, 12 Dec 2016

Japanese robot space maid will incinerate Earth's dead satellites

Vid Good news: the latest resupply mission to the International Space Station has taken off without exploding or any of that kind of nonsense. Even better news: it is carrying 5.9 metric tons (6.5 US tons) of cargo, including a rather unusual device that boffins believe could be a great tool for dealing with space junk. After the …
Iain Thomson, 9 Dec 2016
John Glenn

RIP John Glenn: First American in orbit – and later, the oldest, too

Obit John Glenn, America's first man into orbit and the oldest person ever to make it into space, has died at the age of 95 after a short illness. Glenn shot to national fame in the early 1960s as part of the Mercury 7 – seven pilots selected by NASA to be the first Americans into space. On February 20, 1962, Glenn and his …
Iain Thomson, 9 Dec 2016
Christopher Lee as Dracula

Latest loon for Trump's cabinet: Young-blood-loving, kidney-market advocate Jim O'Neill

Having chosen a climate-change denier to head the US government's environment agency, an opponent of minimum wage for the Labor Department, a creationist for Education Secretary, a mine-owner for Commerce, and a wrestling exec to oversee small businesses – president-elect Donald Trump is now considering putting a man with very …
Eclipse photo via Shutterstock

Earth days are getting longer – by 1.8 milliseconds per century

We know the Earth’s rotation is slowing, hence leap seconds, but by how much? Now we have a new number: 1.8 milliseconds per century for the last 2,720 years. That's the average figure the solar day has increased by since 720BC according to researchers at the Durham University and the UK’s Nautical Almanac Office. The boffins …
Gavin Clarke, 8 Dec 2016

Patience is SpaceX's latest virtue

SpaceX has delayed its planned December launch until January 2017. Its brief statement is given as an “anomaly update” – an addendum to the rolling blog about investigations into its impressively-large explosion on September 1. That event has since been attributed to how helium was handled during fuelling. The explosion …
Restore-L

NASA spunks $127m on SSL-powered robot to refuel satellites in space

SSL (previously Space Systems/Loral) has won a contract to build a robot capable of refueling satellites in orbit, whether or not they have been designed to get more fuel. There are already scores of satellites in orbit that are useless due to lack of fuel, and NASA wants the ability to refuel future orbital platforms without …
Iain Thomson, 7 Dec 2016

Robotics is coming on leaps and bounds – literally: Bushbaby bot most vertically agile yet

Roboticists from the University of California, Berkeley, have built the “most vertically agile” robot, capable of jumping better than humans. Salto, the pint-sized robot, can jump up to a metre in height in less than a second. It stands for saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles, and is modeled on one of nature’s most …
Mail rail Royal Mail courtesy of The British Postal Museum and Archive

Going underground: The Royal Mail's great London train squeeze

Geek's Guide to Britain For the last 13 years, a tiny train tunnel running through the centre of London has remained empty and unused, maintained by just four engineers. But these engineers don’t work for Transport for London or Network Rail – they work for the Royal Mail. The small gauge tunnel, running for 10.46km (6.5 miles) from Paddington to …
Rings around distant planet

Cassini tickles Saturn's rings ahead of final death plunge

The Cassini space probe has begun a series of orbits designed to swing it through the edges of Saturn's ring system. The probe, which has been orbiting the gas giant since 2004, fired a six-second burst of its rocket motor at 0409 PT (1209 UTC) to put it into a swooping orbit 57,000 miles (91,000 kilometers) over the gas giant …
Iain Thomson, 6 Dec 2016
VSS Unity

Beardy Branson's space bird spreads its wings

For the first time in more than two years, a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo has been unclipped from its carrier. The VSS Unity glided for 10 minutes under its own control, after being released from WhiteKnightTwo, after a previous four “captive carry” test flights. Virgin Galactic says the Saturday flight over the Mojave desert …
bacteria

Take that, creationists: Boffins witness birth of new species in the lab

A common chant from the anti-evolution crowd is that you can't demonstrate speciation – the creation of new species – in action. Now a team of scientists can do just that for anyone with a few weeks to spare. In a paper published in the journal Science at the end of November, Justin Meyer, an assistant professor of biology at …
Iain Thomson, 5 Dec 2016

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