Technical

NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit around mighty Jupiter

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After an almost five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn. Confirmation that the burn had completed was received on Earth at 8:53 pm. PDT (11:53 p.m. EDT) Monday, July 4.

“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

Confirmation of a successful orbit insertion was received from Juno tracking data monitored at the navigation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, as well as at the Lockheed Martin Juno operations center in Denver. The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.

“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the Fourth of July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.”

Preplanned events leading up to the orbital insertion engine burn included changing the spacecraft’s attitude to point the main engine in the desired direction and then increasing the spacecraft’s rotation rate from 2 to 5 revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it..

The burn of Juno’s 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine began on time at 8:18 p.m. PDT (11:18 p.m. EDT), decreasing the spacecraft’s velocity by 1,212 mph (542 meters per second) and allowing Juno to be captured in orbit around Jupiter. Soon after the burn was completed, Juno turned so that the sun’s rays could once again reach the 18,698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy.

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team members the mission they are looking for.”

Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments and some science collection.

“Our official science collection phase begins in October, but we’ve figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that,” said Bolton. “Which when you’re talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here.”

Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. With its suite of nine science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras. The mission also will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.

The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. JPL manages the Juno mission for NASA. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

First fossil facial tumor discovered in a dwarf duck-billed dinosaur from Transylvania

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160705092005_1_540x360The first-ever record of a tumourous facial swelling found in a fossil has been discovered in the jaw of the dwarf dinosaur Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus, a type of primitive duck-billed dinosaur known as a hadrosaur.

An international group of researchers, including Kate Acheson, a PhD student at the University of Southampton, have documented a type of non-cancerous facial tumour, which is found in humans, mammals and some modern reptiles, but never before encountered in fossil animals.

Kate said: “This discovery is the first ever described in the fossil record and the first to be thoroughly documented in a dwarf dinosaur. Telmatosaurus is known to be close to the root of the duck-billed dinosaur family tree, and the presence of such a deformity early in their evolution provides us with further evidence that the duck-billed dinosaurs were more prone to tumours than other dinosaurs.”

The hadrosaur fossil, estimated to be approximately 69-67 million years old, was discovered in the ‘Valley of the Dinosaurs’ in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Haţeg County Dinosaurs Geopark in Transylvania, western Romania.

“It was obvious that the fossil was deformed when it was found more than a decade ago but what caused the outgrowth remained unclear until now,” says Dr Zoltán Csiki-Sava of the University of Bucharest, Romania, who led the field trip which uncovered the fossil. “In order to investigate the outgrowth, our team was invited by SCANCO Medical AG in Switzerland to use their Micro-CT scanning facilities and to ‘peek’ un-intrusively inside the peculiar Telmatosaurus jawbone.”

The scans suggested that the dinosaur suffered from a condition known as an ‘ameloblastoma’, a tumourous, benign, non-cancerous growth known to afflict the jaws of humans and other mammals, and indeed some modern reptiles, too.

Dr Bruce Rothschild, from the Northeast Ohio Medical University and a worldwide expert in palaeopathology (the study of ancient diseases and injuries) who studied the Micro-CT scans, said: “The discovery of an ameloblastoma in a duck-billed dinosaur documents that we have more in common with dinosaurs than previously realised. We get the same neoplasias.”

“It was expected, due to the impoverished nature of the fauna, that our project to investigate diseases of the bone in the dwarf dinosaurs of the Haţeg County Dinosaurs Geopark would reveal some interesting results, but the discovery of a rare modern tumoural condition, and one that is so far unique in the fossil record, was a wonderful surprise,” explained Mihai Dumbravă, PhD student at Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania and lead author of the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

It is unlikely that the tumour caused the dinosaur any serious pain during its early stages of development, just as in humans with the same condition, but researchers can tell from its size that this particular dinosaur died before it reached adulthood. Since its preserved remains consist of only the two lower jaws, no one can ascertain its cause of death. The researchers were left wondering, nonetheless, whether the presence of the ameloblastoma could have contributed to its death.

“We know from modern examples that predators often attack a member of the herd that looks a little different or is even slightly disabled by a disease. The tumour in this dinosaur had not developed to its full extent at the moment it died, but it could have indirectly contributed to its early demise,” said Dr Zoltán Csiki-Sava.

“The particular make-up of the rocks allowed us to identify that this fossil was preserved near the channel of an ancient river. In a setting like this, it is extremely rare to find the complete specimen, and so it is almost impossible to determine the specific cause of death. One can only make an informed guess based upon the evidence we have,” added Kate Acheson.

New technology to help better detect gravitational waves

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Scientists have developed a new technology that will make the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) even more sensitive to faint ripples in space-time called gravitational waves.

Researchers at Advanced LIGO announced the first-ever observation of gravitational waves earlier this year, a century after Albert Einstein predicted their existence in his general theory of relativity.

Studying gravitational waves can unveil important information about cataclysmic astrophysical events involving black holes and neutron stars.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and Australian National University worked on improving what is called a squeezed vacuum source.

Although not part of the original Advanced LIGO design, injecting the new squeezed vacuum source into the LIGO detector could help double its sensitivity, researchers said.

This would allow detection of gravitational waves that are far weaker or that originate from farther away than is possible now.

For millennia, people have used light as a way of viewing the universe. Telescopes magnify what is visible with the naked eye, and newer telescopes use non-visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to provide a picture of the universe surrounding us.

“There are many processes in the universe that are inherently dark; they dont give off light of any colour,” said Nergis Mavalvala, part of the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research team.

“Since many of those processes involve gravity, we want to observe the universe using gravity as a messenger,” she said.

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology and MIT conceived, built and operate identical Advanced LIGO detectors in Louisiana and Washington in the US.

Each observatory uses a 4-kilometre long optical device known as an interferometer to detect gravitational waves coming from distant events, such as the collision of two black holes detected last year.

Laser light travelling back and forth in the interferometers two arms is used to monitor the distance between mirrors at each arms end.

Gravitational waves will cause a slight, but detectable variation in the distance between the mirrors. Both detectors must detect the variation to confirm that gravitational waves, not seismic activity or other terrestrial effects, caused the distance between mirrors to change.

The researchers are planning to add their new squeezed vacuum source to Advanced LIGO in the next year or so.

Once implemented, it will improve the sensitivity of the gravitational detectors, particularly at the higher frequencies important for understanding the composition of neutron stars.

These extremely dense stars contain the mass of the Sun, which has a radius of 700,000 kilometres, within just a 10-kilometre diameter.

Multifunction antenna: Wi-Fi, GPS, bluetooth, 3G/4G LTE and WiGig in one unit

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wifi_3d50d5e8-3ae1-11e6-a032-be579840a028In a first, a British technology start-up has invented a multi-function antenna for laptops that combines Wi-Fi, GPS, bluetooth, 3G/4G LTE and WiGig — multi-gigabit per second wireless speed — in one unit.

Developed by scientists from University of Birmingham, the new SAT antenna fits into the extremely limited space of the hinge cavity and replaces as many as five separate antennas found in a standard laptop.

Sampson Hu, who founded SAT in 2013, said that conventional antennas cannot be located immediately next to each other because of signal interference which leads to reduced performance.

“Within the current laptop, the antennas for Wi-Fi or a mobile signal need to be separate so there is no interference of frequencies. If the laptop has a metal casing then it is impossible to embed an antenna on the top of laptop screen or motherboard and the antenna must sit in the hinge cavity,” Hu said in a university statement.

However, the hinge cavity is a very limited space in which laptop manufactures can only fit two conventional antennas, one for Wi-Fi and one for 3G/4G LTE. If conventional antennas are brought so close together interference degrades efficiency and increases battery usage, Hu added.

Hu also noted that if a laptop has metallic covers, there is no other space to locate the second conventional Wi-Fi antenna and 3G/4G LTE antennas to support Multi-Input-Multi-Output (MIMO) function to provide enhanced data download rates.

“That is the problem we have overcome with our integrated MIMO antenna system. All the antennas are combined together as one single system,” Hu said.

Voice Bridge puts your landline inside your cell phone

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indexAre people still using landlines?

Before I start telling you about this new gadget, let’s have a moment of silence for the landline phone number.

Okay great, thanks for participating. Now for a gadget. Invoxia, the company behind the Triby, wants you to not only remember the landline, but use one, too. Its new Voice Bridge product connects your landline phone to Wi-Fi so that phone calls can be forwarded to your smartphone or tablet. Voice Bridge essentially turns your smartphone into a second interface for your landline and allows it to act more like your cell number.

It goes the other way, too; users can make landline calls from their smartphone, but those calls will use up data unless you’re on Wi-Fi. All actions are carried out through Voice Bridge’s companion iOS app, which passes landline phone calls along and displays them on a smartphone. Those calls also go through a cell phone’s caller ID and stored contacts, so users can see who’s calling. As far as setup, Voice Bridge needs to be hooked into the phone line, as well as a user’s router, but overall it isn’t too arduous.

guess my main question is: who still uses a landline? I imagine the Voice Bridge caters to office workers with a specific work line, but even those seem to be going away with company-issued cell phones. Maybe if this really does save on minutes, which most people don’t use anyway, it could be worth just investing in a landline and foregoing a major wireless plan. Or maybe if someone has a popular landline number this could fuse those numbers together on one device.