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Astroboffins spy the brightest quasar that lit the universe's dark ages

Scientists have spotted the brightest ancient quasar formed when the universe was less than billion years old, according to research published in The Astrophysical Journal. The newly discovered quasar, known by its not very catchy name PSO J352.4034-15.3373 or P352-15, also shoots out huge jets of plasma that appear extremely …
Katyanna Quach, 09 Jul 2018
Intel Unite London demo

Open plan offices flop – you talk less, IM more, if forced to flee a cubicle

Open plan offices don’t deliver their promised benefits of more face-to-face collaboration and instead make us misanthropic recluses and more likely to use electronic communications tools. So says a new article in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, by Harvard academics Ethan S. Bernstein, Stephen Turban. …
Simon Sharwood, 09 Jul 2018

Spidey sense is literally tingling! Arachnids detect Earth's electric field, use it to fly away

Video Spiders can detect the Earth’s electric field, and use it to lift off and fly through the air, according to new research. The creepy creatures raise their legs and point their bulbous bodies to the sky before shooting lines of silk, using the material to float away in a gentle breeze. The process known as ballooning can carry …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Jul 2018

Universe slipped Milky Way a sausage galaxy to grow a big belly bulge

Around eight to ten billion years ago, a neighbouring dwarf galaxy known as the Sausage galaxy smashed into the Milky Way leaving a smattering of gas, dust, and stars. A team of astrophysicists have traced back the leftover debris to piece together the cosmic catastrophe detailed in a paper published in the Monthly Notices of …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Jul 2018

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a giant alien space cigar? Whatever it is, boffins are baffled

Pic 'Oumuamua, the odd elongated cigar-shaped interstellar object zipping through the Solar System, continues to flummox scientists. What is that thing? At first, there were a group of fantasists who believed it was an alien starship. Those claims were quickly debunked by researchers who classified it as an interstellar asteroid …
Katyanna Quach, 28 Jun 2018

Galileo, here we go again. My my, the Brits are gonna miss EU

The House of Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology yesterday hauled UK government bigwigs in to explain themselves in light of the latest round of Galileo handbag-swinging. However, anyone hoping to see Minister for Defence Procurement Guto Bebb, Head of Cyber and Space Policy Nick Ayling, or UK Space Agency …
Richard Speed, 27 Jun 2018

NASA eggheads draw up blueprints for spotting, surviving asteroid hits

The US government has published a report detailing how to prepare for the danger of impacts from asteroids that stray too close to Earth in the next ten years. Classified as near-earth objects (NEOs), these are a group of bodies in the Solar System that are less than 1.3 astronomical units – the distance between the Earth and …
Katyanna Quach, 21 Jun 2018
Ceres' bright spots  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Geoboffins baffled as Ceres is crawling with carbon organics

Ceres contains more carbon-based compounds - the chemical building blocks for life - than previously thought, according to a new study. Last year, scientists discovered that not only was Ceres’ surface peppered with patches of organic material, but that it is rich in water ice and its crust contains ice, salts and hydrated …
Katyanna Quach, 14 Jun 2018
CSIRO's Australia Telescope Compact Array

Astroboffins 'sprinkle iron filings' over remnant supernova

How to measure a magnetic field that's very long way away, and is very, very weak. An international group of boffins have announced that they figured out how. The magnetic field in question belongs to a distant supernova remnant, Supernova 1987A, 168,000 light years from Earth. While the supernova exploded in 1987, its …

Astroboffins spot planets swimming in the mists of forming stars

Scientists have found a trio of baby planets using a new technique of spotting unusual gas motion around developing stars. The new technique described in a pair of papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. It’s the first time it’s been used to find planets and has spotted three around the newborn star codenamed HD163296. …
Katyanna Quach, 13 Jun 2018
Sun photo via Shutterstock

Solar winds will help ESA probe smell what Mercury's cookin'

Researchers at the Technische Universität Wien in Austria have found that solar wind can do far more than project lights in the Earth's night sky. The work, published in the journal Icarus, found that while we on Earth are treated to displays such as the Northern Lights, bodies that lack the Earth's protective magnetic field, …
Richard Speed, 13 Jun 2018

Kepler finds three Earth-sized exoplanets, but they're too hot to handle

Astro-boffins poring over data from Kepler's K2 mission have spotted two new solar systems, one of them sporting three planets roughly the same size as Earth. The bad news is that all the latest discoveries are likely too hot for us, with temperatures between 100°C and 327°C. Announcing the results in a paper in the Monthly …

Woman sues NASA for ownership of vial of space dust

A woman has sued NASA, claiming to be the rightful owner of a small vial of moon dust supposedly given to her by Neil Armstrong. The lawsuit was filed under the US District Court of Kansas last week by Laura Murray Cicco. She claims that when she was ten, her mother handed her a glass vial with a rubber stopper containing …
Katyanna Quach, 12 Jun 2018

Astroboffins trace mysterious noise from hard rock in space

The source of unusual faint pockets of microwave radiation found only in a few regions of the Milky Way has been traced back to tiny specks of nanodiamond dust. A paper published in Nature Astronomy on Monday cracks the mystery of anomalous microwave emission (AME). It was first discovered in the late twentieth and early …
Katyanna Quach, 11 Jun 2018
Martian Dust Storm

Done and dusted? Vast storm gobbles NASA's long-lived Mars robot

As NASA's Opportunity rover nears its 15th birthday, engineers are worried the plucky little robot may not survive a worsening Martian dust storm. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted the approaching storm on 1 June, giving the Opportunity team notice to kick off their contingency plans. The storm now covers more than …
Richard Speed, 11 Jun 2018

NASA finds more stuff suggesting Mars could have hosted life, maybe

NASA’s Curiosity rover has again found evidence that Mars was potentially capable of hosting life. As detailed in a new Science paper, “Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars”, some of the soil samples Curiosity took from the bottom of Gale Crater turned up molecules of “thiophenes, …
Simon Sharwood, 08 Jun 2018
Hayabusa2 gives asteroid asteroid 1999JU3 the horn

Japan's asteroid-hunting robot Hayabusa2 has its prey within its sights

Boffins at Japan’s space agency, JAXA, announced Thursday that their asteroid sampling mission Hayabusa2 was within sight of its target, Ryugu, with arrival scheduled within the month. The probe is now 2,100km from its prey, and it is expected to arrive on 27 June, using optical navigation. Engineers have also turned off …
Richard Speed, 07 Jun 2018

Juno finds some lightning on Jupiter is the polar opposite to bolts here on Earth

Data from the Juno spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter has shown the highly unusual nature of lightning on the gas giant, according to two new studies published in Nature on Wednesday. We've known that Jupiter has lightning for nearly 40 years, after the first probes went out there. But Juno has discovered that these natural …
Katyanna Quach, 07 Jun 2018
NASA logo

USA! USA! We're No.1! And we want to keep it that way – in spaaaace

A study published today by the Pew Research Center has found that a majority of Americans reckon that staying on top of the space pile should be a US priority, with NASA still attracting a lot of love. However, party poppers are unlikely to be fired within NASA's scattered spaceflight centres since the idea of putting boots …
Richard Speed, 06 Jun 2018
GOES-16 Earth with Moon

No lie-in this morning? Thank the Moon's gravitational pull

Are you tired and grumpy after such a long day? Well, now you know what to blame: the Moon. Scientists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Columbia University, in the US, found that days on Earth grew longer as the Moon inched further away. Some 1.4 billion years ago, a day lasted just over 18 hours, the eggheads …
Katyanna Quach, 06 Jun 2018
Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

NASA makes the James Webb Telescope a looker with a heart of gold

While the spaceship name Heart of Gold was taken by the late, great Douglas Adams, NASA has come up with something similar for its forthcoming space telescope. To capture incoming radiation, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will need to fend off outgoing radiation. The telescope, scheduled to launch in 2020 following several …
Thomas Claburn, 05 Jun 2018
Clock gears, photo via: Shutterstock

Four hydrogen + eight caesium clocks = one almost-proven Einstein theory

A team at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) has used a range of atomic clocks from around the globe to test the equivalence principle* of Einstein's theory of general relativity. The research, published in Nature Physics, follows Einstein's thought experiment whereby the occupant of a windowless lift (or …
Richard Speed, 05 Jun 2018
Curiosity's drill over the laboratory intake

DIYers rejoice: Hitting stuff to make it work even works in space

The percussive maintenance NASA carried out on the Curiosity Rover's drilling machinery has worked, and the robot has started analysing Martian rock samples again. In mid-May, NASA announced its plan to restart the drill, which had been out of action since a motor failed in October 2016. Agency boffins first tried “Feed …

Calm your conspiracy theories, latest glimpse reveals Planet Nine may just be a pipe dream

The mysterious, so-called Planet Nine, may not be a planet after all but just gravitational trickery, according to a new study. A team of researchers have published a new theory explaining why objects on the edge of the Solar System like Sedna - classified as a large minor planet - have such weird, giant circular orbits. Sedna …
Katyanna Quach, 05 Jun 2018

NASA spots asteroid on crash course with Earth – with just hours to go

Video Scientists at NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office have made a rare sighting – an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The rock, dubbed 2018 LA, was picked up by the Catalina Sky Survey on Saturday morning, just hours before it piled into our home world at a speed of 10 miles per second, or 0.5368 per cent of the …
Iain Thomson, 04 Jun 2018
Soyuz returns Expedition 55 crew home (pic: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX flings SES-12 satellite into orbit, but would-be lunar tourists should probably unpack

SpaceX finally got the SES-12 comms satellite into orbit this morning while a trio of International Space Station (ISS) crew members returned in a trusty Soyuz capsule after 168 days in the black. Delayed from 1 June due to an unspecified issue with the second stage of the two stage Falcon 9, SpaceX reset the clocks for a …
Richard Speed, 04 Jun 2018
Radiation symbol on keyboard

Russian battery ambitions see a 10x increase in power from smaller, denser nukes

Russian boffins at the Moscow Institute of Physics (MIPT) have emitted a prototype nuclear battery packing 3,300 milliwatt hours of energy per gram. The paper, published in Diamond and Related Materials, describes a betavoltaic battery powered by the beta decay of the nickel-63 isotope giving 10 times the power of conventional …
Richard Speed, 04 Jun 2018
MiniBooNE photodetectors - Peter Mayers, Princeton U

Boffins quietly cheering possible discovery of new fundamental particle: Sterile neutrino

It needs more sigmas, but Fermilab boffins in America are carefully speculating that they may have seen evidence of a new fundamental particle: the sterile neutrino. The suggestion follows tests conducted by the MiniBooNE (Mini Booster Neutrino Experiment) instrument, located near Chicago. Its mission is to detect neutrino …

Dawn spacecraft to get up-close and personal with dwarf planet Ceres

The Dawn spacecraft orbiting dwarf planet Ceres will soon make its final course change as NASA boffins set it up for a closest-ever flyby yet to get a warts-and-all look. Ceres is the largest body in the Asteroid Belt and orbits between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn's been there since 2015, mapping the surface from hundreds of miles …
Iain Thomson, 01 Jun 2018

The ice must flow: Dunes of frozen gas spotted on alien dwarf

Dunes of methane ice grains have been discovered on Pluto after scientists studied snaps taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. That's according to a paper published in the journal Science today. New Horizons, launched over a decade ago in 2006, has allowed boffins to conduct the most detailed study of the largest dwarf …
Katyanna Quach, 31 May 2018
Falcon 9 on the launchpad (pic: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX to pick up the space pace with yet another Falcon 9 launch

Updated After taking an extra day to look over the second-hand Falcon 9 following its static fire on 25 May, engineers plan to light the blue touch-paper and stand well back on 1 June. The night launch, currently scheduled for some time between 0429 and 0657 (UTC) on 1 June, stands only a 40 per cent chance of getting off the ground …
Richard Speed, 31 May 2018
Fulwell sound mirror photo by Alun Taylor

Mirror mirror on sea wall, spot those airships, make Kaiser bawl

Geek's Guide to Britain Mention the development of air raid early warning systems in the UK and thoughts will most likely jump to the Chain Home radar network of the 1930s. But a system was put in place twenty years earlier to give advance warning of raids by German Zeppelins. These were giant, cigar-shaped, hydrogen-filled airships that unleashed …
Alun Taylor, 31 May 2018
New MH 370 flaperon drift modelling

MH370 search ends – probably – without finding missing 777

Further efforts to find MH370, the Malaysian airlines Boeing 777 missing since March 2014, have again failed to find the plane. Oliver Plunkett, the CEO of Ocean Infinity, a company conducting a no-find-no-fee search on behalf of the Malaysian government, on Tuesday said the search will shortly end without having found the …
Simon Sharwood, 31 May 2018
Alan Bean (pic: NASA)

RIP to two 'naut legends: A moonwalker and a spacewalker

Obit The world lost two astronauts this past weekend – one a moonwalker that you've likely heard of, the other a pioneering spacewalker you might not know about. Bye-bye, Alan Bean Alan Bean, the fourth man on the Moon, passed away on 26 May, aged 86. He is perhaps most famous for being the lunar module pilot (LMP) on the Apollo 12 …
Richard Speed, 30 May 2018
Man crushed to death by rock at Pompeii

Headless man found in lava’s embrace

Archaeologists have found a headless body in Pompeii and concluded that his skull was removed by a big rock pushed into his path by the pyroclastic flow that presaged the city’s doom. The Parco Archeologico di Pompei’s assessment of the find suggests “that the individual survived the first eruptive phase of the volcano, and …
Simon Sharwood, 30 May 2018
A woman walking in the rain by water

Meet the real spin doctors: Scientists tell H2O to chill out so they can separate isomers

Boffins have, for the first time, managed to separate water into its two isomeric forms to test how they react to stuff, according to a paper published in Nature Communications on Tuesday. You may or may not know that each water molecule exists in one of two slightly different structures: para-water and ortho-water. Both have …
Katyanna Quach, 30 May 2018

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