Tag: Space

Vector plans three ‘microsatellite’ launches in Virginia

Virginia's governor announced that microsatellite delivery company Vector has arranged a trio of launches from the state's spaceport on Wallops Island. While the notice gave no information on the payloads or customers, they will be very small compared to typical commercial satellites: The company's launch vehicle, the 39-foot Vector-R, can only carry 145 pounds into orbit.

That's entirely the point. Most microsatellites that weigh a couple to just over a hundred pounds often must ride alongside and work around the schedules of big-budget customers putting several-ton payloads into orbit. Unlike Space X's 230-foot Falcon 9, which carries up to 50,000 pounds into orbit, Vector's smaller rocket is likely far more affordable and flexible -- like paying for a charter plane that will go to any small airfield instead of buying a seat on a jumbo jet that can only go to major airports.

When last we saw Vector, they'd launched out of Camden, Georgia for a successful delivery to sub-orbital heights. The company, made of industry vets from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing and Sea Launch, seems aimed to supply the need for much smaller payloads that those bigger companies don't service well. As for Virginia, this is a win for its Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) facility on Wallops Island; Vector has agreed to three launches there over the next 24 months with an option for five more.

Source: Virginia Governor's office


Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine completes first hot-fire test

Blue Origin was a bit of a mystery to the public for quite awhile. After all, unlike competitor SpaceX, the company haven't always been welcoming to the scrutiny that comes with inviting the media in. But that changed in early 2016, when reporters were invited into the space tourism company's headquarters for the first time. Since then, Jeff Bezos' company has been more open with the public, and yesterday it tweeted about a new milestone. The company's BE-4 engine successfully completed a hot-fire test. The engine was fired at 50 percent power for three seconds, according to Ars Technica.

People have derided Blue Origin for its focus on suborbital space tourism with the New Shepard launch vehicle, and that's indeed been one of the company's major pushes. But the space company has also been developing New Glenn, a two- and three-stage behemoth rocket that will be able to take people and cargo to orbit and possibly beyond. A configuration of seven BE-4 engines will power the first and second stages of New Glenn. With this test, Blue Origin has at once made a statement that it is to be taken seriously within the sphere of orbital spaceflight and also that it's one step closer to producing these engines.

BE-4 is the the most powerful rocket engine developed since Rocketdyne's RS-68 engine (even more than SpaceX's Raptor engine), which is used in United Launch Alliance's Delta IV rockets. However, these engines are incredibly expensive to produce, which is why ULA wants to retire the Delta IV line. As a replacement, the company is developing the Vulcan rocket, and it has made steps towards committing to using Blue Origin's BE-4 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne is lobbying for the ULA to use its AR1 engine, but development is far behind the BE-4. The United Launch Alliance needs an engine as quickly as possible, so this successful test fire may just have cemented Blue Origin's case.

Via: Popular Mechanics

Source: Twitter, Ars Technica


NASA study will help identify potentially habitable planets

NASA has already found tons of exoplanets around nearby stars, and will spot countless more once the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches. The problem is that scientists aren't exactly sure which planet-star combinations are most likely to support life. A new NASA study has found that planets orbiting small stars like Trappist-1 could retain their oceans for billions of years, even if they're quite close -- provided the star emits just the right amount of infrared radiation.

For the foreseeable future, astronomers will be scanning red dwarf stars for habitable planets, rather than other types like our sun. That's because they're easier to find and small enough that the wobble of small, Earth-like planets is detectable. On top of that, the amount of light dip is noticeable when a planet passes in front, and scientists can detect the composition of its atmosphere based on how much starlight it absorbs.

Because of that, scientists are obviously very concerned about which red dwarf stars and planets can support life. That's where the new study, done by a team from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, comes in.

If a planet is too cold, any water will freeze into ice, making life formation challenging. If it's too hot, water will evaporate and rise up into the stratosphere, where it will get broken into hydrogen and oxygen by the star's UV (ultraviolet) light. The latter state, called a "moist greenhouse," eventually leads to the loss of all oceans, killing any chances for life.

Artist's conception of the Trappist-1 system (NASA)

Unlike on Earth, planets on red dwarf systems are often tidally locked, with the same side always pointing toward the star. That leads to extreme heating on one side and cooling on the other, but luckily, such planets zip around their stars quick enough to create a circulating atmosphere. That atmosphere can be enough to keep the planet at the right temperature for liquid water, while blocking it from evaporating into the stratosphere.

Using a new, advanced 3D atmospheric model, the NASA and Tokyo-based researchers simulated the atmospheric circulation on a planet in a hypothetical red dwarf system. "We found an important role for the type of radiation a star emits and the effect it has on the atmospheric circulation of an exoplanet in making the moist greenhouse state," Fujii said.

Until now, scientists figured that if a planet's surface was too warm, around 150 degrees F, it would create an ocean-destroying moist greenhouse state. However, the team found that on red dwarf, Trappist-1 type planets, that wasn't necessarily the case. If a star emitted enough near-infrared radiation, it could kick off a moist greenhouse effect, even at temperatures around those at the Earth's topics.

However the model showed that, surprisingly, if an exoplanet was closer to its parent star, the infrared heating would increase moisture in the atmosphere more gradually. That means that, contrary to findings from previous models, it could remain habitable.

If the study proves valid, it will help narrow down habitable exoplanet candidates. Scientists can first measure the radiation of a star, knowing that cooler stars emit more near-infrared radiation. Then, if possible, they could measure its planet's atmospheric composition using spectroscopic methods. Those methods mostly target a planet's stratosphere, so the presence of water -- unlike what you might think -- could be negative for life.

"As long as we know the temperature of the star, we can estimate whether planets close to their stars have the potential to be in the moist greenhouse state," said co-author Anthony Del Genio from NASA. "If there is enough water to be detected, it probably means that planet is in the moist greenhouse state." If so, the planet is likely shedding water quickly -- so the oceans, and any potential life in them, could be doomed.

Source: NASA, Arxiv


Newly-discovered lunar cave would be great for a moon base

Nothing quite captures the 2017 mood to leave Earth forever like dreaming about moon bases. Last month, space agencies from Russia and the US jointly announced plans to collaborate on such a satellite colony. But today's discovery might bring that vision closer to reality. Japan's space agency found a large cave underneath the lunar surface that seems like prime area for a human outpost.

Japan's Selenological and Engineering Explorer (Selene) probe discovered a 50-meter wide by 50-meter deep opening underneath the Marius Hills region using a radar system designed to peer underground. After more readings, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) surmised that the chasm was 50 km (31 miles) long by 100 meters wide, structurally sound and filled with rocks that might contain water. They theorize that it was a tube carved by lava during volcanic activity 3.5 billion years ago.

Lava tubes are well-suited for human settlements, Jaxa senior researcher Junichi Haruyama told The Guardian. The tubes "might be the best candidate sites for future lunar bases, because of their stable thermal conditions and potential to protect people and instruments from micrometeorites and cosmic ray radiation," Haruyama said. Their location underground also shields denizens from the surface's wild temperature swings and radiation from the sun's UV rays.

Source: The Guardian


The robots that will sweep Earth’s skies

After six years in space, China's first orbital station, the Tiangong-1 (aka the "Heavenly Palace") has finally outlived its operational limits and begun its descent back to Earth. It's expected to re-enter the atmosphere in a few months, whereupon a majority of the 9.3-ton station should burn up before reaching the surface. This is how defunct satellites are supposed to be disposed of. Unfortunately, until very recently, that hasn't often been the case.

For the past 50 years, we've been filling Low Earth Orbit with defunct satellites, launch vehicle upper stages, and various bits of broken spacecraft (including frozen water, coolant and paint flecks). Most of this comes from failed launches or spent experiments. In 1963, for example, the US military unloaded 480 million needle-sized antennas into orbit to see if they'd act as a crude radio reflector array. The idea was that radio signals from Earth would bounce up into the atmosphere and bounce back down off of them, enabling longer distance radio service. Though satellite communications have since made this technology obsolete, those antennas are still up there, just floating around waiting to go full-on Gravity with a passing satellite.

By the start of the 21st century, LEO had become increasingly crowded with satellites -- more than 7,000 have been launched since Sputnik first circled the globe -- though only 1,500 of them remain active. That number is expected to swell to more than 18,000 man-made objects in orbit in the coming decades as private industry begins sending up communications and observation satellites in addition to national governments. In fact, of the 98 launches that took place worldwide in 2016, nearly half carried private communications satellites.

Today, there are an estimated 20,000 pieces of debris bigger than a softball in Low Earth Orbit and another 50,000 the size of a marble. We're not sure how much junk smaller than that is in orbit -- it could be on the magnitude of tens of millions -- because we lack the technology to track them from the ground. This trend is sure to cause havoc if we don't start cleaning up after ourselves.

In some ways it already has. In 2007, China destroyed its Fengyun-1C weather satellite with a ballistic missile as a show of force to the international community. Doing so spread more than 3,000 pieces of debris throughout LEO. America's response a few months later, blew a defunct spy satellite to smithereens, though a majority of that debris field reportedly re-entered the atmosphere. Two years later, in 2009, a defunct Russian satellite crashed into an American Iridium satellite, spreading another 2,000 bits of space junk.

"It's a serious, serious challenge," Launchspace founder, Marshall Kaplan, told Space.com in 2013. "This is not a U.S. problem... it's everybody's problem. And most of the people that produced the debris, the serious offenders, like Russia, China, and the United States, are not going to spend that kind of money. It's just not a good investment."

"We've reached the point of no return," he continued. "The debris will continue to get worse in terms of collision threats... even if not another satellite were launched, the problem will continue to get worse."

This cascade of collisions is known as the Kessler Syndrome, named for former head of NASA's space debris program, Donald Kessler. He mathematically proved in the 1970s that there is a saturation point of how much stuff we can place into LEO. Once we reach that critical mass, the items in that orbit are sure to set off a massive collision cascade, even if we don't place any additional objects in that orbit. "If we're not at the critical mass, we're pretty close to it," Kessler told The Atlantic in 1998.

But it's not just our satellite communications that are in danger of being destroyed, all that space trash poses serious threats to manned missions as well. In 1983, a fleck of paint travelling at around 17,000 MPH, struck the windshield of the Challenger space shuttle and left a pea-sized pit. This happened with such startling regularity (read: literally during every mission) that NASA took to orbiting the shuttle upsidedown and backwards (relative to its direction of travel) so that the rockets would take the brunt of the impacts rather than the crew cabin.

The ISS isn't much better off. That 2009 collision between the Russian and American satellites forced the ISS crew to scramble for safety aboard the Soyuz spacecraft should a piece of debris blast through the station's hull.

Despite the dangers, there's plenty we can do to mitigate the damage that this debris does. The first step is to know what, and how much of it, we're dealing with. The Department of Defense has established the Space Surveillance Network to do just that. The SSN is able to track objects as small as 2 inches across at LEO and as small as 3 feet in geosynchronous orbit -- around 21,000 of them in total.

The system doesn't track each item continuously but rather uses a predictive method that calculates their orbital momentum so ground-based observers can "check in" with individual objects by pointing their telescopes to where and when the item should be overhead. All together, the DoD's array of sensors and telescopes, which are spread from Hawaii to Greenland to the Indian Ocean, observe around 80,000 satellites (and pieces thereof) every day.

Of course, simply knowing where these debris fields are doesn't alleviate the threat that they pose. We've got to come up with a means of inciting that space junk to fall back to the surface. And while nobody has managed to successfully deploy an orbital debris reclamation system yet, a number of space agencies are working on everything from magnetized wire lanyards and gigantic nets to "space brooms" and kamikaze robo-grapplers.

In 2012, NASA granted North Carolina-based Star Technology and Research $1.9 million to develop the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator (EDDE). This device, upon reaching orbit, would unfurl a 6-mile long tether which generates an attractive field as it moves through the Earth's magnetic field. When the EDDE encounters a piece of space junk it captures it in a large net and drops the ensnared garbage into a lower orbit where the thicker atmosphere pulls it out of orbit. This is essentially the same process that JAXA's Kounotori 6 spacecraft was attempting when a technical glitch caused that mission to fail earlier this year.

The European Space Agency has floated a similar idea except that in addition to, or even perhaps instead of, their orbital garbage truck would hunt its quarry using a tethered harpoon. It's part of the ESA's e.Deorbit mission which is scheduled to launch in 2021. The harpoon, which is being developed by Airbus Defense and Space, is just one of the proposed capture methods that will be tried during that mission.

Accurately piercing the hull of a defunct satellite using a space harpoon in microgravity is as technically challenging as it sounds. So rather than try to spear and reel in derelict objects, the startup Swiss Space Systems (S3), has devised a robotic grappler that clamps onto debris and drags it into the atmosphere. Dubbed the Clean Space One project, this 66-pound janitor satellite would be about the size of a breadbox. After being launched from the European Suborbital Reusable Shuttle in 2018, the CSO is tasked with tracking and capturing a non-operational Swisscube satellite, then dragging it back to Earth. The mission is expected to cost around $16 million.

One problem persistent debris capturing satellites like the ESA's e.Deorbit face is maintaining a steady supply of propellent. You don't want your janitor satellite to become another piece of debris simply because it ran out of power. Texas A&M University is working on a clever solution to that issue with the Space Sweeper with Sling-Sat (4S). This satellite would first capture a piece of debris then whip around, slinging the trash into the atmosphere while pushing itself into the path of its next target. By repeating this process, the 4S should be able to hop from one bit of trash to the next without having to expend an expensive and limited supply of fuel.

But what if we didn't need to send new robots into orbit to capture the olds ones? In 2011, Raytheon BBN Technologies and the University of Michigan teamed up to devise the Space Debris Elimination (SPaDE) system. Rather than rely on satellites, SPaDE would puff concentrated bursts of atmospheric gas into the paths of LEO debris. The added friction from these gasses should be sufficient to slow the debris down enough that it falls back to Earth. Unfortunately, the SPaDE project never got beyond the drawing board.

Then again, why even expend the effort to drag dead satellites into the atmosphere when you can simply repurpose their functional (albeit unpowered) pieces? That's what DARPA hopes to do with its Phoenix project. This system would rely on a new class of microsatellites, dubbed "satlets", which would seek out and affix themselves to dead satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

Each satlet would restore an essential satellite function (ie power, movement control or sensors) and share data, power and thermal management capabilities among themselves. By connecting these devices in different combinations, deactivated satellites could be resurrected and their operational lifespans drastically increased. DARPA expects to launch a demonstrator mission around 2020 and commercialize the technology shortly thereafter.

This mission could prove valuable for both the military and the commercial space industry, DARPA program Manager Gordon Roesler told Via Satellite in 2015, wherein a civilian firm would own and operate the satellites themselves and the military "could just pay a commercial operator for the service."

Despite the myriad capture options that these various systems offer, they all share one aspect in common: not one of them is ready to be put into service. It's not economically viable at this point to send up robots like the d.Deorbit to dispose of a single piece of space junk and likely won't be for years to come. What's more, the government may soon face a legal minefield in its cleanup efforts as more and more privately-owned satellites come to occupy and operate in LEO.

"Removal from orbit, collision avoidance, satellite servicing and repair, satellite recycling in orbit, debris storage locations, change to using a 'stable plane' at higher altitudes especially in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO)... are all possibilities," Donald Kessler told Space.com in 2013. "Some are mutually exclusive and may not be appropriate at all altitudes, while others could combine to be more effective."

"I believe it is time that the international community takes a serious look at the future of space operations," he concluded. "There's need to begin a process to answer these questions and determine which path will most effectively provide a sustainable environment for spacecraft in Earth orbit."


Bigelow Aerospace plans an inflatable habitat for lunar orbit

Bigelow Aerospace has been working on inflatable space habitats for a while now. The company sent a small inflatable unit to the ISS that added a small living area on the space station and it partnered with United Launch Alliance (ULA) last year on plans to launch its B330 module to Low Earth Orbit. Now, the company has just announced that it will continue the partnership and send another B330 inflatable habitat to Low Lunar Orbit by 2022.

This new module, about a third of the size of the ISS itself, is first set to launch to Low Earth Orbit via on a Vulcan 562 rocket that's currently in development by ULA. Once it's in orbit, Bigelow Aerospace plans to outfit the habitat and make sure all is working well. When it's ready, ULA will use two more Vulcan ACES rockets deployed in low earth orbit to push the B330 into low lunar orbit. The idea is to provide a platform for lunar business development as well as a place for NASA to train astronauts and launch longer-term exploration programs.

"We are excited to work with ULA on this lunar depot project," said Bigelow Aerospace's president, Robert Bigelow. "Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars. it will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term." Such a program could re-energize human interest in returning to the moon, too.

Source: United Launch Alliance


Explore (most of) the solar system in Google Maps

Google first added the moon and Mars to Google Maps back in 2014 to commemorate the Curiosity rover's second year exploring the red planet. Sure, you couldn't zoom down to Street View level, but it's the closest many of us will get to the celestial bodies. If that wasn't enough extraterrestrial fun, Google has answered your prayers: Mercury, Venus, Pluto and ten moons from other planets have been included in the roster.

Notably missing are the gas giants. Instead, users can venture around several moons from Jupiter and Saturn, including Enceladus where the recently-deceased probe Cassini discovered evidence of a global ocean. After you've ventured out to the edge of our solar system viewing the non-planet Pluto, make sure to take a walkthrough of the ISS on the way back, which Google Maps added in July.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Google


Safety is Elon Musk’s chief concern for new SpaceX rocket

Over the weekend, Elon Musk hosted a Reddit AMA as a follow-up to his presentation at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress. During that speech, Musk unveiled quite a few different ideas that will revolutionize space travel, from a new rocket called "BFR" (for "big fucking rocket") to a moon base and a trip to Mars by 2024. He took to r/space to answer questions about these many new ideas, and we've rounded up some of the most interesting answers from the AMA.

In response to a question asking what will be sent in the first missions to Mars, Musk responded that SpaceX's goal will be to transport colonists and make sure the basic necessities for survival were in place. He compared it to building the transcontinental railway. "A vast amount of industry will need to be built on Mars by many other companies and millions of people," Musk explained, which makes clear he's not planning on SpaceX colonizing Mars singlehandedly.

Musk addressed safety issues when it comes to using BFR for transportation around the Earth. SpaceX's goal is to reach (or even exceed) current levels of safety for passenger airlines. The focus of the Raptor engines is on reliability; they'll have a flak shield to protect them, as well as more engines than most airlines to ensure redundancy. "That will be especially important for point to point journeys on Earth," Musk said. "The advantage of getting somewhere in 30 mins by rocket instead of 15 hours by plane will be negatively affected if 'but also, you might die' is on the ticket.

Safety was also cited as the reason that the Raptor engines were downscaled from roughly 300 tons-force to 170 tons-force. After cheekily responding to a question addressing the downscaling with, "We chickened out," Musk cited the possibility of engine failure as the reason behind the decision. The ship's mass decreased between the previous IAC talk and this one; the engine downscaling is in proportion to that. "In order to be able to land the BF Ship with an engine failure at the worst possible moment, you have to have multiple engines," he explained "The difficulty of deep throttling an engine increases in a non-linear way, so 2:1 is fairly easy, but a deep 5:1 is very hard."

Musk also addressed his vision for a future city on Mars. The illustration provided shows ships that appear to have been used to construct the colony. One commenter asked whether that meant the first two spaceships would remain on Mars permanently as a part of the city. Musk's answer was succinct: "Wouldn't read too much into that illustration."

Another commenter asked about landing sites for the Mars base. Were the priorities on science or safety? As was a theme throughout this AMA, safety and survival are the paramount concerns. "Landing site needs to be low altitude to maximize aero braking, be close to ice for propellant production and not have giant boulders," he said. "Closer to the equator is better too for solar power production and not freezing your ass off."

If you're interested in technical specs and getting down into the nitty gritty, you should check out the full AMA for yourself. Musk answers quite a few detailed and well thought out questions (including a warning that the future design of the fuel tanker for the BFS will look "kinda weird.")

Via: The Verge

Source: Reddit


Astronomers just measured a whole lot more than gravitational waves

A couple of weeks ago, the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and Virgo teams announced the detection of another set of gravitational waves -- the fourth since LIGO's first detection in September of 2015. The observations of these ripples in spacetime are extraordinary in and of themselves, no matter how many times we record them. However, while the first three sets of gravitational waves recorded were by the two LIGO observatories, the fourth was also detected by a newly established third -- Virgo -- located in Italy. And having three detectors allows researchers to triangulate the source of those waves with extraordinary precision.

The importance of that precision was made clear today when the LIGO and Virgo teams announced a fifth gravitational wave detection, the source of which was able to be quickly located. This allowed dozens of other observatories to hone in on it and collect additional data including visual, X-ray, infrared, ultraviolet and radio wave recordings -- meaning researchers all around the world just collected, and are continuing to collect, a massive trove of information that has given us the most detailed look at a gravitational wave-generating event ever.

The previously recorded gravitational waves were caused by black holes merging many millions of light-years away. However, these new waves, recorded on August 17th, originated from the merging of two neutron stars -- very small but incredibly massive stars. They're what's left over after a massive star collapses and all of the protons and electrons get packed tightly together. They're around the size of a city, but 1.3 to 2.5 times the mass of our Sun. Just a teaspoon of a neutron star's matter can weigh more than one billion tons. The gravitational wave recordings indicated that this latest event was much closer than previous ones, around 130 million light-years from Earth.

Around the same time that LIGO and Virgo picked up the signal, a bright flash of gamma rays was detected by NASA's Fermi space telescope, and combined, those data allowed researchers to pinpoint which direction the waves were coming from. Armed with that knowledge, thousands of researchers around the world, manning more than 70 ground- and space-based observatories, were mobilized and all of them began collecting additional data from the neutron star merger. "This event has the most precise sky localization of all detected gravitational waves so far," Jo van den Brand, spokesperson for the Virgo collaboration, said in a statement. "This record precision enabled astronomers to perform follow-up observations that led to a plethora of breathtaking results."

This strategy, called multi-messenger astronomy, has been a goal of LIGO researchers from the very beginning because observing these sorts of events with gravitational waves and light at nearly the same time can provide far more detail than either can alone. "This detection opens the window of a long-awaited 'multi-messenger' astronomy," David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, said in a statement. "It's the first time that we've observed a cataclysmic astrophysical event in both gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves -- our cosmic messengers. Gravitational-wave astronomy offers new opportunities to understand the properties of neutron stars in ways that just can't be achieved with electromagnetic astronomy alone."

And the collection of data was truly a team effort. Once astronomers around the world were notified of the detection, the hunt began for the source. David Cook, a postdoc at Caltech, quickly made a list of 50 possible galaxies that could be hosting the neutron star merger. A few hours later the Swope Telescope located in Chile detected an optical signal that seemed to match the gravitational wave and gamma ray signals in a galaxy called NGC 4993. Shortly after that, the Gemini South telescope -- also in Chile -- detected an infrared signal from the same area.

So what have we learned from this event so far? Quite a lot actually, and more information is still being collected. The head of Caltech's astrophysical data analysis group for LIGO, Alan Weinstein, said, "The detection of gravitational waves from a binary neutron star merger is something that we have spent decades preparing for. On that morning, all of our dreams came true."

One major finding was that neutron stars give off gamma ray bursts when they merge, which had only been theorized before. But Fermi's initial recording, along with the confirmation from the European Space Agency's INTEGRAL gamma ray observatory, have finally provided researchers with solid evidence.

Secondly, a big question about where the heavy elements of our universe come from may have been answered. The lightest elements, hydrogen and helium, are thought to have been formed during the Big Bang while heavier elements from lithium up to iron are generated by stars. But where most of the other elements come from has been a bit of an unknown. That is, until now. Infrared observations from the likes of the Gemini Observatory, the European Very Large Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope showed that the neutron star merger produced those heavier elements. "For the very first time, we see unequivocal evidence of a cosmic mine that is forging about 10,000 earth-masses of heavy elements, such as gold, platinum and neodymium," said Mansi Kasliwal, leader of the Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen project, a collaboration made up of dozens of astronomers and 18 telescopes on six continents.

There were a handful of surprises, though. The gamma ray signals that spewed out of the merger were surprisingly weak. And, even a week after the gravitational wave detection, researchers still hadn't observed any X-rays or radio waves. X-rays were eventually detected by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory nine days after the merger. It took 16 days for the Very Large Array in New Mexico to pick up any radio waves. These delayed waves and wimpy gamma ray signals spurred Kasliwal and her colleagues to design an explanatory model wherein a pressurized cocoon-like structure forms during the merger that traps the waves.

While the radio waves may be the slowest to arrive, they stick around much longer than the others and bring with them a ton of information, which could include how much energy was in the explosion, how much mass was spewed out and whether the merger might have an impact on star formation. "The radio emission arrives last but persists much longer than emissions at other wavebands," said Caltech astronomer Gregg Hallinan. "Radio comes late, and it comes slow, but it brings amazing information about the cosmic cataclysm."

This event is the most intensively studied transient astronomical occurrence in history and it's hard to overstate just how important it is. It has not only provided scientists with far more data than they've ever had on such an event, it demonstrated just how wildly effective multi-messenger astronomy is. With a global web of observatories all focused on the same target, we stand to make substantial advances in our understanding of how the universe formed and continues to evolve. "The story that is unfolding for this event is more complete than for any previous event in astronomical history," said Hallinan in a statement. "This complete story -- both hearing and seeing the violent universe -- is the gift of multi-messenger astronomy," he continued. Laura Cadonati, a physics professor at Georgia Tech and the spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration said, "This detection has genuinely opened the doors to a new way of doing astrophysics. I expect it will be remembered as one of the most studied astrophysical events in history."

The data described today in a handful of papers published in Science and Physical Review Letters are just the beginning. Observatories around the world will be releasing more findings in the weeks and months to come and many will continue to observe the effects of the neutron star merger for months, even years. And this is just one event. "We even more eagerly anticipate the detection of gravitational waves from different kinds of known, extremely energetic astrophysical objects, like rapidly spinning pulsars, supernovae and neutron star quakes," said Weinstein, "and, especially, from heretofore unknown astrophysical objects." It is truly an astoundingly exciting time.

Images: LIGO-Virgo/Frank Elavsky/Northwestern (Stellar Masses); UC Santa Cruz and Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley (Swope Telescope Optical Image); LIGO-Virgo (Participating Observatories)


Tom DeLonge needs your help funding his next UFO obsession

Former Blink-182 singer and guitarist Tom DeLonge is taking his fascination with/conspiracy theories about UFOs to their logical conclusion point: He's partnering with former government officials on a public benefit corporation studying "exotic technologies" from Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) that the consortium says can "revolutionize the human experience."

To The Stars Academy says it strives to be a powerful vehicle for change and that its members will have the "freedom to explore exotic science and technologies with the infrastructure and resources to rapidly transition them to products that can change the world." Phew. The Academy will focus on three pillars: science, aerospace and entertainment.

For science, DeLonge and Co. want to study consciousness, brain-computer interfaces, UAPs and telepathy. That's in addition to a proposed human ultra-experience database that they hope will collect "supranormal experienced, with the goal of creating proprietary algorithms to find detailed patterns and correlate them with other academic research." Sure.

As far as the other pillars go, To the Stars wants to further develop the tech needed to launch small satellites into orbit using ground-based lasers. Entertainment includes plans to develop a feature film, further expand Delonge's Sekret Machines novel and move into animation and short films.

To The Stars is raising money via crowdfunding and currently has pulled in $265,605 from 535 investors.

"The public interest in the outer edges of science and the understanding of phenomena has always been suffocated by mainstream ideology and bureaucratic constraint," the pitch page says. "We believe there are transformative discoveries within our reach that will revolutionize the human experience, but they can only be accomplished through the unrestricted support of breakthrough research, discovery and innovation."

Sounds pretty normal right? Buckle up.

"The team members all share a common thread of frustration and determination to disrupt the status quo, wanting to use their expertise and credibility to bring transformative science and engineering out of the shadows and collaborate with global citizens to apply that knowledge in a way that benefits humanity. Without the restrictions of government priorities."

The bold text and italics are exactly how they appear on the fundraising page. The idea of unchecked science is a bit concerning. After all, we have BioShock to look to for evidence of how poorly that can go. I guess this is growing up?

Via: Rolling Stone

Source: To The Stars Academy