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Inquiries about the moon's twilight zone, and more reader feedback

Science News Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 1:00pm
Readers had questions about the moon's tidal locking, quantum communication, microneedles and more.
Categories: Science

As Cassini’s tour of Saturn draws to a close, a look back at postcards from the probe

Science News Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 12:45pm
As Cassini prepares to plunge to its death, we celebrate the spacecraft's discoveries and breathtaking images of Saturn, its rings and moons.
Categories: Science

Elon Musk Reveals New SpaceX Spacesuit

Universe Today Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 12:08pm

SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk made public the first official photo of the commercial space company’s spacesuit design with a post on Instagram today. He indicated he’ll have more details soon and said this first ‘reveal’ isn’t just a prototype design; it’s a real, working spacesuit.

“Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup)” Musk said. “Already tested to double vacuum pressure.”

First picture of SpaceX spacesuit. More in days to follow. Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup). Already tested to double vacuum pressure. Was incredibly hard to balance esthetics and function. Easy to do either separately.

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Aug 23, 2017 at 12:59am PDT

The person inside the suit – in what looks to be a computer generated photo – looks much like Musk himself, although the face is rather hard to make out.

Following the design of many previous spacesuits, it comes in white. Musk said in designing the suit, it was “incredibly hard to balance esthetics and function. Easy to do either separately.”

There has been some discussion on social media about the orientation of the flag, as it appears to many to be “backward.” However, this follows US military custom of flags on uniforms, positioned on the right shoulder in this same orientation, with stars facing forward. This gives the effect of the flag “flying in the breeze” as the person in the uniform/spacesuit moves forward.

These are the spacesuits that will be worn by the astronauts who make the first flights on the Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station as part of the commercial crew program. The target for the first humans aboard Dragon is next year, mid-2018.

If you are looking for a spacesuit that has a little more pop of color — as well as a heart-felt mission — NASA also held a special news conference from the International Space Station today revealing a colorful new spacesuit created by children around the world who are suffering from cancer.

Touched…what an inspiring project @spacesuitart is.These children are such an amazing example of the strength of humanity working together pic.twitter.com/6HfucuWoJc

— Jeremy R. Hansen (@Astro_Jeremy) August 23, 2017

The Space Suit Art Project is a collaboration between NASA, spacesuit maker ILC Dover and children in hospitals around the world. This suit, called Unity, is the third in a series of suits. The suits are made of colorful patches made by young cancer patients, giving the kids an opportunity to be part of a lasting and out-of-this-world project.

Astronaut Jack Fischer donned the special (non-functioning) spacesuit and said it was tricky to get into, just like a real spacesuit. But this suit, Fischer said, “gives you the honor to represent the bravest kids in the world, who put it together.” Fischer’s daughter Bethany, is a cancer survivor.

The post Elon Musk Reveals New SpaceX Spacesuit appeared first on Universe Today.

Categories: Science

Robot suit helps children with cerebral palsy to walk better

New Scientist Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 12:00pm
Half of children with cerebral palsy lose the ability to walk by adulthood. A new exoskeleton may improve their walking more than corrective surgery
Categories: Science

A pair of medical magnets shows promise as a new tool for creating an anastomosis

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:07am
An experimental device that employs a pair of magnets offers surgeons a new safe and simple alternative to standard methods for creating an anastomosis for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Categories: Science

Confederate submarine crew killed by their own weapon

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:07am
A powerful shockwave from the H.L. Hunley's own weapon killed the crew of the Confederate combat submarine as it sunk a Union ship. This finding comes from a four-year research project that involved repeatedly setting blasts near a scale model, shooting authentic weapons at historically accurate iron plate and many calculations on human respiration and the transmission of blast energy.
Categories: Science

NASA insists it is going to Mars, but it really can’t afford to

New Scientist Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:00am
The long-held desire to send humans to the Red Planet is nowhere near being realised, despite NASA claiming it is on a Journey to Mars
Categories: Science

IBM to investigate role of microbiome in autoimmune disorders

New Scientist Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:00am
A project launched by tech firm IBM plans to analyse millions of bacterial genes, in an effort to understand what causes type 1 diabetes and Crohn's disease
Categories: Science

Google-sponsored private moon race delayed for the third time

New Scientist Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:00am
Competitors in the Google Lunar X Prize now have until 31 March 2018 to land a spacecraft on the moon
Categories: Science

Icy hard drives cram 5300 movies onto a postage stamp

New Scientist Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:00am
Tiny molecular hard drives offer a cool way to put all your old Gmail and Facebook photos on ice
Categories: Science

Hallelujah, It’s Raining Diamonds! Just like the Insides of Uranus and Neptune.

Universe Today Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:43am

For more than three decades, the internal structure and evolution of Uranus and Neptune has been a subject of debate among scientists. Given their distance from Earth and the fact that only a few robotic spacecraft have studied them directly, what goes on inside these ice giants is still something of a mystery. In lieu of direct evidence, scientists have relied on models and experiments to replicate the conditions in their interiors.

For instance, it has been theorized that within Uranus and Neptune, the extreme pressure conditions squeeze hydrogen and carbon into diamonds, which then sink down into the interior. Thanks to an experiment conducted by an international team of scientists, this “diamond rain” was recreated under laboratory conditions for the first time, giving us the first glimpse into what things could be like inside ice giants.

The study which details this experiment, titled “Formation of Diamonds in Laser-Compressed Hydrocarbons at Planetary Interior Conditions“, recently appeared in the journal Nature Astronomy. Led by Dr. Dominik Kraus, a physicist from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf Institute of Radiation Physics, the team included members from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC Berkeley.

Uranus and Neptune, the Solar System’s ice giant planets. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

For decades, scientists have held that the interiors of planets like Uranus and Neptune consist of solid cores surrounded by a dense concentrations of “ices”. In this case, ice refers to hydrogen molecules connected to lighter elements (i.e. as carbon, oxygen and/or nitrogen) to create compounds like water and ammonia. Under extreme pressure conditions, these compounds become semi-solid, forming “slush”.

And at roughly 10,000 kilometers (6214 mi) beneath the surface of these planets, the compression of hydrocarbons is thought to create diamonds. To recreate these conditions, the international team subjected a sample of polystyrene plastic to two shock waves using an intense optical laser at the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument, which they then paired with x-ray pulses from the SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS).

As Dr. Kraus, the head of a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group at HZDR, explained in an HZDR press release:

“So far, no one has been able to directly observe these sparkling showers in an experimental setting. In our experiment, we exposed a special kind of plastic – polystyrene, which also consists of a mix of carbon and hydrogen – to conditions similar to those inside Neptune or Uranus.”

The plastic in this experiment simulated compounds formed from methane, a molecule that consists of one carbon atom bound to four hydrogen atoms. It is the presence of this compound that gives both Uranus and Neptune their distinct blue coloring. In the intermediate layers of these planets, it also forms hydrocarbon chains that are compressed into diamonds that could be millions of karats in weight.

The MEC hutch of SLAC’s LCLS Far Experiement Hall. Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The optical laser the team employed created two shock waves which accurately simulated the temperature and pressure conditions at the intermediate layers of Uranus and Neptune. The first shock was smaller and slower, and was then overtaken by the stronger second shock. When they overlapped, the pressure peaked and tiny diamonds began to form. At this point, the team probed the reactions with x-ray pulses from the LCLS.

This technique, known as x-ray diffraction, allowed the team to see the small diamonds form in real-time, which was necessary since a reaction of this kind can only last for fractions of a second. As Siegfried Glenzer, a professor of photon science at SLAC and a co-author of the paper, explained:

“For this experiment, we had LCLS, the brightest X-ray source in the world. You need these intense, fast pulses of X-rays to unambiguously see the structure of these diamonds, because they are only formed in the laboratory for such a very short time.”

In the end, the research team found that nearly every carbon atom in the original plastic sample was incorporated into small diamond structures. While they measured just a few nanometers in diameter, the team predicts that on Uranus and Neptune, the diamonds would be much larger. Over time, they speculate that these could sink into the planets’ atmospheres and form a layer of diamond around the core.

The interior structure of Neptune. Credit: Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

In previous studies, attempts to recreate the conditions in Uranus and Neptune’s interior met with limited success. While they showed results that indicated the formation of graphite and diamonds, the teams conducting them could not capture the measurements in real-time. As noted, the extreme temperatures and pressures that exist within gas/ice giants can only be simulated in a laboratory for very short periods of time.

However, thanks to LCLS – which creates X-ray pulses a billion times brighter than previous instruments and fires them at a rate of about 120 pulses per second (each one lasting just quadrillionths of a second) – the science team was able to directly measure the chemical reaction for the first time. In the end, these results are of particular significance to planetary scientists who specialize in the study of how planets form and evolve.

As Kraus explained, it could cause to rethink the relationship between a planet’s mass and its radius, and lead to new models of planet classification:

“With planets, the relationship between mass and radius can tell scientists quite a bit about the chemistry. And the chemistry that happens in the interior can provide additional information about some of the defining features of the planet… We can’t go inside the planets and look at them, so these laboratory experiments complement satellite and telescope observations.”

This experiment also opens new possibilities for matter compression and the creation of synthetic materials. Nanodiamonds currently have many commercial applications – i.e. medicine, electronics, scientific equipment, etc, – and creating them with lasers would be far more cost-effective and safe than current methods (which involve explosives).

Fusion research, which also relies on creating extreme pressure and temperature conditions to generate abundant energy, could also benefit from this experiment. On top of that, the results of this study offer a tantalizing hint at what the cores of massive planets look like. In addition to being composed of silicate rock and metals, ice giants may also have a diamond layer at their core-mantle boundary.

Assuming we can create probes of sufficiently strong super-materials someday, wouldn’t that be worth looking into?

Further Reading: SLAC, HZDR, Nature Astronomy

 

The post Hallelujah, It’s Raining Diamonds! Just like the Insides of Uranus and Neptune. appeared first on Universe Today.

Categories: Science

Black holes: Scientists 'excited' by observations suggesting formation scenarios

Space and time from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:12am
Physicists have described how observations of gravitational waves limit the possible explanations for the formation of black holes outside of our galaxy; either they are spinning more slowly than black holes in our own galaxy or they spin rapidly but are 'tumbled around' with spins randomly oriented to their orbit.
Categories: Science

Major leap towards data storage at the molecular level

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:12am
Scientists have now demonstrated that storing data with a class of molecules known as single-molecule magnets is more feasible than previously thought.
Categories: Science

Major leap towards data storage at the molecular level

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:12am
Scientists have now demonstrated that storing data with a class of molecules known as single-molecule magnets is more feasible than previously thought.
Categories: Science

'Nano-hashtags' could provide definite proof of Majorana particles

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:12am
An advanced quantum chip will be able to provide definitive proof of the mysterious Majorana particles and a crucial step towards their use as a building block for future quantum computers, say researchers.
Categories: Science

'Nano-hashtags' could provide definite proof of Majorana particles

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:12am
An advanced quantum chip will be able to provide definitive proof of the mysterious Majorana particles and a crucial step towards their use as a building block for future quantum computers, say researchers.
Categories: Science

First X-rays detected from mystery supernovas

Space and time from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:12am
Scientists appear to have found the first X-rays coming from type Ia supernovae.
Categories: Science

'Dragonfly’ dual-quadcopter aims to explore Titan, Saturn’s largest moon

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 9:21am
The Dragonfly mission concept would use an instrumented, radioisotope-powered, dual-quadcopter to explore Saturn's largest moon, Titan, one of our solar system’s “ocean worlds.”
Categories: Science

'Dragonfly’ dual-quadcopter aims to explore Titan, Saturn’s largest moon

Space and time from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 9:21am
The Dragonfly mission concept would use an instrumented, radioisotope-powered, dual-quadcopter to explore Saturn's largest moon, Titan, one of our solar system’s “ocean worlds.”
Categories: Science

Chemists get step closer to replicating nature with assembly of new 3-D structures

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 9:13am
Chemists have created a series of three-dimensional structures that take a step closer to resembling those found in nature.
Categories: Science

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