These diamonds from outer space hint at a long-lost planet

April 17, 2018 by  
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Diamonds in a meteorite  that crashed into Earth years ago have now given scientists a glimpse into the universe’s past. Recently, a team of scientists led by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland used transmission electron microscopy to examine the diamonds contained in a slice of the Almahata Sitta meteorite. Based on their research, the scientists think the meteorite came from a planetary embryo, between the size of Mercury and Mars , that was destroyed in a collision around 4.5 billion years ago. Nearly a decade ago, an asteroid exploded over the Nubian Desert in Sudan. Scientists collected fragments from what’s now called the Almahata Sitta meteorite, and these fragments have yielded intriguing new information. EPFL materials scientist Farhang Nabiei told The Washington Post , “These samples are coming from an era that we don’t have any access to…This is part of the story of how we came to be.” The meteorite fragments are largely ureilites, which EPFL said are “a rare type of stony meteorite” in which nano-sized diamonds can be found. Related: New theory suggests the Moon may have formed “from a giant donut of vaporized rock” Embedded in the diamonds were chromite, phosphate, and iron-nickel sulfides; the scientists call these inclusions, and they hold signatures of the mysterious long-lost planet . According to EPFL, the “particular composition and morphology of these materials can only be explained if the pressure under which the diamonds were formed was higher than 20 GPa (giga-Pascals, the unit of pressure). This level of internal pressure can only be explained if the planetary parent body was a Mercury- to Mars-sized planetary embryo, depending on the layer in which the diamonds were formed.” What exactly happened to the long-lost planet? Nabiei couldn’t say for sure. Researchers think that, in the early solar system , large protoplanets pulled on others’ orbits until they coalesced, crashed, or broke up into pieces. The ureilites could have come from the same protoplanet that existed for a few million years before its demise in a collision. Nature Communications published the research online this week; scientists from institutions in France and Germany contributed. + Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne + Nature Communications Via The Washington Post Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech and copyright EPFL/Hillary Sanctuary

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These diamonds from outer space hint at a long-lost planet

HyperloopTT is building the world’s third Hyperloop test track in France

April 16, 2018 by  
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Hyperloop Transportation Technologies just began construction on the world’s third Hyperloop test track. According to its latest announcement, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies ‘ full-scale tubes just reached a research and development facility in Toulouse, France , and a test track is under construction. The two other Hyperloop test tracks are Virgin Hyperloop One in the desert near Las Vegas and Elon Musk’s near the SpaceX headquarters in California. The race toward a functioning, real-world Hyperloop system continues as more test tracks pop up , governments sign deals , and billionaires get in on the action. Construction of Hyperloop TT’s test track will happen in two phases. The first phase is the building of a closed system around 1,050 feet long, which the company says will be operational in 2018. In 2019, the company plans to finish a 0.6-mile system elevated by pylons at around 20 feet for the second phase. HyperloopTT’s passenger and freight tubes have an interior diameter of about 13 feet. A full-scale passenger capsule is scheduled to arrive in France this summer “for assembly and integration” — it’s almost finished being built at a facility in Spain. Related: Hyperloop One exhibits exciting first images of full-scale test track In the company’s statement, HyperloopTT chairman Bibop Gresta said, “We’ve pioneered the technology , proved feasible and insurable by the world’s largest reinsurance company, Munich RE. We have agreements in place in nine countries where we’re working on feasibility and regulations. We have a research center for freight and logistics in Brazil and a facility in Toulouse where we’ll deliver the first full-scale passenger capsule. Hyperloop is no longer a concept, it has become a commercial industry.” Stay tuned — HyperloopTT said they’ll soon reveal details for a public unveiling of their France facility this year. + Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Via The Verge Images via Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

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HyperloopTT is building the world’s third Hyperloop test track in France

Earth was buzzed by a giant asteroid this weekend and we didn’t even realize it was coming

April 16, 2018 by  
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Earth just survived a near miss with an asteroid, and we didn’t even know it was coming. Around 1,500 people were injured in the aftermath of the Chelyabinsk meteorite when it exploded over Russia in 2013, and an even larger  asteroid  just buzzed incredibly close to Earth this weekend, according to EarthSky . The Catalina Sky Survey first observed the asteroid – which is the closest large one on record to pass by the planet –  just hours before it tumbled past us at about half the distance of the moon. Asteroid 2018 GE3, according to EarthSky, was around 119,500 miles away from our planet at its closest point — and the Moon is an average of 238,855 miles away. Its diameter was around 157 to 361 feet, and it was hurtling through space at around 66,174 miles per hour. Asteroid 2018 GE3 surprised us, as did the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Related: Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when The Catalina Sky Survey detected the asteroid on Saturday, April 14, and in the early hours of the morning on April 15 on the United States’ East Coast, Asteroid 2018 GE3 passed by our planet. The closest approach happened at around 2:41 AM EDT, according to EarthSky. They cited NASA as saying the asteroid passed closer to our Moon than it did to Earth a few hours later at around 5:59 AM EDT. A preliminary analysis of Asteroid 2018 GE3’s orbit reveals this pass is the closest this asteroid has flown by our planet since around 1930. Was the planet in danger? No, not this time, according to EarthSky. What might have happened if Asteroid 2018 GE3 had indeed hit Earth? The publication said a big portion of rock would have broken up into pieces if it had entered our atmosphere , but some might have made it through to the surface. “…an asteroid this big is capable of causing some regional damage, depending on various factors such as composition, speed, entry angle, and location of impact,” EarthSky said. “It might make you feel better (or worse) to know that asteroids enter Earth’s atmosphere unnoticed on a fairly regular basis.” Via EarthSky and TIME Images via Depositphotos,   Tomruen/Wikimedia Commons  and Deposit Photos

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Earth was buzzed by a giant asteroid this weekend and we didn’t even realize it was coming

Alien life may not exist due to a lack of this chemical element

April 5, 2018 by  
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Holding out hope for alien life somewhere out there? According to a recent study from Cardiff University , you may have to wait a long, long time – if phosphorus isn’t present, it could be difficult for that life to exist. Phosphorus is one of the six elements Earth’s organisms depend on, and researchers Jane Greaves and Phil Cigan found it in short supply near the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, around 6,500 light years away. In light of these new findings, we may be alone in the universe after all. Greaves said phosphorus “is crucial to the compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which cells use to store and transfer energy.” Astronomers have begun paying attention to phosphorus’ cosmic origins, and have discovered it’s created in supernovae. Related: Atacama ‘alien’ skeleton’s identity revealed by genetic testing Cigan and Greaves observed infrared light from phosphorus in the Crab Nebula using the William Herschel Telescope. They compared two “stellar explosions based on how they each ejected phosphorus into the atmosphere,” thanks to other scientists’ research on phosphorus in Cassiopeia A. Preliminary results hint “material blown out into space could vary dramatically in chemical composition.” Greaves said, “The route to carrying phosphorus into new-born planets looks rather precarious…If phosphorus is sourced from supernovae, and then travels across space in meteoritic rocks, it’s possible that a young planet could find itself lacking in reactive phosphorus because of where it was born. That is, it started off near the wrong kind of supernova. In that case, life might really struggle to get started out of phosphorous-poor chemistry , on another world otherwise similar to our own.” At the European Week of Astronomy and Space, Cigan and Greaves presented the preliminary results. They hope to continue to work and discover whether other supernova remnants lack phosphorus too, to discover if the element is rarer than scientists once thought. + Cardiff University Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Alien life may not exist due to a lack of this chemical element

Scientists just found thousands of black holes at the center of our galaxy

April 5, 2018 by  
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For the first time ever, scientists have identified thousands of black holes lurking at the center of our galaxy. Scientists have long suspected that black holes might exist in the middle of the Milky Way, but until now, they haven’t been able to find any evidence. Now, thanks to new research, scientists believe that there are over 10,000 of them swirling together out there. According to a study published in the journal Nature this week, the center of the Milky Way holds 10,000 small black holes that have been previously undetected. Some of these smaller black holes interact with the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* at the core of the galaxy, and give us a peek into how our galaxy formed. Related: Scientists glimpse most distant supermassive black hole in the known universe Using the Chandra X-ray Observatory space telescope, scientists began hunting around for the signature low-level radiation that mark binaries of stars and black holes locked together in space. “When black holes mate with a low mass star, the marriage emits X-ray bursts that are weaker, but consistent and detectable. If we could find black holes that are coupled with low mass stars and we know what fraction of black holes will mate with low mass stars, we could scientifically infer the population of isolated black holes out there,” lead author Chuck Hailey said. By using this method, they located dozens of binaries near Saggitarius A* and, from there, determined that there were thousands more out there. Not only can this information help us understand how the Milky Way originated, but it could help us understand other galaxies as well. Via Mashable Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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World’s first autonomous shipping company launched in Norway

April 5, 2018 by  
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Two Norwegian shipping giants, Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg, have joined together to create what they’ve described as the world’s first autonomous shipping company. “As a world-leading maritime nation, Norway has taken a position at the forefront in developing autonomous ships,” Wilhelmsen CEO Thomas Wilhelmsen told the Maritime Journal . “Through the creation of the new company named Massterly, we take the next step on this journey by establishing infrastructure and services to design and operate vessels, as well as advanced logistics solutions associated with maritime autonomous operations.” The corporate collaboration, which brings a combined 360 years of experience to the shipping game, promises affordable prices through automated efficiency. “Massterly will reduce costs at all levels and be applicable to all companies that have a transport need,” said Wilhelmsen. Kongsberg is set to provide its technological expertise while Wilhelmsen will offer its logistics and ship management operations experience.  The autonomous ships will be monitored and modified at control centers, which will be established on land. Related: Waymo adds 20,000 Jaguar electric SUVs to its self-driving car service Norway has led the way in autonomous ship technology, particularly since the launch of the Yara Birkeland. The electric ship  began its first journey in May 2017 and will become fully autonomous by 2020. In the meantime, it will host an on-board crew, then be remotely operated. The ship cost about $25 million to build, and its first shipping mission cost almost three times as much as a traditional ship; however, it is projected to save up to 90% in annual operating costs of labor and fuel. The Yara Birkeland was created through a collaboration between agricultural firm Yara International and Kongsberg. The companies plan to roll out larger, more robust autonomous ships once regulations are in place. Globally, the job impacts of autonomous ships are expected to be far less extensive than those of autonomous trucks . Via Maritime Journal  and Fortune Images via Kongsberg

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World’s first autonomous shipping company launched in Norway

This couple turned an old RV into a five-person home for just $3,000

April 5, 2018 by  
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Renovating an old RV is no easy feat, but ambitious couples are taking on the challenge with some seriously incredible results. When sky-high rental prices in California forced Ashley and Dino Petrone to look for alternative housing options for their family, they decided to convert a 2003 Cougar Keystone camper into one very sophisticated living space. Although it’s a mere 180 square feet, their new home is spacious enough for their large family and includes a beautiful interior design. Even more surprising, the family spent just $11,000 to create the tiny home of their dreams. The Petrones sold their five-bedroom house with hopes of building their dream home on land they purchased in Ventura, California. However, they needed a place to live while they built it. Soaring rental prices in California forced the couple to look for an alternative living situation; they solved this problem by purchasing a dilapidated Keystone camper for $8,000 and spending just $3,000 to renovate it, proving once again that brilliant home design doesn’t have to be expensive. Related: Family of five moves from a 2,100-square-foot-house to a beautifully renovated school bus After purchasing the camper, they gutted the entire rundown interior, saving absolutely nothing. “The state of the RV was old and blue and dirty. The curtains were horrible and huge and the whole feeling just felt dark,” explained Ashley. They kicked off the renovation by ripping out the camper’s carpet and replacing it with beautiful pale timber flooring. They took down the original wallpaper in the camper and replaced with it chic wooden trim. They also replaced all of the old kitchen cabinetry, as well as the built-in furniture, which took up too much space. An Ikea desktop was custom cut for the new kitchen in order to make the space as efficient as possible. Once the camper’s shell had been renovated, the family began to add custom furniture and storage solutions that would help avoid clutter. The living space is light and airy, with an abundance of natural light . The family’s sleeping quarters take up the opposite sides of the camper, with the parents in the master bedroom at one end and the kids in triple bunk beds at the opposite end. Throughout the space, the decoration is minimal, but sophisticated – the Petrones found most of the items at garage sales or discount stores. The family posts updates on their fabulous RV conversion on their website, Arrows and Bow , as well as on their Instagram page . + Arrows and Bow Via Dwell Photographs courtesy of Arrows and Bow

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104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy

April 5, 2018 by  
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March was a good month for renewable energy in Portugal . The country’s monthly clean energy production exceeded demand, according to a report from the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association (APREN) and the Sustainable Earth System Association (ZERO). And this likely won’t be the last time Portugal obtains so much power via clean sources; the report said, “Last month’s achievement is an example of what will happen more frequently in the near future.” APREN, citing data via power grid operator REN , said mainland Portugal’s electricity consumption was 4,647 gigawatt-hours (GWh). In March, there were 4,812 GWh of renewable electricity produced, accounting for 103.6 percent of electricity consumption. It wasn’t a completely clean month —  Reuters  said fossil fuel plants complemented the supply during short periods, but those periods “were nevertheless fully compensated by others of greater renewable production,” according to APREN’s report. Related: This German village generates 500% more energy than it needs Wind and hydropower accounted for 42 and 55 percent, respectively, of the monthly consumption. Portugal’s adoption of renewable energy allowed the nation to avoid 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions . The average daily wholesale market price dropped to 39.75 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), compared against the price of 43.94 euros per MWh during the same period the previous year. The report said, “…it is expected that by 2040 the production of renewable electricity will be able to guarantee, in a cost-effective way, the total annual electricity consumption of mainland Portugal. However, it will eventually be necessary, here and then, the use of natural gas power plants, aggregated to interconnections and storage.” IFLScience said Portugal aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. While this recent milestone is exciting, Portugal, home to around 10.3 million people, isn’t large; for comparison, Beijing’s population is more than double that at around 21.7 million people . + Portuguese Renewable Energy Association Via Reuters and IFLScience Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy

SpaceX Falcon 9 just rocketed a harpoon and net into orbit to hunt space junk

April 3, 2018 by  
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Human trash now litters space in the form of broken hardware and spacecrafts circling Earth. But the Surrey Space Center is working on tackling the issue – and they just got a boost from SpaceX . Their RemoveDEBRIS technology demonstrator is hitching a ride aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will hunt space debris using a harpoon and net. Scientists could obtain information on which space junk cleanup strategy works with the RemoveDEBRIS technology demonstrator, which consists of “a main satellite platform that once in orbit will deploy two CubeSats as artificial debris targets to demonstrate some of the technologies,” according to the project page. The platform is packed in specialist boxes ISS astronauts will unpack. The technology will be released outside of the space station via a robotic arm. Harpoon capture, net capture, dragsail, and vision-based navigation are the technologies to be tested on the mission. Related: Airbus wants to harpoon a satellite and bring it back to Earth Principal investigator Guglielmo Aglietti told the BBC experts aren’t yet decided on the best way to clean up space debris , noting the technologies each have their disadvantages and advantages. The project costs around $18 million — the Surrey Space Center described RemoveDEBRIS as low-cost. Aglietti told the BBC, “In my opinion, whether or not there are going to be real missions to remove debris will depend on cost. And I worry that if they are extremely expensive, people will think about other priorities.” The European Commission is providing half of the funding; the partners, including Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited , will provide the other half. SpaceX said the Dragon spacecraft, which is carrying RemoveDEBRIS among other supplies and payloads on Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14, separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage around 10 minutes following liftoff, and will attach to ISS on Wednesday. + RemoveDEBRIS + SpaceX Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14 + SpaceX Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14 Press Kit Via the BBC Images via Official SpaceX Photos on Flickr and copyright ESA

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SpaceX Falcon 9 just rocketed a harpoon and net into orbit to hunt space junk

ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

March 23, 2018 by  
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Behold a brand new era of space exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) just selected the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) mission from three candidates to launch what Nature describes as the “world’s first space telescope dedicated to studying the atmospheres of exoplanets.” The four-year, $552 million will launch on the Ariane 6 rocket in 2028. The agency said we’ve found thousands of exoplanets with a massive range of sizes, masses, and orbits, but we haven’t uncovered a pattern connecting such characteristics to the parent star’s nature. “In particular, there is a gap in our knowledge of how the planet’s chemistry is linked to the environment where it formed, or whether the type of host star drives the physics and chemistry of the planet’s evolution,” according to ESA. Related: Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds ESA plans to zero in on hot and warm planets, “ranging from super-Earths to gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars.” Nature said a spectograph will scrutinize light filtering through an exoplanet’s atmosphere while it passes by its host star, “revealing chemical fingerprints of gases that shroud the body.” ARIEL could detect signs of water vapor, methane, and carbon dioxide, and also measure exotic metallic compounds. ESA says such findings could help place an exoplanet in context of a host star’s chemical environment. ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger said in the statement, “ARIEL is a logical next step in exoplanet science, allowing us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the universe .” + ESA’s Next Space Mission to Focus on Nature of Exoplanets Via Nature Images via ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO and NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

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ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

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