SternisheFan sends this excerpt from a JPL news release: "NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn's north pole. This is the first hexagon movie of its kind (GIF), using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude. Spanning about 20,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200-mile-per-hour winds (about 322 kilometers per hour) with a massive, rotating storm at the center. There is no weather feature exactly, consistently like this anywhere else in the solar system. 'The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable,' said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 'A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades — and who knows — maybe centuries.'"
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Kristian vonBengtson writes "Wanna build your own space capsule capable of doing an atmospheric re-entry on a suborbital mission? Well, here are some production hints and a visual guide." The initial stages begin with sketches on paper before moving to 3D design software. He writes, "A whole bunch of sketches were done to get some kind of initial idea of the size, subsystems layout and how to actually produce the capsule while keeping an open structure for further development and potential changes. One of the main concerns was the small size and the ability to easy install and replace avionics. This led to the decision that all external side panels will have to accommodate being taken on and off – no welding, only on the main structure." Afterward, he moves on to show the final metal cuts and how the pieces are put together via bolts and welding.
Taco Cowboy writes "NASA's WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) satellite was looking at a distant galaxy, some 3.8 billion light-years away, and saw something rather unusual. At first they thought that they saw a galaxy was forming new stars at a furious rate, but upon closer checking, they found that they were seeing two supermassive black holes spiraling closer and closer to each other. The dance of this black hole duo started out slowly, with the objects circling each other at a distance of about a few thousand light-years. As the black holes continued to spiral in toward each other, they were separated by just a few light-years. Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies typically shoot out pencil-straight jets, but in this case, the jet showed a zig-zag pattern. According to the scientists, a second massive black hole could, in essence, be pushing its weight around to change the shape of the other black hole's jet. Visible-light spectral data from the Gemini South telescope in Chile showed similar signs of abnormalities, thought to be the result of one black hole causing disk material surrounding the other black hole to clump. Together, these and other signs point to what is probably a fairly close-knit set of circling black holes, though the scientists can't say for sure how much distance separates them."
Velcroman1 writes "A U.S. spacecraft hasn't made a controlled landing on the moon since Apollo 17 left the lunar surface on Dec. 14, 1972. That's about to change. Moon Express will unveil the MX-1 spacecraft at the Autodesk University show in Las Vegas Thursday evening — a micro-spacecraft that will in 2015 mark the first U.S. 'soft' landing since the days of the Apollo program, FoxNews.com has learned. The craft looks for all the world like a pair of donuts wearing an ice cream cone, and the tiny vehicle clearly isn't big enough for a human being. But it is big enough to scoop up some rocks and dirt, store them in an internal compartment, and return it to Earth. After all, the moondirt Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin once trod holds a king's ransom of titanium, platinum, and other rare elements. Moon Express plans to mine it."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Telegraph reports that NASA plans to send turnip, cress, and basil seeds to the Moon inside a specially constructed canister, known as the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber. The chamber will carry enough air for 10 days and NASA says the air in the chamber would be adequate to allow the seeds to sprout and grow for five days. It is hoped that the latest experiment will help to pave the way for astronauts to grow their own food while living on a lunar base. NASA says it will use natural sunlight to germinate the plants inside the chamber and the seeds will grow on pieces of filter paper laden with nutrients. 'If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can. Thriving plants are needed for life support — food, air, water — for colonists. And plants provide psychological comfort, as the popularity of the greenhouses in Antarctica and on the Space Station show.' The Lunar Plant Growth Chamber is expected to weigh around 2.2lbs and will also carry 10 seeds each of basil and turnips. Upon landing on the Moon a trigger would release a small reservoir of water to wet the filter paper and initiate the germination of the seeds. Photographs of the seedlings would be taken at regular intervals to monitor their progress and compare them to seedlings being growing in similar conditions on Earth."
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon in a bid to deliver a large commercial satellite into geostationary orbit. The flight was successful: "Approximately 185 seconds into flight, Falcon 9’s second stage’s single Merlin vacuum engine ignited to begin a five minute, 20 second burn that delivered the SES-8 satellite into its parking orbit. Eighteen minutes after injection into the parking orbit, the second stage engine relit for just over one minute to carry the SES-8 satellite to its final geostationary transfer orbit. The restart of the Falcon 9 second stage is a requirement for all geostationary transfer missions." This is a significant milestone for SpaceX, and it fulfills another of the three objectives set forth by the U.S. Air Force to certify SpaceX flights for National Security Space missions.
sciencehabit writes "Theoretical physicists have forged a connection between the concept of entanglement — itself a mysterious quantum mechanical connection between two widely separated particles — and that of a wormhole — a hypothetical connection between black holes that serves as a shortcut through space (first abstract, second abstract). The insight could help physicists reconcile quantum mechanics and Einstein's general theory of relativity, perhaps the grandest goal in theoretical physics."
The Bad Astronomer writes "Planets orbiting other stars are usually found indirectly (by blocking their stars' light or inducing a Doppler shift in the light as they orbit, for example), but direct images of exoplanets are extremely rare. However, using the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii, astronomers have taken photographs of three nearby exoplanets, all young, massive, and hot. One may be massive enough to count as a brown dwarf, but the other two are more likely in the planet-mass range. All three are very far from their stars, which means they may have formed differently than the planets in our solar system."
Zothecula writes "Last August, it looked as if NASA's Kepler space telescope was as good as scrap due to the failure of its attitude control system. Now the space agency proposes what it calls the K2 mission concept, which may fix the problem by using the Sun to regain attitude control and allow Kepler to resume its search for extrasolar planets."
kkleiner writes "Among the possible uses for Google Glass that early adopters are dreaming up, you can now add 'surgical assistance' to the list. With approval from the institutional review board, a UCSF cardiothoracic surgeon recently utilized Glass during procedures by utilizing its voice activation features to refer to patient x-ray scans. Aimed at providing surgeons with the most up-to-date patient data, a startup named VitaMedicals is building apps to stream in patient records and live scans to the device. Even though it's early days for Glass, its potential in the medical space is huge and could revolutionize how doctor's access and apply information from patient records."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Industry Tap reports that there is a place so quiet you can hear your heart beat, your lungs breathe and your stomach digest. It's the anechoic chamber at Orfield Labs in Minnesota where 3ft of sound-proofing fiberglass wedges and insulated steel and concrete absorbs 99.99% of sound, making it the quietest place in the world. 'When it's quiet, ears will adapt,' says the company's founder and president, Steven Orfield. 'The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You'll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.' The chamber is used by a multitude of manufacturers, to test how loud their products are and the space normally rents for $300 to $400 an hour. 'It's used for formal product testing, for research into the sound of different things — heart valves, the sound of the display of a cellphone, the sound of a switch on a car dashboard.' But the strangest thing about the chamber is that sensory deprivation makes the room extremely disorienting, and people can rarely stay in the dark space for long. As the minutes tick by in absolute quiet, the human mind begins to lose its grip, causing test subjects to experience visual and aural hallucinations. 'We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark — one reporter stayed in there for 45 minutes,' says Orfield who says even he can't stand the quiet for more than about 30 minutes. Nasa uses a similar chamber to test its astronauts putting them in a water-filled tank inside the room to see 'how long it takes before hallucinations take place and whether they could work through it.'"
SternisheFan writes "This Ars Technica article examines what may be left of ISON and contains a detailed animated GIF from the NASA STEREO Ahead spacecraft. 'It looks like comet ISON, or most of it, did not survive its encounter with the Sun yesterday, when it made a close approach at just 1.2 million kms from that fiery surface. This distance may seem large, but it is close enough to have subjected the comet to temperatures of around 2,700C. To survive such a close shave with the Sun may sound unlikely, but a few other sungrazing comets have managed the feat during even closer passes. So some people hoped ISON would perform a death-defying stunt and emerge intact. ISON did not leave us without a final serving of mystery though. Soon after reaching its nearest point to the Sun (known as perihelion), there was no sign of it emerging afterwards. Twitter and news agencies were alight, lamenting its loss and assuming it disintegrated—RIP ISON. But then, moments later, new images emerged showing a hint of something appearing on the other side of the Sun. Was this still a diminished comet ISON or a ghostly version of its former self? Well, even comet experts are not sure.'"
savuporo writes "The Chang'e-3 lunar probe, which includes the Yutu or Jade Rabbit buggy, blasted off on board an enhanced Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 1:30 a.m. (12.30 p.m. EDT). Landing is expected on December 14, at a landing site called Sinus Iridium (the Bay of Rainbows), a relic of a huge crater 258 km in diameter. Coverage of the launch was carried live on CCTV, with youtube copies available."
New submitter palemantle writes with this excerpt from The Hindu, updating our earlier mention of the successful launch of India's Mars-bound probe: "In a remarkably successful execution of a complex manoeuvre, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) fired the propulsion system on board the spacecraft for a prolonged duration of 23 minutes from 0049 hours on Sunday. In space parlance, the manoeuvre is called Trans-Mars Injection (TMI). ISRO called it 'the mother of all slingshots.' Celebrations broke out at the control centre of the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore from where the spacecraft specialists gave commands for the orbiter's 440 Newton engine to begin firing. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, is designed to demonstrate the technological capability to reach Mars orbit. But the $72m (£45m) probe will also carry out experiments, including a search for methane gas in the planet's atmosphere."
c0lo writes "A Chinese Long March rocket is scheduled to blast off to the Moon on Sunday evening at about 6pm UTC carrying a small robotic rover that will touch down on to the lunar surface in about two weeks' time – the first soft landing on the Earth's only natural satellite since 1976. China has been methodically and patiently building up the key elements needed for an advanced space programme — from launchers to manned missions in Earth orbit to unmanned planetary craft — and it is investing heavily. After only 10 years since it independently sent its first astronaut into space, China is forging ahead with a bold three-step programme beginning with the robotic exploration of possible landing sites for the first Chinese astronauts to set foot on lunar soil between 2025 and 2030. Prof Ouyang Ziyuan of the department of lunar and deep space exploration and an adviser to the mission commented to the BBC on the scale of Chinese thinking about the Moon. He said the forthcoming venture would land in an ancient crater 400km wide called Sinus Iridum, thought to be relatively flat and clear of rocks, and explore its geology. China.org.cn promised live coverage of the event."
An anonymous reader sends this update from NightSkyInfo: "Yesterday, when Comet ISON plunged through the solar atmosphere and behind SOHO's coronagraph (the black disk designed to block out the direct light from the Sun), its nucleus dwindled away to nothing and most of the tail simply evaporated. Everyone assumed that the comet completely disintegrated and died a fiery death. However, several hours after perihelion, ISON began to brighten up again. It is now distinctly evident on live images from SOHO, looks like a comet, and continues to brighten as it moves farther away from the Sun." Experts are unwilling to say precisely how intact the comet is — we'll need more data to make a conclusion about that — but astrophysicist Karl Battams says this is their best guess: 'As comet ISON plunged towards to the Sun, it began to fall apart, losing not giant fragments but at least a lot of reasonably sized chunks. There's evidence of very large dust in the form of that long thin tail we saw in the LASCO C2 images. Then, as ISON plunged through the corona, it continued to fall apart and vaporize, and lost its coma and tail completely just like Lovejoy did in 2011. (We have our theories as to why it didn't show up in the SDO images but that's not our story to tell - the SDO team will do that.) Then, what emerged from the Sun was a small but perhaps somewhat coherent nucleus, that has resumed emitting dust and gas for at least the time being. In essence, the tail is growing back, as Lovejoy's did.' Here's a GIF of the comet rounding the Sun (put together by Emily Lakdawalla).
xiox writes "The European Space Agency (ESA) have decided that its next two large astronomy missions (costing 2bn Euros) will be to study two aspects of the "invisible universe". The first will be a very large X-ray telescope to be launched in 2028. It will study the physics of the hottest and largest structures in the universe, investigating how they formed and evolved. It will also investigate how black holes grow and affect the universe. The second mission, launched in 2034, will be an observatory capable to measure gravitation waves, the stretches and compressions in space-time caused by massive moving systems, such as merging pairs of black holes. Although the final designs are not yet chosen, the two proposed observatories Athena and eLISA are likely choices. BBC News has more information."
New submitter BugNuker writes "Comet ISON has been speeding towards the sun, and while doing so, it has been getting brighter. There was hope that ISON would be 'Comet of the Century' material. That does not seem to be the case, but it still exists and it's still very interesting. Recently, ISON has undergone some outbursts, making it a near naked-eye object. ISON is still approaching perihelion (it will get there at 18:25 UTC on 28 November). For now, we can keep watching the STEREO spacecraft images for more evidence." Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society put together this animated GIF of the comet from images taken by the STEREO-A spacecraft. Karl Battams put together a fascinating GIF as well. The Planetary Society has a list of information feeds and scheduled events for keeping tabs on ISON.
First time accepted submitter gnosygnu writes "Want your own copy of English Wikipedia with images? Got 100 GB of disk space? Then open-source app XOWA may be of interest to you. The project released torrents yesterday for the 2013-11-04 version of English Wikipedia. There's 100 GB of sqlite databases containing 13.9 million pages, and 3.7 million images — readable from any Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X system. Image downloads for other wikis are building, but you can still use XOWA to read the text-only version for other wikis like Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote and 660 more. Next time you find yourself stranded without the internet, you can pull out your own copy of Wikipedia for use."
An anonymous reader writes "The Xeon Phi co-processor requires a Xeon CPU to operate... for now. The next generation of Xeon Phi, codenamed Knights Landing and due in 2015, will be its own CPU and accelerator. This will free up a lot of space in the server but more important, it eliminates the buses between CPU memory and co-processor memory, which will translate to much faster performance even before we get to chip improvements. ITworld has a look."