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Signs of ground ice found on ancient protoplanet asteroid Vesta

Scientists have found evidence that there may be ground ice on Vesta, the brightest asteroid visible from Earth. It’s not the first time that ice has been detected on space rocks, and it adds credibility to the idea that asteroids may have brought water to Earth’s oceans. As asteroids crashed into Earth, the impact would have …
Katyanna Quach, 13 Sep 2017

Weird white dwarf pulsar baffles boffins as its pulsating pattern changes over decades

Scientists trying to crack the mystery behind the fastest-pulsating white dwarf have found that its brightness levels change over a timescale of decades. AR Scorpii is a distant, peculiar binary star system located 380 light years away. It’s made of a collapsed white dwarf star circling its larger red dwarf companion. It was …
Katyanna Quach, 13 Sep 2017

Cassini probe's death dive to send data at just 27 kilobits per second

Space is nasty and sending data across 83 light-minutes of it isn't easy, so the Cassini probe's death dive into the clouds of Saturn will be an instruments-only affair undocumented by photographs. Cassini has surveyed Saturn since 2004 but is out of fuel, so will be crashed into Saturn instead of leaving it an an orbit that …
Simon Sharwood, 13 Sep 2017
Black hole

Boffins find a new way to catch the 'tails' of quasars in massive galaxies

Physicists have managed to analyze the hidden "tails" swirling around quasars in supermassive black holes by using a combination of radio telescopes and the Gaia space observatory. A quasar is an active black hole, identified by plumes of matter shooting out from its center, and a shroud of gas and dust known as an accretion …
Katyanna Quach, 13 Sep 2017
AAO's SAMI instrument

Astroboffins map 845 galaxies in glorious 3D, maybe dark matter too

A team led by Sydney University's Dr Caroline Foster has created three-dimensional images of 845 galaxies, claiming it is the biggest collection of of 3D galactic representations ever gathered. Created since 2013, when the Sydney Australian Astronomical Observatory Multi-object Integral Field Spectrograph (SAMI) saw first …
Scientist says nope. Photo by SHutterstock

Boffins fear we might be running out of ideas

Innovation, fetishized by Silicon Valley companies and celebrated by business boosters, no longer provides the economic jolt it once did. In order to maintain Moore's Law – by which transistor density doubles every two years or so – it now takes 18 times as many scientists as it did in the 1970s. That means each researcher's …
Thomas Claburn, 11 Sep 2017

Pains of giving birth to stars gives heft to elliptical galaxies

The rate of star formation might play a bigger role in affecting a galaxy's shape than previously thought, according to a recent study. Galaxies, a smattering of dust, gas and stars glued together by gravitational attraction, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Edwin Hubble's classic "tuning fork" diagram describes four …
Katyanna Quach, 11 Sep 2017

Boffins: 68 exoplanets in prime locations to SPY on humanity on Earth

Scientists on Earth have found thousands of exoplanets – but which of those potential alien civilizations are in the best position to discover us? It’s a question that a team of physicists from Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany have been grappling with …
Katyanna Quach, 08 Sep 2017

How alien civilizations deal with climate is a measure of how smart they are. Just sayin'...

A team of scientists has proposed a new classification system that grades how advanced alien civilizations are by examining how an exoplanet uses energy. No concrete evidence of advanced life has been found beyond Earth, but that doesn't stop scientists entertaining the idea of extraterrestrial societies. The new system is a …
Katyanna Quach, 08 Sep 2017

SpaceX sneaks in X-37B space plane launch ahead of Hurricane Irma

Video SpaceX today successfully launched the US Air Force's secretive mini-space-shuttle X-37B from the biz's launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida. The blastoff was scheduled for Wednesday and delayed, until now, by bad weather as Hurricane Irma menaced the Sunshine State. It was SpaceX's first shot at …
Iain Thomson, 07 Sep 2017
NASA New Horizons artist's impression

Close Encounters of the Kuiper Belt kind: New Horizons to come within just 3,500km of MU69

If we're not all too hungover when New Year's Day 2019 rolls around, NASA will hopefully have a fun set of photos to show us because on that day New Horizons probe has been told to go within just 3,500km of Kuiper Belt Object MU69. Having nominated MU69 as next on New Horizons' itinerary in 2015, it's already pointed the probe …

Violent moon mishap will tear Uranus a new ring or two

Four of the 27 moons orbiting Uranus are on a collision course and will smash into each other, creating new rings around the distant ice giant. The prediction [PDF], published by researchers at the University of Idaho and Wellesley College, came from a study into the unusual behavior of one of Uranus' smallest moons Cressida. …
Iain Thomson, 06 Sep 2017

As Hurricane Irma grows, Earth now lashed by SOLAR storms

Those living on the top and bottom of our planet are in for a superb light show over the next few days – as the Aurora Borealis in the north, and Australis in the south, will be on full display. The auroras fire up when charged particles from the Sun interact with the Earth's magnetic field, producing the amazing visual …
Iain Thomson, 06 Sep 2017
Fruit fly in nature - drosophila melanogaster

Fruit flies' brains at work: Decision-making? They use their eyes

Scientists hunting for the secret of how boffin scalpel-fodder favourite Drosophila melanogaster (aka the fruit fly) makes decisions have found that some of the brain circuitry active when it makes choices can be linked to what it has already seen. The research is being undertaken in order to some day help better understand …
Andrew Silver, 06 Sep 2017

Unable to give up on life on Mars, bio-boffins now thrilled to find boron

Boron, a relatively rare chemical element, has been detected on Mars for the first time. It's a sign there may have been life on the Red Planet. A paper published in the Geophysical Research Letters on Tuesday links the presence of boron to the possible presence of ribonucleic acid on the unforgiving dust world at one time or …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Sep 2017

Hurricane Irma imperils first ever SpaceX shuttle launch: US military's secret squirrel X-37B

Incoming Hurricane Irma is menacing Florida, USA, prompting mandatory evacuations – and threatening to ruin Elon Musk's week too. On Wednesday, SpaceX is due to deliver the US Air Force's secretive X-37B pocket space shuttle into orbit, using a Falcon 9 rocket blasting off from Cape Canaveral in the usually Sunshine State. The …
Iain Thomson, 05 Sep 2017
James Bridenstine

Climate-change skeptic lined up to run NASA in this Trump timeline

President Donald Trump this month nominated US House Rep James Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next NASA administrator. America's space agency has been without a top boss since Charles Bolden resigned on January 20, and the organization has had to deal with proposed major cuts to its funding since then. While Bridenstine is a …
Iain Thomson, 05 Sep 2017
NASA impression of asteroid Florence

Asteroid Florence buzzes Earth, brings two moons along for the ride

Be glad that the asteroid dubbed “Florence” won't revisit Earth for many, many years: observations during its weekend fly-by revealed that the space-rock is so big it's captured two moons. Sky-watchers have been waiting for Florence (officially 3122 Florence) for some time: it was first spotted in 1981 by astronomer Schelte …
Random numbers

Give a boffin a Xeon and a big GPU, get a new big prime number

Humanity's collection of the very large prime numbers just grew by one member: 9194441048576 + 1. The newly-found number lands in twelfth place on the list of largest prime numbers and, set down in full, would be 6,253,210 digits long (number one on the large primes list, 274207281 -1, is 22,338,618 digits long). The number …
Gemini's composite image of FRB 121102's host galaxy

15 'could it be aliens?' fast radio bursts observed in one night

Fast Radio Burst-hunters have suffered London Bus syndrome again: fifteen have shown up at once. A bout of sky-watching at Green Bank in West Virginia, under the auspices of the Breakthrough Initiative's Listen project, has turned up 15 pulses from repeater source FRB 121102. Boffins already knew FRB 121102 was enticing: back …
Artist's impression of the TRAPPIST-1 system seen from one of the planets. Pic: ESO / M. Kornmesser

Hubble Space Telescope spies possibility of liquid water in TRAPPIST-1

The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted possible signs of water on the outer planets of TRAPPIST-1, the system with the most exoplanets in a star’s habitable zone. The TRAPPIST-1 system – named after the TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope in Chile – was discovered last year. It has been described as a mini …
Katyanna Quach, 01 Sep 2017

Boffins want machine learning to predict earthquakes

Earthquakes are, by their nature, unpredictable. Although geologists understand why and how the tremors occur, forecasting them more than a few minutes ahead is very difficult. A team of scientists believes that machine learning could help solve this problem one day. A paper published Wednesday in the Geophysical Research …
Katyanna Quach, 01 Sep 2017

P≠NP proof fails, Bonn boffin admits

Computer science boffin Norbert Blum has acknowledged that his P≠NP proof is incorrect, as a number of experts anticipated. In a post published Wednesday to the page where his paper used to be, Blum, a computer science professor at the University of Bonn, said: "The proof is wrong. I shall elaborate precisely what …
Thomas Claburn, 31 Aug 2017

Boffins turn to AI to zip through piles of gravitational lenses

A group of physicists has trained an artificial neural network to analyze gravitational lensing images ten million times faster than normal computational methods. Gravitational lensing is "the formation of multiple images of distant sources due to the deflection of their light by the gravity of intervening structures," …
Katyanna Quach, 30 Aug 2017

Living in space basically shoves a warp drive into your blood stream

A new study analyzing the blood samples of 18 Russian cosmonauts reveals that space sends the body’s defensive immune system into overdrive. Space is bad for your health. The lack of gravity and the constant bombardment of radiation particles makes the environment treacherous. Numerous studies have shown astronauts …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Aug 2017

Boffins prove oil and water CAN mix – if you do it in a gas giant

Oil and water do mix, a group of scientists have discovered. The two substances normally repel one another, but under extreme conditions oil molecules can dissolve in water. A group of physicists from the University of Edinburgh in the UK filled tiny capsules with water and methane gas and subjected them to intense pressures. …
Katyanna Quach, 29 Aug 2017
Engineer aboard Das Boot U-96 responds to telegraphs

US Navy develops underwater wireless battery-charging tech

Uncrewed underwater vessels are playing a growing role in military operations like surveillance, but they have to either land or surface to recharge their batteries. The US Department of Defence's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SPAWAR) wants to change that with a wireless charge system for underwater …

Scientists measure magnetic field around most distant galaxy yet

Scientists have measured the magnetic field of a galaxy five billion light years from Earth, the most distant coherent magnetic field that has ever been observed. An international team of physicists used the Karl G Jansky Very Large Array, a large radio wave observatory in central New Mexico, to study how magnetism manifests …
Katyanna Quach, 28 Aug 2017

James Webb Telescope will be infatuated with Europa and Enceladus

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be focused on Europa and Enceladus, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, in efforts to uncover the secrets of how life began in the Solar System. Europa and Enceladus have captivated scientists with rising plumes of water cracking beneath their icy surfaces. The moons have been described as “ …
Katyanna Quach, 26 Aug 2017

US focuses eyes in the sky as Hurricane Harvey starts to slam into Texas

As Hurricane Harvey bears down on the Texas coast, American satellites have provided vital monitoring data to give Texans the best information about the incoming terror tempest. The space agency has three orbital platforms providing data on the mega-storms, which has now been upgraded to a category-three hurricane, meaning …
Iain Thomson, 25 Aug 2017
greek vs. babylonian triangles

Forget trigonometry, 'cos Babylonians did it better 3,700 years ago – by counting in base 60!

Those of you who can remember trigonometry can feel free to forget it, because ancient Babylonian mathematicians had a better way of doing it – using base 60! That's the conclusion of a new paper, Plimpton 322 is Babylonian exact sexagesimal trigonometry, in the new issue of the journal Historia Mathematica. The “Plimpton 322 …
Simon Sharwood, 25 Aug 2017

Calm down, internet. Elon's Musk-see SpaceX spacesuit is a bit generic

Pic Elon Musk revealed the first official photo of the SpaceX "spacesuit" today on Instagram. "First picture of SpaceX spacesuit," the billionaire breathlessly wrote in his caption. "More in days to follow. Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup). Already tested to double vacuum pressure. Was incredibly hard to …
Andrew Silver, 23 Aug 2017

Don't throw away those eclipse glasses! Send 'em to South America

On Monday, millions of Americans watched nature's ballet play out across the Sun (excluding those of us in San Francisco, where we were fogged in). Now an appeal is going out for used glasses to be donated to charity. Astronomers Without Borders is asking people who bought proper (not rip-off) eclipse viewers to send them in …
Iain Thomson, 23 Aug 2017

Can North Korean nukes hit US mainland? Maybe. But EMP blast threat is 'highly credible'

Feature When they said a week is a lifetime in politics, they weren't kidding. One moment, President Donald Trump talks of "fire and fury," the likes the world has never seen, in response to an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which is trying to menace the US with nuclear weapons. Then that's shoved to the side by neo-Nazis …
Iain Thomson, 22 Aug 2017
Illustration of diamond rain on Neptune

Uh oh, scientists know how those diamonds got in Uranus, and they're telling everyone!

Researchers from Stanford have shown how the frigid, high-pressure atmospheres of the planets Uranus and Neptune can create a "rain" of diamonds. The team from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory says it used an optical laser from the Matter In Extreme Conditions instrument to demonstrate how, deep within the gas giants, …
Shaun Nichols, 21 Aug 2017
Voyager mission logo

Voyager antenna operator: 'I was the first human to see images from Neptune'

When Richard Stephenson drives to work, there's a chance that later that day he'll become the first human to see new details of Mars, a moon of Saturn, or the far reaches of the solar system. Again. Stephenson's seen plenty of such firsts because his job as an Operations Supervisor at the Canberra Deep Space Tracking Complex …
Simon Sharwood, 21 Aug 2017

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