China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space


spacestation

China plans to build a huge solar power station 36,000 kilometres above the ground in an attempt to battle smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve energy crisis, much on the lines of an idea first floated in 1941 by fiction writer Isaac Asimov, state media reported today.

If realised, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station, and be the largest-ever space project.

The power station would be a super spacecraft on a geosynchronous orbit equipped with huge solar panels. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

In 1941, American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov had published a short story “Reason”, in which a space station transmits energy collected from the sun using microwave beams.

Wang Xiji, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an International Academy of Astronautics member, says Asimov’s fiction has a scientific basis.

After devoting over 50 years to space technology research, Wang, 93, is an advocate for the station: “An economically viable space power station would be really huge, with the total area of the solar panels reaching 5 to 6 sq km.”

That would be equivalent to 12 of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, or nearly two New York Central Parks. “Maybe people on Earth could see it in the sky at night, like a star,” says Wang.

Wang says the electricity generated from the ground-based solar plants fluctuates with night and day and the weather, but a space generator collects energy 99 per cent of the time.

Space-based solar panels can generate ten times as much electricity as ground-based panels per unit area, says Duan Baoyan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

“If we have space solar power technology, hopefully we could solve the energy crisis on Earth,” Duan said.

Wang says whoever obtains the technology first “could occupy the future energy market. So it’s of great strategic significance.”

Countries such as the US and Japan have studied space solar power station. Japan leads the development of wireless power transmission technology. However, many hurdles lie ahead: A commercially viable space power station would weigh 10,000 tons. But few rockets can carry a payload of over 100 tons to low Earth orbit.

Continue reading China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space

Advertisements

NASA plans to fix Mars Rover Opportunity’s Amnesia via Hacking


Opportunity_PIA03240

NASA’s Opportunity (Click Image to download)

It’s been more than 10 years since NASA’s rover Opportunity landed on the red planet. The rover has been exploring Mars ever since and has provided a lot of information for the understanding of the red planet. NASA has also stated that the rover Opportunity has lasted on Mars more than they ever anticipated it to. But the recent memory problems suggest that the rover may be coming to an end of its life. But still NASA plans to sort out the issue through hacking into the software of the rover.

NASA has explained that the rover like a typical computer has two memory parts, one volatile like the RAM of our computer which totally gets wiped out when we shutdown or reboot our computer, and the other non-volatile which acts like the secondary storage such as the hard disk on our computer. The non-volatile memory preserves data even after rebooting or shutting down.

The rover Opportunity has a problem in its volatile memory which may be related to the ageing hardware on the rover.

The data cannot be saved by the rover in its volatile memory because an error occurs so the rover then has to save the data in its non-volatile memory.

The problem then arises as the non-volatile memory even though large but still has a finite limit to it, meaning the rover can’t operate for long in this condition.

Even though the rover can operate normally at present, but NASA plans to fix the issue by hacking into the software of the rover and disregard the bad patch of the volatile memory that causes this issue.

NASA does understand that there’s a chance that the process may cause permanent damage to the rover but since it has outperformed its anticipated life, NASA plans to move ahead with the solution nonetheless.

Source : full-timewhistle.com

Hubble captures image of galaxy 60 million light-years away


The beautiful side of IC 335

Photo: Hubble/NASA and ESA) IC 335 located at Fornax Galaxy (Click Image to Dwonload)

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a galaxy far, far away …

Located 60 million light-years away, the galaxy IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax Galaxy.

NASA shared the stunning space image on Facebook Dec. 24, and it has been liked more than 33,000 times.

Because many of the characteristics of a galaxy are only visible from its face, NASA says it’s difficult to classify the “edge on” IC 335.

According to NASA, the “45,000 light-year-long galaxy could be classified as an SO type,” or lenticular galaxy, which typically have a thin stellar disk and a bulge and fall between a true spiral and an elliptical galaxy.

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy IC 335 in front of a backdrop of distant galaxies. IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster 60 million light-years away.

As seen in this image, the disk of IC 335 appears edge-on from the vantage point of Earth. This makes it harder for astronomers to classify it, as most of the characteristics of a galaxy’s morphology — the arms of a spiral or the bar across the center — are only visible on its face. Still, the 45 000 light-year-long galaxy could be classified as an S0 type.

These lenticular galaxies are an intermediate state in galaxy morphological classification schemes between true spiral and elliptical galaxies. They have a thin stellar disk and a bulge, like spiral galaxies, but in contrast to typical spiral galaxies they have used up most of the interstellar medium. Only a few new stars can be created out of the material that is left and the star formation rate is very low. Hence, the population of stars in S0 galaxies consists mainly of aging stars, very similar to the star population in elliptical galaxies.

As S0 galaxies have only ill-defined spiral arms they are easily mistaken for elliptical galaxies if they are seen inclined face-on or edge-on as IC 335 here. And indeed, despite the morphological differences between S0 and elliptical class galaxies, they share some common characteristics, like typical sizes and spectral features.

Both classes are also deemed “early-type” galaxies, because they are evolving passively. However, while elliptical galaxies may be passively evolving when we observe them, they have usually had violent interactions with other galaxies in their past. In contrast, S0 galaxies are either aging and fading spiral galaxies, which never had any interactions with other galaxies, or they are the aging result of a single merger between two spiral galaxies in the past. The exact nature of these galaxies is still a matter of debate.

Credit:  USA TODAY /ESA/Hubble and NASA

A way to explore Venus


venus-wallpaper-13820-14422-hd-wallpapers

(Click Image to Download )

NASA Langley researchers want to get a better idea about conditions on our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, so they have come up with HAVOC or a High Altitude Venus Operational Concept – a lighter-than-air rocket ship that would help send two astronauts on a 30-day mission to explore the planet’s atmosphere. Exploration of Venus is a challenge not only because its smog-like sulfuric acid-laced atmosphere, but also its extremely hot surface temperature and extremely high air pressure on the surface.

Nasa’s NuSTAR probe takes first spectacular, Christmassy picture of the sun


nustar

Nasa’s NuSTAR probe Picture (Click Image to Download)

Nasa’s NuSTAR probe has taken its first picture of the sun — and the stunning image  shows X-rays streaming off the star.

NuSTAR stands for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. It is an X-ray telescope that has been flying around space in Earth’s orbit since 2012.

The image is the first picture that NuSTAR has taken of the sun, and is the most sensitive solar picture ever taken using high-energy X-rays.

The parts of the picture from NuSTAR are the green and blue at the top, which depict solar high-energy emissions. The blue represents more energetic emissions than the green ones.

The picture is overlaid on top of a picture of the sun taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. That took the red part of the photo, which represents ultraviolet light.

NuSTAR was sent out into space to conduct a survey for black holes. By looking for high-energy X-rays, the project hopes to shine new light on how stars collapse and form black holes, and how particles work in active galaxies.

But the new picture is actually a plan formulated in 2007, long before NuSTAR was launched into space. Other telescopes are able to look at the sun because it is too bright, but since NuSTAR looks specifically at higher-energy X-rays, it’s able to take pictures of the star without damaging its sensors.

NuSTAR is going to keep watching the sun, in the hope of seeing nanoflares, which would explain the mystery of why the outer atmosphere of the sun is so hot compared with the surface. Nanoflares have been proposed as the solution to the mystery and if NuSTAR were to catch them it would help solve the puzzle.

“NuSTAR will be exquisitely sensitive to the faintest X-ray activity happening in the solar atmosphere, and that includes possible nanoflares,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.

The probe might also be able to spot axions, one of the leading candidates for dark matter. Dark matter refers to the idea that there is heavy matter in the universe that we are unable to see. In the unlikely event that NuSTAR were to spot axions, it would solve another mystery at the heart of astrophysics.

Source : Independent.co.uk

‘Perfect Storm’ Suffocating Star Formation around a Supermassive Black Hole


High_Resolution

(Click Image to Download)

High-energy jets powered by supermassive black holes can blast away a galaxy’s star-forming fuel — resulting in so-called “red and dead” galaxies: those brimming with ancient red stars yet little or no hydrogen gas available to create new ones.

Now astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered that black holes don’t have to be nearly so powerful to shut down star formation. By observing the dust and gas at the center NGC 1266, a nearby lenticular galaxy with a relatively modest central black hole, the astronomers have detected a “perfect storm” of turbulence that is squelching star formation in a region that would otherwise be an ideal star factory.

141217_ALMA_alatalo_01

Fig 1. Artist impression of the central region of NGC 1266. The jets from the central black hole are creating turbulence in the surrounding molecular gas, suppressing star formation in an otherwise ideal environment to form new stars. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

This turbulence is stirred up by jets from the galaxy’s central black hole slamming into an incredibly dense envelope of gas. This dense region, which may be the result of a recent merger with another smaller galaxy, blocks nearly 98 percent of material propelled by the jets from escaping the galactic center.

“Like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, the molecules in these jets meet so much resistance when they hit the surrounding dense gas that they are almost completely stopped in their tracks,” said Katherine Alatalo, an astronomer with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and lead author on a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. This energetic collision produces powerful turbulence in the surrounding gas, disrupting the first critical stage of star formation. “So what we see is the most intense suppression of star formation ever observed,” noted Alatalo.

Previous observations of NGC 1266 revealed a broad outflow of gas from the galactic center traveling up to 400 kilometers per second. Alatalo and her colleagues estimate that this outflow is as forceful as the simultaneous supernova explosion of 10,000 stars. The jets, though powerful enough to stir the gas, are not powerful enough to give it the velocity it needs to escape from the system.

Continue reading ‘Perfect Storm’ Suffocating Star Formation around a Supermassive Black Hole

Mars has gas, and Curiosity finds organic matter — fuzzy signs of life?


o-MARS-facebook

(Click Image to Download)

It could be a sign, a vague one.

A NASA rover has found the building blocks of life on Mars. They might be the product of past or present life on the Red Planet — or they might not be.

Either way, the samples of organic matter in the atmosphere and in rock show that Mars may at least have once had conditions favorable to hosting life, NASA said in a statement. They also show that the planet is still chemically active.

The Curiosity rover’s tapping into organics in rock is the first find ever of life’s building blocks on Mars’ surface.

Gas blast

The rover has run into pockets of gas on Mars: methane, often used to fire up gas stoves back on Earth.

Organic matter is made up of carbon bonded with other elements, often hydrogen and oxygen. Living things are made up of it, but life is not necessary for it to exist.

Methane is the smallest organic compound, consisting of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms.

On our planet, methane is a fossil fuel, but it can also rise out of rotting sewage or fly through the air in flatulence.

In other words, it usually comes from something living, or something that was once alive.

No life found

That could be the case on Mars, too, NASA said in a statement this week.

But the space agency carefully points out that methane can also come from inanimate sources as well.

“There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock,” said Sushil Atreya, a scientist on the Curiosity team.

At this point, NASA doesn’t know if microbes are behind the gas or just minerals.

Researchers used Curiosity’s instruments a dozen times to get a breath of methane, and four of those times, it peaked at a level 10 times higher than usual.

They believe it may have been puffed up from the ground like little burps.

Organic rock

Curiosity also found organic matter while drilling into stone.

“This first confirmation of organic carbon in a rock on Mars holds much promise,” said scientist Roger Summons, who works on the rover team.

Source : CNN

New Signal May Be Evidence of Dark Matter


Space-Planets-Homeworld-Space-Planets-Universe-1152x2048

(Click Image to Doanload)

Scientists say they may have discovered a possible dark matter signal coded in the X-rays emanating from two bright objects in the sky.

The findings, set to be published next week in Physical Review Letters, could offer tangible evidence for the existence of dark matter — and help researchers build new tools to search for and study this mysterious stuff.

When it comes to matter in the universe, dark matter is like a backroom political power broker: You never see it, but behind the scenes, it’s been throwing its weight around. The effects of its gravitational influence can be seen in the large-scale structures of the cosmos. Dark matter makes up about 84.5% of the matter in the universe while all the stuff we actually see — stars, galaxies, planets, ourselves — makes up the remaining 15.5%. The enormous galaxies and clusters of galaxies that populate the universe are bantamweights compared to the massive, unseen dark matter ‘halos’ that anchor them.

Dark matter’s formidable gravitational influence is the only way that the strange stuff can be detected, because it’s invisible — it does not interact with light. Physicists have no idea what it’s made of, although they’ve looked for it by building detectors in underground former gold mines, sending satellites into space and other methods.

But now, a team led by researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland say they’ve discovered a signal that could be a sign of dark matter.

The scientists looked at X-ray emissions coming from the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster, collected by the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space telescope. After accounting for all the light particles (called photons) emanating from known sources in the Andromeda galaxy, they were left with a strange set of photons that had no known source. The found the same light signature emanating from the Perseus cluster. And when they turned their attention to the Milky Way, they found signs of this signal in our home galaxy, as well.

“It is consistent with the behavior of a line originating from the decay of dark matter particles,” the authors wrote in a pre-print of the study.

This weird light signal, they think, could be coming from the destruction of a hypothetical particle called a sterile neutrino (which, if it exists, might help explain dark matter). But it’s going to take a lot of follow-up study to determine whether this signal is a scientific breakthrough or an anomalous blip.

“Future detections or non-detections of this line in multiple astrophysical targets may help to reveal its nature,” the study authors wrote.

Japan’s upcoming Astro-H mission, they said, might allow them to do just that.

Source :Science Tech Today

NASA and SpaceX targeting Dec. 19 for next Space Station Launch


STS-116_spacewalk_1

ISS under construction (Click Image to Download)

NASA and SpaceX are now targeting Dec. 19 as the launch date for the next unmanned cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The fifth SpaceX cargo mission was postponed from Dec. 16 to Dec. 19 to “allow SpaceX to take extra time to ensure they do everything possible on the ground to prepare for a successful launch,” according to a statement from NASA.

The Dragon spacecraft will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

IMG_1763_1a_KSC-SpaceX-CRS4_Ken-Kremer-386x580

A SpaceX Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral launch pad 40 is slated to launch on Dec. 19, 2014 on the CRS-5 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Both the Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon spacecraft are in good health, according to NASA.

The mission dubbed SpaceX CRS-5 is slated for liftoff at 1:20 p.m.

An on time liftoff will result in a rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday. The crew would grapple the Dragon with the stations 57 foot long robotic arm at about 6 a.m.

See more at : Universe Today

Amazing details of Saturn & its moons captured by NASA


Cassini-Will-Photograph-Earth-from-Deep-Space

Image of Saturn Taken by Cassini Space Probe (Click Image to Download)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been studying Saturn and its moons for a decade now, routinely delivering stunning images of the second largest planet in our solar system. One of its noteworthy achievements is that it is now shedding a lot more light on six moons that were once shrouded in mystery.

When NASA’s Voyager spacecraft flew by moons like Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, and Iapetus back in the 1980s, it sent back landmark images that were nevertheless fuzzy, incomplete, and hard to make out. Now, Cassini has plugged the holes – with bursts of color, no less – and delivered stunning new images of these icy satellites.

Here is a before/after shot of Mimas showcasing the differences between Voyager’s image (left) and Cassini’s (right).

1

“The most obvious [discoveries] are differences in color and brightness between the two hemispheres of Tethys, Dione and Rhea,” wrote Preston Dyches of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The dark reddish colors on the moons’ trailing hemispheres are due to alteration by charged particles and radiation in Saturn’s magnetosphere.”

“Except for Mimas and Iapetus, the blander leading hemispheres of these moons – that is, the sides that always face forward as the moons orbit Saturn – are all coated with icy dust from Saturn’s E-ring, formed from tiny particles erupting from the south pole of Enceladus.”

2

You can view the rest of the images here. Impressively, however, these aren’t the only photographs of Saturn and its moons making headlines this week.

Source : RT.com