Rosetta Spacecraft Catches Comet Eruption 8

Posted by Soulskill
from the stealth-comet-fires-thrusters dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On March 12, the Rosetta spacecraft was imaging Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of 75 kilometers (46 miles) and by pure chance it spotted an eruption of dusty material from the shaded nucleus. Long-duration spacecraft are essential if we are to fully understand the evolution of a comet as it gradually heats up during its approach to the sun. And it just so happens that Rosetta is always in orbit around 67P's nucleus, ready to spot any transient event that could erupt at any time on the surface

This latest event focuses on the comet's shaded underside. It is assumed that some sunlight slowly heated an outcrop, providing enough energy to sublimate subsurface ices, ejecting vapor and dust as a jet. The transient jet was imaged and measured by Rosetta's scientific imaging system OSIRIS. There is also the possibility that a wave of heating passed through the icy material, eventually producing a more explosive jet event.

Baltimore Police Used Stingrays For Phone Tracking Over 25,000 Times 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-remember-that-episode-of-The-Wire dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Baltimore Police Department is starting to come clean about its use of cell-phone signal interceptors — commonly known as Stingrays — and the numbers are alarming. According to recent court testimony reported by The Baltimore Sun, the city's police have used Stingray devices with a court order more than 25,000 times. It's a massive number, representing an average of nearly nine uses a day for eight years (the BPD acquired the technology in 2007), and it doesn't include any emergency uses of the device, which would have proceeded without a court order.

California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-the-salt-out dept. writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that as drought strikes California, residents can't help noticing the substantial reservoir of untapped water lapping at their shores — 187 quintillion gallons of it, more or less, shimmering invitingly in the sun. Once dismissed as too expensive and harmful to the environment desalination is getting a second look. A $1 billion desalination plant to supply booming San Diego County is under construction and due to open as early as November, providing a major test of whether California cities will be able to resort to the ocean to solve their water woes. "It was not an easy decision to build this plant," says Mark Weston, chairman of the agency that supplies water to towns in San Diego County. "But it is turning out to be a spectacular choice. What we thought was on the expensive side 10 years ago is now affordable."

Carlsbad's product will sell for around $2,000 per acre-foot (the amount used by two five-person U.S. households per year), which is 80 percent more than the county pays for treated water from outside the area. Water bills already average about $75 a month and the new plant will drive them up by $5 or so to secure a new supply equal to about 7 or 8 percent of the county's water consumption. Critics say the plant will use a huge amount of electricity, increasing the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, which further strains water supplies. And local environmental groups, which fought the plant, fear a substantial impact on sea life. "There is just a lot more that can be done on both the conservation side and the water-recycling side before you get to [desalination]," says Rick Wilson, coastal management coordinator with the environmental group Surfrider Foundation. "We feel, in a lot of cases, that we haven't really explored all of those options."

Organic Molecules Found Circling Nearby Star 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the solar-nursery dept.
sciencehabit writes Astronomers have detected chemical precursors of building blocks of life in the large disk of dust and gas whirling around a young nearby star. These complex organic molecules, two forms of cyanide and one chemically related compound, likely formed after the protoplanetary disk collapsed, the researchers say. The same chemicals are found in roughly similar proportions in comets circling our sun, which may have brought them to Earth billions of years ago. "We know that the solar system isn't unique in its number of planets or abundance of water," says Karin Öberg, an astrochemist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Now we know that we're not unique in organic chemistry. From a life in the universe point of view, this is great news."

Jupiter Destroyed 'Super-Earths' In Our Early Solar System 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the destroyer-of-worlds dept.
sciencehabit writes: If Jupiter and Saturn hadn't formed where they did—and at the sizes they did—as the disk of dust and gas around our sun coalesced, then our solar system would be a very different and possibly more hostile place, new research suggests (abstract). Computer models reveal that in the solar system's first 3 million years or so, gravitational interactions with Jupiter, Saturn, and the gas in the protoplanetary disk would have driven super-Earth–sized planets closer to the sun and into increasingly elliptical orbits. In such paths, a cascade of collisions would have blasted any orbs present there into ever smaller bits, which in turn would have been slowed by the interplanetary equivalent of atmospheric drag and eventually plunged into the sun. As Jupiter retreated from its closest approach to the sun, it left behind the mostly rocky remnants that later coalesced into our solar system's inner planets, including Earth.

The Stolen Credit For What Makes Up the Sun 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the stellar-gasbags dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Sure, it's easy today to look at the Sun and know it's a ball of (mostly) hydrogen, generating energy by combining those protons in a chain into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. But before we even knew that nuclear fusion was possible, we needed to figure out what the Sun was made out of, a more difficult task than you'd imagine. The credit was given to Henry Norris Russell (of Hertzsprung-Russell diagram fame), but he completely stole the work from a woman you never heard of: his student, Cecilia Payne, after discouraging her from publishing her work on the subject four years prior.

NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."

$7.4 Million Blurred Lines Verdict Likely To Alter Music Business 386

Posted by samzenpus
from the my-notes-I-take-them dept. writes The Washington Post reports that the $7.4 million verdict that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke copied Marvin Gaye's music to create their hit song "Blurred Lines" could ripple across the music industry, potentially changing how artists work and opening the door to new copyright claims. Howard King, lead attorney for Thicke and Williams, said in closing arguments that a verdict for the Gaye family would have a chilling effect on musicians trying to evoke an era or create an homage to the sound of earlier artists. Williams contended during the trial that he was only trying to mimic the "feel" of Gaye's late 1970s music but insisted he did not use elements of his idol's work. "Today's successful verdict, with the odds more than stacked against the Marvin Gaye estate, could redefine what copyright infringement means for recording artists," says Glen Rothstein, an intellectual property attorney. King says record labels are going to become more reluctant to release music that's similar to other works — an assertion disputed by Richard Busch, the lead attorney for the Gaye family. "While Mr. Williams' lawyer suggested in his closing argument that the world would come to an end, and music would cease to exist if they were found liable, I still see the sun shining," says Busch. "The music industry will go on."

Music copyright trials are rare, but allegations that a song copies another artist's work are common. Singers Sam Smith and Tom Petty recently reached an agreement that conferred songwriting credit to Petty on Smith's song, "Stay With Me," which resembled Petty's hit "I Won't Back Down." Other music copyright cases include Former Beatle George Harrison's 1970 solo song "My Sweet Lord" which had a melody heavy with echoes of "He's So Fine," the 1962 hit from The Chiffons. The copyright owner sued Harrison. A judge said that while the tunes were nearly identical, Harrison was guilty only of "subconscious plagiarism." Harrison would eventually pay out $587,000. Probably the most bizarre case of musical infringement was when John Fogerty was accused of stealing from John Fogerty. The Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman was sued for his 1985 solo song "The Old Man Down the Road" because his former label thought it sounded too much like the 1970 Fogerty-penned "Run Through the Jungle," a song it owned the rights to.

Mars "Webcam" To Be Made Available For Public Use 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-focus dept.
randomErr writes If your group can make a good use case you can control of the ESA's Mars Express webcam. Proposals by schools, youth groups and astronomy clubs are due by March 27. The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), is a low-resolution camera intended for visuals of the Beagle lander separation. In May, Mars will be in solar conjunction. Signals between Earth and Mars Express will be disrupted by the sun so for three days the VMC camera can be freely pointed at almost any target in its orbit.

Solar Impulse Plane Begins Epic Global Flight 65

Posted by samzenpus
from the as-far-as-the-sun-will-take-us dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that the Solar Impulse 2 airplane has begun its attempt to fly round-the-world powered by nothing but the sun. "A record-breaking attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered plane has got under way from Abu Dhabi. The aircraft — called Solar Impulse-2 — took off from the Emirate, heading east to Muscat in Oman. Over the next five months, it will skip from continent to continent, crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process. Andre Borschberg was at the controls of the single-seater vehicle as it took off at 07:12 local time (03:12 GMT). He will share the pilot duties in due course with fellow Swiss, Bertrand Piccard. The plan is to stop off at various locations around the globe, to rest and to carry out maintenance, and also to spread a campaigning message about clean technologies."

Mozilla: Following In Sun's Faltering Footsteps? 300

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-let-the-sun-go-down-on-them dept.
snydeq writes: The trajectory of Mozilla, from the trail-blazing technologies to the travails of being left in the dust, may be seen as paralleling that of the now-defunct Unix systems giant Sun. The article claims, "Mozilla has become the modern-day Sun Microsystems: While known for churning out showstopping innovation, its bread-and-butter technology now struggles." It goes on to mention Firefox's waning market share, questions over tooling for the platform, Firefox's absence on mobile devices, developers' lack of standard tools (e.g., 'Gecko-flavored JavaScript'), and relatively slow development of Firefox OS, in comparison with mobile incumbents.

Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the four-is-better-than-one dept.
astroengine writes "For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.

Star Trek Fans Told To Stop "Spocking" Canadian $5 Bill 223

Posted by samzenpus
from the draw-it-on-and-prosper dept.
bellwould writes The Toronto Sun is reporting that Bank of Canada executives are urging Star Trek fans to stop altering Wilfred Laurier's face on the Canadian $5 bill to look like Spock. Although not illegal to draw on the bills, a Bank of Canada spokesperson points out that the markings may reduce effectiveness of the security features or worse, the money may not be accepted.

Rosetta Photographs Its Own Shadow On Comet 67P/C-G 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
mpicpp notes an image release from the European Space Agency showing the shadow of its Rosetta probe on the comet it's currently orbiting. The probe snapped the picture from a very low flyby — only six kilometers off the surface. The image has a resolution of 11cm/pixel. The shadow is fuzzy and somewhat larger than Rosetta itself, measuring approximately 20 x 50 metres. If the Sun were a point source, the shadow would be sharp and almost exactly the same size as Rosetta (approximately 2 x 32 m). However, even at 347 million km from 67P/C-G on 14 February, the Sun appeared as a disc about 0.2 degrees across (about 2.3 times smaller than on Earth), resulting in a fuzzy “penumbra” around the spacecraft’s shadow on the surface. In this scenario and with Rosetta 6 km above the surface, the penumbra effect adds roughly 20 metres to the spacecraft’s dimensions, and which is cast onto the tilted surface of the comet.
United Kingdom

World's First Lagoon Power Plants Unveiled In UK 197

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
AmiMoJo writes Plans to generate electricity from the world's first series of tidal lagoons have been unveiled in the UK. The six lagoons — four in Wales and one each in Somerset and Cumbria — will capture incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls, and use the weight of the water to power turbines. The series of six lagoons could generate 8% of the UK's electricity for an investment of £12bn. Tidal Lagoon Power wants £168 per MWh hour for electricity in Swansea, reducing to £90-£95 per MWh for power from a second, more efficient lagoon in Cardiff. The £90 figure compares favorably with the £92.50 price for power from the planned Hinkley nuclear station, especially as the lagoon is designed to last 120 years — at a much lower risk than nuclear. Unlike power from the sun and wind, tidal power is predictable. Turbines capture energy from two incoming and two outgoing tides a day, and are expected to be active for an average of 14 hours a day. Friends of the Earth Cymru, said the group is broadly in favor of the Swansea lagoon.
The Almighty Buck

How One Climate-Change Skeptic Has Profited From Corporate Interests 448

Posted by timothy
from the note-that-doesn't-mean-he's-wrong dept.
Lasrick writes Elected officials who want to block the EPA and legislation on climate change frequently refer to a handful of scientists who dispute anthropogenic climate change. One of scientists they quote most often is Wei-Hock Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun's energy can largely explain recent global warming. Newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon has made a fortune from corporate interests. 'He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.' The Koch Brothers are cited as a source of Dr. Soon's funding.

Mysterious Martian Plumes Discovered By Amateur Astronomers 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the mars-needs-bbq dept.
An anonymous reader writes Amateur astronomers have spotted two clouds coming from the surface of Mars that are a mystery to the professionals. From Discovery: "The plumes extended over 500- to 1,000 kilometers (311- to 621 miles) in both north-south and east-west directions and changed in appearance daily. They were detected as the sun breached Mars' horizon in the morning, but not when it set in the evening. 'Remarkably ... the features changed rapidly, their shapes going from double blob protrusions to pillars or finger-plume-like morphologies,' scientists investigating the sightings wrote in a paper published in this week's Nature."

Time-Lapse of Pluto and Charon Produced By New Horizons 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the drifting-ever-closer dept.
schwit1 writes: Cool images! Using New Horizons' long range camera, scientists have compiled a movie showing Charon and Pluto orbiting each other during the last week of January 2015. "Pluto and Charon were observed for an entire rotation of each body; a "day" on Pluto and Charon is 6.4 Earth days. The first of the images was taken when New Horizons was about 3 billion miles from Earth, but just 126 million miles (203 million kilometers) from Pluto — about 30% farther than Earth's distance from the Sun. The last frame came 6.5 days later, with New Horizons more than 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) closer." The wobble easily visible in Pluto's motion is due to the gravity of Charon, about one-eighth as massive as Pluto and about the size of Texas. Our view of Pluto and Charon is only going to get better as New Horizons zooms towards its July fly-by.

Five Glorious Years of Sun Images In a Four-Minute Video 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the dang,-sun dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In early 2010, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It carried a number of sensors dedicated to watching and measuring various aspects of the Sun. The SDO's team just celebrated its fifth anniversary by going through a half-decade worth of images, pulling out the most amazing ones, and stitching them into an amazing video (YouTube). It includes enormous flares, sunspots, the transit of Venus, and more.
Sun Microsystems

Five Years After the Sun Merger, Oracle Says It's Fully Committed To SPARC 190

Posted by timothy
from the wish-they'd-bring-back-the-sun-name dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Sun Microsystems vanished into Oracle's maw five years ago this month, and you could be forgiven for thinking that some iconic Sun products, like SPARC chips, had been cast aside in the merger. But Oracle claims that the SPARC roadmap is moving forward more quickly than it did under Sun, and while the number of SPARC systems sold has dropped dramatically (from 66,000 in Q1 '03 to 7,000 in Q1 '14), the systems that are being sold are fully customized and much more profitable for the company."