Astronomers discover that exoplanet WASP-12b is "darker than asphalt"

September 21, 2017 by  
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Astronomers recently discovered an exoplanet they’ve been studying since 2008 is pitch black, reflecting almost no light . The new findings could change what the researchers previously hypothesized about WASP-12b’s atmosphere . Taylor Bell, a master’s student at McGill University, described the exoplanet as darker than fresh asphalt . There’s a pitch black planet out there in space . An international group of astronomers utilized the Space Telescope Imaging Spectograph on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to measure the albedo – or how much light a planet reflects – of WASP-12b. The exoplanet’s albedo is incredibly low, which reportedly surprised the researchers. WASP-12b is two times less reflective than Earth’s Moon . Related: First hints of water detected on Earth-sized TRAPPIST-1 planets Why should we care about an exoplanet’s albedo? It can tell us about the planet’s atmosphere: scientists now think WASP-12b’s atmosphere is comprised of helium and atomic hydrogen. Bell said in a statement, “The low albedo shows we still have a lot to learn about WASP-12b and other similar exoplanets.” WASP-12b is classified as a hot Jupiter, and has a radius almost double Jupiter’s. Its daylight side has a surface temperature of around 2,600 degrees Celsius – and the high temperature may offer an explanation for the low albedo. “There are other hot Jupiters that have been found to be remarkably black, but they are much cooler than WASP-12b,” Bell said. “For those planets, it is suggested that things like clouds and alkali metals are the reason for the absorption of light, but those don’t work for WASP-12b because it is so incredibly hot.” 14 researchers were involved in the work, from institutions in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. The Astrophysical Journal Letters published the study earlier this month. Via Hubble Space Telescope Images via NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI) ; and NASA & ESA

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Astronomers discover that exoplanet WASP-12b is "darker than asphalt"

Off-grid Lake House escapes the Texan heat with minimal landscape impact

September 21, 2017 by  
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There’s nothing quite like taking a cool dip in a lake on a hot summer’s day. The lucky owners of the Lake House get to escape the brutal Texan heat with laps in Lake Austin thanks to their off-grid boathouse. American studio Andersson-Wise Architects designed the two-story boathouse that operates off the grid and exerts minimal impact on the environment. Created as part of a residential estate, the Lake House in Austin is a boathouse set a half-mile away from the main residence across a deep ravine. The modern building is anchored atop a rock in the lake and elevated on slender steel columns. The steel-framed structure is divided into two sections: a sheltered space for a sculling dock and boat storage below, and living quarters with a grill and operable windows above. “The simple, elegant building rises above the water, resting on the surface like a water skater,” said the architects, according to https://www.dezeen.com/2017/09/19/andersson-wise-off-the-grid-boathouse-lake-austin-texas/ Dezeen . “And like the surface-skimming insect, this off-the-grid domicile exerts a minimal impact on its surroundings.” Related: Dreamy summer retreat built of salvaged materials sends eclectic vibes in Austin A natural materials palette helps blend the Lake House into its forested surroundings. Dark-stained wood clad the structure inside and out. Operable screen windows on the north and east facades swing open to let in cooling winds, natural light , and views of the lake. The screen windows can also be removed so that visitors can dive directly out of the living room into the lake. + Andersson-Wise Architects Via Dezeen Images via Andersson-Wise Architects

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Off-grid Lake House escapes the Texan heat with minimal landscape impact

Schmidt Hammer Lassen breaks ground on LEED Gold-seeking incubator in Shanghai

September 21, 2017 by  
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A striking new high-tech building in Shanghai is going for gold— LEED Gold , that is. Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects just broke ground on the new CaoHeJing Guigu Creative Headquarters, an incubator for high-tech firms designed for LEED Gold certification. Engineered for climate control, the boxy green-roofed center will mitigate Shanghai’s muggy summers and bone-chilling winters with its stacked and staggered massing. Located east of downtown Shanghai near Hongqiao Airport, the government-backed CaoHeJing Hi-Tech Park is one of Shanghai’s earliest high-tech business parks serviced by its eponymous metro station. The technological development zone covers an area of 14.5 square kilometers and is home to around 1,200 domestic and overseas high-tech companies. The CaoHeJing Guigu Creative Headquarters is Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s third project for CaoHeJing, following the firm’s transformation of an old office building into the CaoHeJing Innovation Incubator. Related: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects unveils competition-winning design for the Shanghai Library The CaoHeJing Guigu Creative Headquarters is made up of three stacked and staggered glass volumes connected with two external landscaped terraces. The divisible incubator studio spaces are located on the upper levels while the ground-floor volume comprises the main lobby, exhibition and event space, and a coffee bar. “The volumes are playfully staggered to create a combination of exposed and shaded external spaces that can be utilised at different times of the year in Shanghai’s variable weather conditions”, said Schmidt Hammer Lassen Partner, Chris Hardie. “By doing this we create a direct connection to exterior green space for the buildings occupants to use throughout the year.” Full-height glazing with operable windows maximizes access to natural light and ventilation to keep energy costs low, while deep overhangs mitigate solar heat gain in the summer. + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen breaks ground on LEED Gold-seeking incubator in Shanghai

ESA unveils magnetic space tug to corall broken satellites drifting in space

June 28, 2017 by  
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Japan’s experiment to clean up space debris earlier this year may have ended in failure , but the world’s space agencies haven’t given up on the problem yet. The European Space Agency (ESA) recently proposed using a magnetic space tug to sweep up some of the junk that has accumulated in space. The magnetic tug would specifically corall derelict and broken satellites , and hopefully put a dent in the space junk problem. Could magnetic forces be the key to cleaning up space trash? Scientists at the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace at France’s University of Toulouse hope to find out. They’re exploring magnetic attraction or repulsion as part of their investigation into the most effective way to keep satellites in formation out in space. Related: Japan’s experimental mission to clean up space junk ends in failure Researcher Emilien Fabacher explained it this way: “With a satellite you want to deorbit, it’s much better if you can stay at a safe distance, without needing to come into direct contact and risking damage to both chaser and target satellites. So the idea I’m investigating is to apply magnetic forces either to attract or repel the target satellite, to shift its orbit or deorbit it entirely.” Many satellites are already equipped with what are called magnetorquers, or electromagnets that can use the magnetic field of the Earth to change the satellite’s orientation. So a magnetic space tug could simply target those magnetorquers. The chaser satellite would need a strong magnetic field, but that could be generated with superconducting wires cooled to cryogenic temperatures, according to ESA. The chaser satellite could even catch multiple derelict satellites and position them in formation. Over 100 million pieces of space trash now orbit Earth, and 29,000 of them are large enough to cause damage. Fabacher is working on the project as part of his PhD research, which is supported by ESA’s Networking/Partnering initiative. Via Digital Trends and the European Space Agency Images copyright Philippe Ogaki and copyright Emilien Fabacher/ISAE-Supaero

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ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust

May 4, 2017 by  
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The European Space Agency (ESA) is getting in on the 3D-printing fun with extraterrestrial materials. They used simulated lunar material and the sun’s heat to print bricks that are as strong as gypsum . Their project demonstrates how lunar explorers could one day use a similar method to construct Moon colonies. Future travelers to both the Moon and Mars could use locally-sourced materials to build habitats. Recently University of California, San Diego engineers funded by NASA were able to create super-strong bricks with simulated Mars dirt, and now ESA scientists have been able to use dust with similar composition and grain size as the material on the moon to 3D print bricks. Related: Scientists create super-strong bricks from Mars-like soil Materials engineer Advenit Makaya said they cooked successive layers of moondust 0.1 millimeters thick in a solar furnace at temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius – or 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. The team can finish a 7.9 by 3.9 by 1.1 inch brick in about five hours. The solar furnace is located at the DLR German Aerospace Center , a place you may be familiar with because they recently built the world’s largest artificial sun . The bricks will now go through extensive mechanical testing. They’re not perfect yet; for example, some have warped at their edges because the center cools slower than the edges. Advenit said they’re looking into ways to manage the warping, “but for now this project is a proof of concept, showing that such a lunar construction method is indeed feasible.” The European Union’s Horizon 2020 program will back a follow-up project, RegoLight , which aims to develop 3D printing technology to shape lunar regolith, or the “loose layer of dust, soil, and broken rocks on the Moon surface.” Advenit said the recent ESA project occurred in normal atmospheric conditions, but RegoLight will attempt to 3D print with moondust in the high temperature extremes and vacuum conditions you’d find on the Moon. Via the European Space Agency Images via ESA – G. Porter and ESA/Foster + Partners

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ESA 3D prints extraterrestrial bricks with concentrated sunlight and moondust

Indiana governor delivers blow to solar industry

May 4, 2017 by  
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The solar industry provides three times as many jobs in the state of Indiana as natural gas, but governor Eric Holcomb doesn’t seem to care. Despite Department of Energy statistics that show the industry’s potential benefits to his constituents, Holcomb just signed a bill reducing incentives for solar power , impacting both installers and customers. Holcomb signed Senate Bill 309 this week. It’s better than a previous variant, which would have treated homeowners as power plants and consumers simultaneously, requiring them to sell all of the power generated on their own rooftops at the wholesale rate, around four cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh), and then buy it back at the retail rate of about 11 cents per kwh. That version didn’t go through; but the new bill hits net metering , or the opportunity for homeowners to sell excess energy at the retail rate in Indiana. Now they can only sell it at just above the wholesale rate. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. That’s not all. Utilities can now charge those homeowners with rooftop solar an extra fee for “energy delivery costs.” Some people think the bill’s ambiguous language also ends net metering entirely for people obtaining power from community solar, or those leasing their panels. People who get rooftop solar installed after 2022 won’t be able to benefit from net metering at all; neither will those people who replace or expand the system they have now after 2017. The public were against the bill, according to Hoosier Environmental Council executive director Jesse Kharbanda who said, “Ask Republicans , ‘What kind of feedback are you getting from your constituents?’ They’ll tell us that they have gotten dozens and dozens of calls opposing the bill, but zero supporting the bill.” Solar installer Paul Steury of Indiana-based Photon Electric said the law could hurt sales since it’s stripped away incentives. He said he knows many representatives who didn’t listen to the people. Indiana rooftop solar owner Lanette Erby told Nexus Media, “We’re currently on an inverter with the electric company, but obviously if the net metering bill were to go through, we’d be purchasing battery backups. That’s where we’re at. The same kind of legislation killed the solar industry in a couple of other states…which is terrible because it’s creating so many jobs.” Via Nexus Media Images via Rectify Solar Facebook

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Indiana governor delivers blow to solar industry

New Hubble images finally reveal what the Crab Nebula hides in its core

July 8, 2016 by  
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Legions of scientists have studied and taken images of the Crab Nebula — in fact, it’s one of the most-studied object in space. But until now, astronomers have never been able to glimpse the object at the heart of the massive gas cloud. Until now. New Hubble images have revealed a fast-moving neutron star at the heart of the nebula. The Crab Nebula , which lies 6500 light years away from Earth, was created by a supernova long ago. A massive star in the Taurus constellation exploded at immense speeds, creating the expanding cloud of gas we see today, called a supernova remnant. Most images of the nebula focus on the intense colors and shapes of the nebula’s outer filaments, but what’s going on in the heart of the cloud may be even more interesting. It turns out that when the original star making up the nebula exploded, it left behind its inner core, a strange and exotic object known as a neutron star . While this star has roughly the same mass as our sun, it only measures a few tens of kilometers across — an incredible density made possible by the compression of the subatomic particles that make up the star. Until now, it’s been almost impossible to capture this star’s movement on camera due to its high speed: it rotates approximately 30 times per second. Related: NASA captures shockwave of a massive supernova for the first time ever To capture the neutron star, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to take three high-resolution images about 10 years apart each. Those images were combined together to create a sort of time-lapse showing bright “ripples” in the center of the nebula; bands of light are actually caused by the radiation of electrons spiraling through the star’s magnetic field at nearly the speed of light. This isn’t the first time the Crab Nebula has made history . The supernova explosion that created the cloud was one of the first such events in recorded human history.  In the year 1045, astronomers in Japan and China noticed a bright new star in the night sky said to be nearly as bright as the moon. That bright light was caused by the distant explosion, and over the next several years it gradually faded until it was invisible to the naked eye. Luckily, it’s still possible to see with the help of the Hubble . Via Gizmodo Images via ESA/Hubble  

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New Hubble images finally reveal what the Crab Nebula hides in its core

Thousands of origami birds come together in Paris largest urban mural

July 8, 2016 by  
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The massive Lunar Cycles mural was installed on a building slated for demolition at the end of the year to make room for a new housing development. Before beginning her installation , Mademoiselle Maurice applied 500 liters of black paint to the front of the 140-meter-long building to create a sharp contrast for the rainbow-like, geometric patterns created by the origami. The artist spent over 150 hours folding thousands of origami birds, and also added 2,000 “Maurigamis,” a kind of two-dimensional painted origami, as a solution to weeks of rain onsite. Related: Madamoiselle Maurice’s Unique Urban Origami Brightens Up The Streets Of Vietnam and Hong Kong The final design was created with input from the community, including previous inhabitants of the demolition-slated building. The colorful and ephemeral artwork symbolizes the process of change and pays homage the hundreds of residents temporarily uprooted by the building project. “It was a big trauma for a lot of them because they spent their lives there, sometimes even there since they were born,” the artist said in an interview with Wide Walls . “They will come back later into the new building, but waiting for that they can say goodbye to their home with colors and with the evocation of changes.” Lunar Cycles opened to the public late last month and will be taken down late August 2016. + Madamoiselle Maurice Via Wide Walls Images via Mathgoth Gallery

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Thousands of origami birds come together in Paris largest urban mural

How an ancient civilization flourished in the desolate Arabian desert 2,000 years ago

July 8, 2016 by  
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According to information boards at the Petra visitor center, the Nabateans began to control water supplies across the 900,000 square mile expanse of the Arabian desert around 300BC – long before they established their capital at was then known as Raqmu. Today, southern Jordan receives roughly 4 inches of rain every year. An Arab people, the Nabateans hid water cisterns throughout the desert, enabling them, if attacked for example, to retreat deep into otherwise formidable territory. As their numbers grew and they became more settled, the Nabateans worked with the landscape, “utilizing gradients, wadis and springs to their best advantage” to build a city that could sustain 20,000 people. Inside Petra , the Nabateans’ engineering prowess is still on display. Walking through the Siq, a narrow two-kilometer-long gorge that was the official entrance to the original city, one can still see channels on either side of the towering rock walls that funneled rain and spring water to various points in the city and its suburbs. Cisterns and reservoirs were lined with waterproof cement to mitigate leaking and optimize water purity. “Their hydraulic engineering knowledge extended to understanding the geometry of water flow and pressure,” according to the Petra visitor center, “and use of gradients to minimize leakage and damage to pipes and maintain a constant supply of water throughout the year.” Related: Archaeologists find 2,150-year-old Petra monument hiding in plain sight The city had five major aqueducts. The Siq aqueduct transferred water from a spring in Wadi Musa to Qasar al Bint. A dam and tunnel at the entrance of the Siq diverted flood waters (flash floods are common in the region), keeping residents safe and ensuring not a single drop of water went to waste. Perhaps the most significant symbol of the Nabateans’ superior water management is a large water fountain in the center of the city called the Nymphaeum. Named after the female nature spirits popular in classical mythology, the Nymphaeum mirrored similar Graeco-Roman structures – an enormous luxury in a desert. The fountain not only supplied drinking water, but acted as place for the community to rendezvous. Having control of water also meant the Nabateans could control their food supply . In addition to being able to take care of livestock, they built terraces into the hills, which weakened runoff and prevented erosion. They cultivated olives, figs, dates, pomegranates, and grains, and at least 40 rock-cut Nabatean wine presses throughout the kingdom hints at the sweeping scale of grape and wine production . Having used their knowledge to develop dozens of oases with supplies for traders on the prodigious route stretching from Saudi Arabia to Gaza, which they controlled through a system of taxes and tolls, the Nabateans could focus their attention on the arts – a key indicator of a wealthy community. “They loved beautiful things, as evident [sic] by the intricately carved tomb facades of various architectural styles. Several hundred tombs, houses, banquet halls, altars and niches were carved from the rock, in addition to the construction of a number of free-standing temples, homes and other features,” the information boards read. “The Nabateans also produced fine pottery and painted beautiful frescoes, very few of which remain unfortunately.” + Visit Petra All photos by Tafline Laylin for Inhabitat

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How an ancient civilization flourished in the desolate Arabian desert 2,000 years ago

Towable Riverside tiny house packs every conventional amenity into 246 square feet

July 8, 2016 by  
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The small building includes a living room, dining space, sleeping and storage areas , a small porch, and an external storage box. The kitchen features a stainless steel sink, custom cabinets, a two-burner movable cooktop, a small freezer and fridge. The bathroom features a composting toilet and a stainless steel shower cubicle. Related: Luxurious tiny home lets owner live off-grid and rent-free One would think this tiny home couldn’t fit more functions, but thanks to a smart, space-efficient design strategy, the designers managed to incorporate a sleeping loft with a double bed, accessible via a ladder. Water is heated by a tankless propane hot water heater, LED lighting is used throughout, while the indoor temperatures are controlled by a Mini Split HVAC. The house, complete with cutlery, furniture and all the appliances is on sale for $79,000. + New Frontier Tiny Homes Via Gizmag

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Towable Riverside tiny house packs every conventional amenity into 246 square feet

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