Zothecula writes "Last August, it looked as if NASA's Kepler space telescope was as good as scrap due to the failure of its attitude control system. Now the space agency proposes what it calls the K2 mission concept, which may fix the problem by using the Sun to regain attitude control and allow Kepler to resume its search for extrasolar planets."
Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!
SternisheFan writes "This Ars Technica article examines what may be left of ISON and contains a detailed animated GIF from the NASA STEREO Ahead spacecraft. 'It looks like comet ISON, or most of it, did not survive its encounter with the Sun yesterday, when it made a close approach at just 1.2 million kms from that fiery surface. This distance may seem large, but it is close enough to have subjected the comet to temperatures of around 2,700C. To survive such a close shave with the Sun may sound unlikely, but a few other sungrazing comets have managed the feat during even closer passes. So some people hoped ISON would perform a death-defying stunt and emerge intact. ISON did not leave us without a final serving of mystery though. Soon after reaching its nearest point to the Sun (known as perihelion), there was no sign of it emerging afterwards. Twitter and news agencies were alight, lamenting its loss and assuming it disintegrated—RIP ISON. But then, moments later, new images emerged showing a hint of something appearing on the other side of the Sun. Was this still a diminished comet ISON or a ghostly version of its former self? Well, even comet experts are not sure.'"
New submitter palemantle writes with this excerpt from The Hindu, updating our earlier mention of the successful launch of India's Mars-bound probe: "In a remarkably successful execution of a complex manoeuvre, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) fired the propulsion system on board the spacecraft for a prolonged duration of 23 minutes from 0049 hours on Sunday. In space parlance, the manoeuvre is called Trans-Mars Injection (TMI). ISRO called it 'the mother of all slingshots.' Celebrations broke out at the control centre of the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore from where the spacecraft specialists gave commands for the orbiter's 440 Newton engine to begin firing. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, is designed to demonstrate the technological capability to reach Mars orbit. But the $72m (£45m) probe will also carry out experiments, including a search for methane gas in the planet's atmosphere."
An anonymous reader sends this update from NightSkyInfo: "Yesterday, when Comet ISON plunged through the solar atmosphere and behind SOHO's coronagraph (the black disk designed to block out the direct light from the Sun), its nucleus dwindled away to nothing and most of the tail simply evaporated. Everyone assumed that the comet completely disintegrated and died a fiery death. However, several hours after perihelion, ISON began to brighten up again. It is now distinctly evident on live images from SOHO, looks like a comet, and continues to brighten as it moves farther away from the Sun." Experts are unwilling to say precisely how intact the comet is — we'll need more data to make a conclusion about that — but astrophysicist Karl Battams says this is their best guess: 'As comet ISON plunged towards to the Sun, it began to fall apart, losing not giant fragments but at least a lot of reasonably sized chunks. There's evidence of very large dust in the form of that long thin tail we saw in the LASCO C2 images. Then, as ISON plunged through the corona, it continued to fall apart and vaporize, and lost its coma and tail completely just like Lovejoy did in 2011. (We have our theories as to why it didn't show up in the SDO images but that's not our story to tell - the SDO team will do that.) Then, what emerged from the Sun was a small but perhaps somewhat coherent nucleus, that has resumed emitting dust and gas for at least the time being. In essence, the tail is growing back, as Lovejoy's did.' Here's a GIF of the comet rounding the Sun (put together by Emily Lakdawalla).
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes, quoting USA Today "The NASDAQ has topped 4000 for the first time in 13 years, but much has changed since then. ... Tech investors in 2000 were right about the possibilities of the Internet and mobile computing. But they were dead wrong about which companies would be in the vanguard ... The recovery of the NASDAQ has been a complex tale of creative destruction, where old companies that once fueled the index have been pushed aside by new players. Back in 2000, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Intel, Oracle, and Sun accounted for 8.9%, 8.5%, 7.1%, 3.6% and 2.6%, respectively, of the value of the NASDAQ composite. Today, companies that were just starting out or didn't even exist — think Google, Amazon, and Facebook — are in the top 10, accounting for 4.7%, 2.7% and 1.5% of NASDAQ's value. Microsoft, Cisco and Intel's weight has fallen sharply. Apple, which wasn't in the top 10 in 2000, is a behemoth at 7.9%. So is the NASDAQ enjoying a long overdue catch-up with the rest of the market, or is the broad market overpriced, with the NASDAQ being pulled along for the ride? 'The reality is that the only thing that's the same from Nasdaq 4000 in 1999 and Nasdaq 4000 in 2013,' says Doug Sandler, 'is the number 4000.'"
New submitter BugNuker writes "Comet ISON has been speeding towards the sun, and while doing so, it has been getting brighter. There was hope that ISON would be 'Comet of the Century' material. That does not seem to be the case, but it still exists and it's still very interesting. Recently, ISON has undergone some outbursts, making it a near naked-eye object. ISON is still approaching perihelion (it will get there at 18:25 UTC on 28 November). For now, we can keep watching the STEREO spacecraft images for more evidence." Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society put together this animated GIF of the comet from images taken by the STEREO-A spacecraft. Karl Battams put together a fascinating GIF as well. The Planetary Society has a list of information feeds and scheduled events for keeping tabs on ISON.
Zothecula writes "Harvesting power from the wind and the sun is nothing new. We've seen flying wind turbines and solar power plants that aim to provide clean renewable energy. UK-based New Wave Energy has a bolder idea in the works. The company plans to build the first high altitude aerial power plant, using networks of unmanned drones that can harvest energy from multiple sources and transmit it wirelessly to receiving stations on the ground."
cold fjord writes "Earlier this year we discussed news of a shockingly powerful gamma-ray burst. Scientists have had time to study the phenomenon, but it's not offering up any easy answers. The Christian Science Monitor reports, 'An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole. Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years ... "Some of our theories are just going down the drain," said Charles Dermer, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico ... while typical long-duration bursts last from a few seconds to a few minutes, GRB 130427A put on its display for 20 hours. ... [W]ith GRB 130427A, some of the highest energy photons, including the new record-holder, appeared hours after the blast. "This is hard to explain with our current models," Dermer said. In addition, gamma rays and emissions at visible wavelengths brightened and dimmed in tandem, quite unexpected because theory suggested they come from different regions of the expanding shells of material and thus should have peaked and dimmed at different times. Finally, theorists had posited different mechanisms for generating gamma rays and X-rays that are part of the light show a long-duration gamma-ray burst puts on. The result should have been a fadeout for the two forms of light punctuated by periods where emissions were interrupted. Instead, the two dimmed smoothly. The theoretical edifice GRB 130427A is eroding has been 46 years in the making.' — The 21 November 2013 Science Express has abstracts for four related papers (first, second, third, fourth). More at Sky & Telescope and NASA."
cold fjord writes with this report from The Telegraph: "The original members of Monty Python will reunite more than 30 years after the comedy troupe last worked together. John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Michael Palin will officially announce their reformation at a London press conference on Thursday. The five surviving members have reportedly been in months of secret talks about getting the Flying Circus back on the road. The reunion comes after several failed attempts to reform by the group. However, according to The Sun, the surviving members realised 'it was now or never,' and had decided to embark upon 'a fully-fledged reunion.'" Related stories include this commentary, one take on the best of Python and this negative reaction, too.
riverat1 writes "Now visible in the morning sky, comet ISON will swing around the Sun on November 28. ISON will pass 730,000 km above the surface of the Sun at closest approach (Mercury's perihelion distance is 46 million km). If it survives its near brush with the Sun it could provide a spectacular sky show from December into January. This NASA timeline shows that ISON will be the most observed comet ever as instruments ranging from a balloon carried telescope to the Hubble Space Telescope to the STEREO satellites will be brought into play. Lowell Observatory astronomer Matthew Knight lays out three possibilities for ISON: spontaneous disintegration before it gets to the Sun (less than 1% chance); disintegration as it rounds the Sun; or survival. If it survives, its closest approach to Earth will be on December 26 at about 1/3 of an AU."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Robert Lee Hotz reports in the WSJ that current solar activity is stranger than it has been in a century or more. The sun is producing barely half the number of sunspots as expected, and its magnetic poles are oddly out of sync. Based on historical records, astronomers say the sun this fall ought to be nearing the explosive climax of its approximate 11-year cycle of activity—the so-called solar maximum. But this peak is 'a total punk,' says Jonathan Cirtain. 'I would say it is the weakest in 200 years,' adds David Hathaway, head of the solar physics group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Researchers are puzzled. They can't tell if the lull is temporary or the onset of a decades-long decline, which might ease global warming a bit by altering the sun's brightness or the wavelengths of its light. To complicate the riddle, the sun also is undergoing one of its oddest magnetic reversals on record, with the sun's magnetic poles out of sync for the past year so the sun technically has two South Poles. Several solar scientists speculate that the sun may be returning to a more relaxed state after an era of unusually high activity that started in the 1940s (PDF). 'More than half of solar physicists would say we are returning to a norm,' says Mark Miesch. 'We might be in for a longer state of suppressed activity.' If so, the decline in magnetic activity could ease global warming, the scientists say. But such a subtle change in the sun—lowering its luminosity by about 0.1%—wouldn't be enough to outweigh the build-up of greenhouse gases and soot that most researchers consider the main cause of rising world temperatures over the past century or so. 'Given our current understanding of how the sun varies and how climate responds, were the sun to enter a new Maunder Minimum, it would not mean a new Little Ice Age,' says Judith Lean. 'It would simply slow down the current warming by a modest amount.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Oracle acquired GlassFish when it acquired Sun Microsystems, and now — like OpenSolaris and OpenOffice — the company has announced it will no longer support a commercial version of the product. Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. said in an interview the decision wasn't exactly a surprise: "The only company that was putting any real investment in GlassFish was Oracle," Milinkovich said. "Nobody else was really stepping up to the plate to help. If you never contributed anything to it, you can't complain when something like this happens." An update to the open source version is still planned for 2014." GlassFish is an open source application server.
The Bad Astronomer writes "A new study, looking at over 40,000 stars viewed by the Kepler spacecraft, indicates that 22% of stars like the Sun should have Earth-like planets orbiting them — planets that are similar in size to our home world and with a surface temperature hospitable for liquid water. There are some caveats (they don't include atmospheric issues like the greenhouse effect, which may reduce the overall number, or at cooler stars where there may be many more such planets) but their numbers indicate there could be several billion planets similar to Earth in the Milky Way alone."
mdsolar writes "Tomorrow at dawn on the U.S. East Coast, a partial solar eclipse will rise. Solar eclipses have many uses. They can confirm the Theory of Relativity, allow study of the solar corona, and this week, help prepare for global warming induced sea level rise. The tides induced in the oceans when the Sun and Moon are aligned are particularly high (and low) and give a foretaste of the effects of sea level rise in the coming decades. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources is asking for photos of these King Tides to help with preparation for the effect of sea level rise. Way to get out front, Maryland."
KentuckyFC writes "As the Sun expands into a red giant, life on Earth will die away. Now astrobiologists have worked out how this will look to distant observers watching the biosignature in our atmosphere. They say the first major effect of warming, about 1 billion years from now, will be a dramatic drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide as the oceans absorb more of it. That's bad news for trees and plants, which need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, so they begin to die off. Since plants produce oxygen, atmospheric levels of oxygen will also drop, killing off the animals. Roughly 2 billion years from now, the only living things on Earth will be microbes. However, methane levels will have risen dramatically, caused by decaying plant matter. And decaying animals will release a gas called methanethiol, which breaks down into ethane, which ought to be visible too. Finally, they calculate that about 3 billion years from now, the oceans will boil and Earth will be a barren planet with little if any biosignature at all. But all this is not just a subject of morbid fascination. With the next generation of space telescopes, astronomers should see similar biosignatures on Earth-like planets around other stars that are also beyond their sell-by dates. So we'll be able to watch them die off first."
astroengine writes "Kepler-78b may be an exoplanet notable for being approximately Earth-sized and likely possessing a rocky surface plus iron core, but that's where any similarity to our planet ends. It has an extremely tight orbit around sun-like star Kepler-78, completing one 'year' in only 8.5 hours. It orbits so close in fact that the alien world's surface temperature soars to 2,000 degrees hotter than Earth's. Referring to Kepler-78b as a 'rocky' world is therefore a misnomer — it's a hellish lava world. But this is just a side-show to the real conundrum behind Kepler-78b: It shouldn't exist at all. 'This planet is a complete mystery,' said astronomer David Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in a press release. 'We don't know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it's not going to last forever.'"
Science_afficionado writes "A news release from Vanderbilt University begins, 'Solar cells that produce electricity 24/7, not just when the sun is shining. Mobile phones with built-in power cells that recharge in seconds and work for weeks between charges. These are just two of the possibilities raised by a novel supercapacitor design invented by material scientists ... that is described in a paper published in the Oct. 22 issue of the journal Scientific Reports. It is the first supercapacitor that is made out of silicon so it can be built into a silicon chip along with the microelectronic circuitry that it powers. In fact, it should be possible to construct these power cells out of the excess silicon that exists in the current generation of solar cells, sensors, mobile phones and a variety of other electromechanical devices, providing a considerable cost savings. ... Instead of storing energy in chemical reactions the way batteries do, “supercaps” store electricity by assembling ions on the surface of a porous material. As a result, they tend to charge and discharge in minutes, instead of hours, and operate for a few million cycles, instead of a few thousand cycles like batteries.' The full academic paper is available online."
astroengine writes "For the first time, astronomers have discovered a sun-like star playing host to a 'habitable zone' exoplanet located inside the Milky Way's galactic bulge — some 25,000 light-years distant — using a quirk of Einstein's general relativity. But don't go having dreams of exotic getaways to the glistening lights of the center of our galaxy; this exoplanet is a huge gas giant world, about five times the mass of Jupiter. However, there is something (potentially) very exciting about this new discovery. Like Jupiter, this newly discovered giant exoplanet may possess small satellites; exomoons that could have life-giving potential. 'Indeed, although the data do not explicitly show any signature of a companion to the Jupiter planet, this possibility is not ruled out,' the researchers write [arXiv]. 'The planet is apparently at the edge between the snow line and the habitable zone, but considering a potential greenhouse warming effect, the surface temperature of a possible companion (exomoon) can be suitable for habitability.'"
sfcrazy writes "It has been discovered that Google downgraded the SSL encryption of Android after version 2.3.4 and defaulted to RC4 and MD5 ciphers. It may appear that NSA is at play here as both are broken and can be easily compromised. But after digging the code Georg Lukas concluded that the blame goes to Oracle. 'The cipher order on the vast majority of Android devices was defined by Sun in 2002 and taken over into the Android project in 2010 as an attempt to improve compatibility.'" The Java spec from 2002 specified RC4 and MD5 as the first two ciphers for TLS; Android, however, used DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA by default. The default cipher list for Java 7 was updated, but Android is stuck using JDK 6 and a default cipher list over a decade old.
Lucas123 writes "A solar power array that covers three square miles with 3,200 mirrored parabolic collectors went live this week, creating enough energy to power 70,000 homes in Arizona. The Solana Solar Power Plant, located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, was built at a cost of $2 billion, and financed in large part by a U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee. The array is the world's largest parabolic trough plant, meaning it uses parabolic shaped mirrors mounted on moving structures that track the sun and concentrate its heat. A first: a thermal energy storage system at the plant can provide electricity for six hours without the concurrent use of the solar field. Because it can store electricity, the plant can continue to provide power during the night and inclement weather."