Category Archives: Science

ANIMATED MOCK-UP

TRAPPISM

 

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TRAPPIST IN SPACE

Astronomers discover 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby star

Story highlights

  • Seven Earth-sized planets have been found orbiting an ultracool dwarf star 40 light-years away
  • The planets are temperate, meaning they could have liquid water
  • The researchers believe this is the best place outside of our solar system to look for life

(CNN)Astronomers have found at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 light-years away, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The findings were also announced at a news conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

This discovery outside of our solar system is rare because the planets have the winning combination of being similar in size to Earth and being all temperate, meaning they could have water on their surfaces and potentially support life.
“This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star,” said Michaël Gillon, lead study author and astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium.
The seven exoplanets were all found in tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Estimates of their mass also indicate that they are rocky planets, rather than being gaseous like Jupiter. Three planets are in the habitable zone of the star, known as TRAPPIST-1e, f and g, and may even have oceans on the surface.
The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it.

The researchers believe that TRAPPIST-1f in particular is the best candidate for supporting life. It’s a bit cooler than Earth, but could be suitable with the right atmosphere and enough greenhouse gases.
If TRAPPIST-1 sounds familiar, that’s because these researchers announced the discovery of three initial planets orbiting the same star in May. The new research increased that number to seven planets total.
“I think we’ve made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there,” said Amaury Triaud, one of the study authors and an astronomer at the University of Cambridge. “I don’t think any time before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was (life). Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to what we have on Earth, we will know.”
Life may begin and evolve differently on other planets, so finding the gases that indicate life is key, the researchers added.
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Answering the question ‘are we alone?’ is a top science priority, and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
And as we’ve learned from studying and discovering exoplanets before, where there is one, there are more, said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seager and other researchers are encouraged by the discovery of this system because it improves our chances of finding another habitable planet, like Earth, in the future, by knowing where to look.

What we know

The planets are so close to each other and the star that there are seven of them within a space five times smaller than the distance from Mercury to our sun. This proximity allows the researchers to study the planets in depth as well, gaining insight about planetary systems other than our own.
The seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 compared with Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

Starting closest to the star and moving out, the planets have respective orbits from one and a half to nearly 13 Earth days. The orbit of the farthest planet is still unknown.
Standing on the surface of one of the planets, you would receive 200 times less light than you get from the sun, but you would still receive just as much energy to keep you warm since the star is so close. It would also afford some picturesque views, as the other planets would appear in the sky as big as the moon (or even twice as big).
On TRAPPIST-1f, the star would appear three times as big as the sun in our sky. And because of the red nature of the star, the light would be a salmon hue, the researchers speculate.
The researchers believe the planets formed together further from the star. Then, they moved into their current lineup. This is incredibly similar Jupiter and its Galilean moons.
Like the moon, the researchers believe the planets closest to the star are tidally locked. This means that the planets always face one way to the star. One side of the planet is perpetually night, while the other is always day.
What the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like.

Based on preliminary climate modeling, the researchers believe that the three planets closest to the star may be too warm to support liquid water, while the outermost planet, TRAPPIST-1h, is probably too distant and cold to support water on the surface. But further observation is needed to know for sure.

How the discovery was made

TRAPPIST-1 barely classifies as a star at half the temperature and a tenth the mass of the sun. It is red, dim and just a bit larger than Jupiter. But these tiny ultracool dwarf stars are common in our galaxy.
They were largely overlooked until Gillon decided to study the space around one of these dwarfs.
The researchers used a telescope called TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) to observe its starlight and changes in brightness. The team saw shadows, like little eclipses, periodically interrupting the steady pattern of starlight. This is called transiting. The shadows indicated planets, and further observation confirmed them.
In July, the team was able to determine that two of the closest planets to the stars had atmospheres that were more compact and comparable to those of Earth, Venus and Mars by observing starlight through the planets’ atmosphere.
By using a global network ground-based telescopes like TRAPPIST and space-based telescopes like Spitzer, the researchers continued looking toward the TRAPPIST system and were able to determine the orbital periods, distances from their star, radius and and masses of the planets.

What’s next

Over the next decade, the researchers want to define the atmosphere of each planet, as well as to determine whether they truly do have liquid water on the surface and search for signs of life.
Although 40 light-years away doesn’t sound too far, it would take us millions of years to reach this star system. But from a research perspective, it’s a close opportunity and the best target to search for life beyond our solar system.
“If we learn something now, it can determine if we looked in the right place,” Gillon said.
In 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope will launch and be positioned 1 million miles from Earth with an unprecedented view of the universe. It can observe large exoplanets and detect starlight filtered through their atmosphere.
The researchers are also searching for similar star systems to conduct more atmospheric research. Four telescopes named SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) based in Chile will survey the southern sky for this purpose.
This star system will probably outlive us because this type of star evolves so slowly. When our sun dies, TRAPPIST-1 will still be a young star and will live for another trillion years, Gillon said. After we are gone, if there is another part of the universe for life to carry on, it may be in the TRAPPIST-1 system.
“This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations,” said Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. “Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”

THE TRUTH MUST BE GREATER THAN FICTION

CULTURE SHOCK

My wife, who is black, has started rolling her hair into tight little “twists.” Now for a long time she has kept her hair in a very short “natural” afro.

(I’m not a big fan of short hair on a  woman myself,  but I understand that long hair was a lotta trouble for her to maintain, plus she had to put these chemicals in her hair, which neither of us liked, so I suggested she just get it all cut off and keep it short. When she goes out in public, and wants long hair, she just wears a wig.)

Anywho she came walking out of the bathroom the other day and I looked at these “twists” and said to her, “What in God’s name are you doing to your hair?”

So she says to me, “Ha! Culture shocked ya didn’t I! It’s well known that a black woman’s hair grows a lot faster when you twist it up like this.”

(Apparently she wants to start growing her hair long again.)

So I said, “Really, my dear? Is that so? Have you actually tested this idea logically and empirically. Because I’m willing to bet that the rate of growth generated by your hair follicles might not be affected or effected at all just by twisting your hair. Unless you have actual evidence to substantiate your claim it’s probably just an old wive’s tale and you’re probably just making yourself uncomfortable for no real gain.”

To which she replied,  “Oh, shut up…”

(Now, why do people always tell me to “shut up” when I ask them if they have empirically tested their theories?)

Well yesterday I cut the grass and hauled some wood, for probably the last time this calendar year (because of the change in seasons), and when I got in from that I took a shower. When I came out of the bathroom instead of combing my hair I just ran a towel through it and headed to the bed.

As I was walking towards the bed my wife began laughing and so I said, “What are you laughing at?”

So she said,  “Your hair is sticking straight up off your head. You look so goofy and silly!”

“Oh yeah? ” I said. Then I ran my hand through my hair to make it stick up even more, walked to her side of the bed and almost touched the end of her nose.

A small arc of static blue electricity jumped to her nose and shocked her and she hit me in the gut and said, “Ow! What was that for?”

(She’s a wimp when it comes to pain.)

I laughed, got in bed, snuggled up to her and replied, “That, my dear, was an actual and completely verifiable case of Culture Shock.”

Lol!

DEPENDS ON YOUR PRECISE DEFINITIONS

This is not really a new suspicion or discovery, more like a confirmation of suspicions and prior tracking.
 
Nevertheless my wife and I were watching a NASA video today and she asked me something about how far out a probe had went and I told her, in giving my answer, that I suspected our own solar system was much larger than we thought, and that it some ways may even extend to the edge of or even encompass the closest next solar system. That therefore, despite current thinking, that in some ways our solar system may very well share elements with, let’s say, Proxima Centauri. That is to say that we may be or even share stellar matter with Proxima Centauri or even be part of a Solar Cluster including our own and the Centauri systems. Therefore the probe was not really likely to leave our real solar system any time soon.
 
It depends very much on what we have in common (materially, energetically, and gravitationally) with neighboring solar systems, what we share, and precisely how you define a “Solar System.” In addition to how sensitive we are in being able to detect possible connections, correlations, and shared associations.
 
But in any case I’ve always suspected, even as a child, and going back to my earliest studies of astrophysics that our solar system was much larger than thought and that it contained other matter and energy systems than those which we can currently detect.
 
That’s was before I saw this which only further confirms these suspicions that I have had for many, many years now.

Exciting news everyone, a potential new dwarf planet has just been discovered in the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the Solar System. Called 2014 UZ224, it’s located beyond the orbit of Pluto, and may be one of a hundred such objects still undiscovered.

This particular object is thought to be about 530 kilometers (330 miles) across, compared to 2,374 kilometers (1,475 miles) for Pluto, one of the other five confirmed dwarf planets at the moment. The others are Ceres, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. Another candidate, 2015 RR245, was announced earlier this year.

It was found by a team led by David Gerdes from the University of Michigan, as part of a larger map of galaxies called the Dark Energy Survey (DES). Using specialized computer software, they found the moving object about 13.7 billion kilometers (8.5 billion miles) from the Sun, about twice as far as Pluto. It completes an orbit in about 1,100 years.

According to NPR, it has taken two years to confirm the existence of 2014 UZ224. It is thought to be the third most distant known object in the Solar System.

We don’t know much else about the dwarf planet at the moment, aside from its size and orbital characteristics. But the discovery hints at even more objects in the outer Solar System, most notably Planet Nine, a world thought to be 10 times as massive as Earth. The search for this world continues.

The existence of 2014 UZ224 has been officially verified by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), but like 2015 RR245 before it, it’s not clear if it will be given official dwarf planet status yet. That will depend on a number of factors, including whether it is spherical. If so, though, it would be the smallest dwarf planet found so far.

Dwarf planet or not, our Solar System just got a little bit busier.

WHAT WHAT?

MIGHT I MAKE A SUGGESTION?

MIGHT I MAKE A SUGGESTION?

First thing I noticed this morning upon waking… asked the wife if she understood what this meant? Not sure she did. Not sure many do. Or will. Not at first anyway.

The irony is that I’ve been following events surrounding the Dallas PD for a few weeks now including the supposed mass resignations. A couple of articles said over money, but a few hinted at other things, like failure to issue equipment because of an emphasis on community policing. (Which I’m not against, it’s just some beats are far more dangerous than others and trying to patrol all beats in the same way is ridiculous.)

Now assuming the reports I’ve read are true and some of the resignations are because of an insistence up top that all beats be equipped and patrolled as if they are all waterfront garden districts and certain equipment and tactics were discouraged, then you use a robot to explode a perp (which again I’m not against as a last ditch resort to save lives), then the precedent here could at least conceivably lead down some very dark corridors.

You discourage vest and body armor and possibly trigger mass resignations but then employ robots not to just shoot and overwhelm a suspect but to explode them?

If you can’t see the irony…

But I’d like to make a suggestion in this arena iffin I may. If you’re gonna go down this road then at least properly prepare. Develop police combat robots which can gas, stun, immobilize, track, overwhelm, immobilize, incapacitate, and apprehend suspects rather than just merely shoot and blow them up. Sure, I’m not a great fan of robots replacing people in such situations but at least be ready with real Policing Bots and not just shoot and kill bots.

Because in cases where ya got a guy dead to rights, and he’s already shooting or blowing up the joint, that’s one thing. But in cases involving other suspects who you don’t really know their real disposition just blowing em up will lead to very bad things.

Or worse lead to a third world, Robocop, mere liberal Utopian big-government, big-brother democracy of the best equipped rather than to a thriving Republic of Free Men.

Assuming we have a Republic anymore, which ain’t likely…

 

POLICE USED BOMB DISPOSAL ROBOT TO KILL A DALLAS SHOOTING SUSPECT
POTENTIALLY THE FIRST USE OF A ROBOT TO KILL IN AMERICAN POLICING

By Dave Gershgorn Posted 3 hours ago

Bomb Squad Robot Drives Up Ramp
J.p. Lawrence, via DVIDS
Bomb Squad Robot Drives Up Ramp

A bomb disposal robot drives up a ramp piloted  by New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Adam Russ of the New York Army National Guard's 501st Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Battalion, during training at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany New York, May 18.  New York Army National Guardsmen trained for a week alongside domestic and international EOD military and law enforcement personnel during an exercise called Raven's Challenge , May 16-20, sponsored by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. J.p. Lawrence/Released).
A bomb disposal robot drives up a ramp piloted by New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Adam Russ of the New York Army National Guard’s 501st Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Battalion, during training at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany New York, May 18. New York Army National Guardsmen trained for a week alongside domestic and international EOD military and law enforcement personnel during an exercise called Raven’s Challenge , May 16-20, sponsored by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. J.p. Lawrence/Released).

From New York National Guard: “A bomb disposal robot drives up a ramp piloted by New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Adam Russ of the New York Army National Guard’s 501st Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Battalion, during training at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany New York, May 18”
In the wake of post-protest shootings that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded, along with two civilians, police traded gunfire last night with a suspect inside a downtown Dallas parking garage. Eventually, law enforcement sent a “bomb robot” (most likely shorthand for a remotely controlled bomb disposal robot) armed with an explosive, to the suspect’s location, then detonated the explosive, killing the suspect.

“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was…other options would have exposed our officers to great danger,” said Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown. “The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.”

Repurposing a robot that was created to prevent death by explosion clearly contrasts with the way these machines are normally used. Bomb disposal robots are routinely used to minimize the potential of harm to officers and civilians when disarming or clearing potential explosives from an area. They are often equipped with their own explosive charges and other tools, not to kill, but detonate other potential bombs in the area.

Dallas police used a bomb disposal robot in another major news story last year, when the Dallas Police headquarters were attacked by a gunman who planted explosives. That assailant was shot by police, not killed by the bomb robot.

Records show that the Dallas County Sheriff Department and neighboring Duncanville Police Department each own a MARCbot, another commonly-used bomb disposal robot.

However, in previous images seen of the Dallas Police department using bomb disposal robots, they appear to actually use a Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros F6A or F6B, a standard model for police and military use. It’s highly customizable, and can look very different depending on which configuration of arm and sensors are configured. The closest known Andros resides in Comal County, Texas, 250 miles away.

The police’s use of this machine to kill raises questions about how robots will be used in the future. This may be the first example of a robot being used by American police to kill a suspect, notes University of California Davis law professor Elizabeth Joh:

Popular Science contributing editor Peter W. Singer tweets that similar tactics have been used before, although in a military situation, when a surveillance robot was used to kill an insurgent with a Claymore explosive.

It’s unclear how police controlled the robot, but wireless protocols can be easily intercepted or altered by skilled hackers. Security researcher Matt Blaze points out that the security of a machine like this becomes more important once it’s shown the capacity to be used as a weapon.

In other images found of Dallas a bomb disposal robot in action, the robot appears to be controlled wirelessly. The Andros robot can be operated wirelessly or with a wired tether, according to the Northrop Grumman website, but it’s unclear which mode Dallas Police used in this incident.
Updated: This post has been updated to reflect new information concerning the potential bomb disposal robot used.