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From The Editors Science

Misconceptions About Winter and Solstices

Let’s first discuss solstice in general and the different types of solstices and why and when they occur before we talk about the common misconceptions of people with regards to winter and summer solstices.

In any case, the following explanation should clear any misconceptions of Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice.

Winter Solstice Dawn 2016
Winter Solstice Dawn 2016

A solstice occurs twice a year on June 21 and December 21 with a minimal margin of change in date of these astronomical events experienced on our planet.

The June 21 Solstice and the December 21 Solstice are also referred to as the Summer Solstice or Winter solstice and here is where the misconceptions are.

Now, in relation to the earth’s hemispheres, the June Solstice will be Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

On the other hand, the December Solstice will be called Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

To make it even simpler, the June and December solstices can either be Summer or Winter Solstices for you depending on which hemisphere you are on.

Theoretically speaking, if a person wants to avoid the Winter Solstice all his life, he has to be in the Southern Hemisphere on December 21 and in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21, and, of course, vice verca.

The common understanding of Winter Solstice, another misconception, is that it has the least amount of daylight.

The actual fact is that today’s solstice will see the shortest day of the year and hence, the longest night of the year – in the Northern Hemisphere, of course.

It will be the opposite today in the Southern Hemisphere.

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From The Editors Science

NASA and Stephen Hawking Combine to Make the Nano-Starship

NASA and Stephen Hawking certainly believe so and have combined forces to construct a nano-spacecraft, or the “Starchip,” that has the potential to reach our nearest neighbours, in terms of solar systems, in a possible twenty years.

It may have caused a stir among scientists especially those who are into space research, like astronomers and astrophysicists, when in April 2016, Stephan Hawking announced that it was possible to explore the celestial space with nano craft technology on spacecraft, not bigger than a postage stamp, which can travel at one-fifth the speed of light.

It all started with the getting together of mind and money, when in April, 2016, one of the greatest minds, if not the greatest, Stephen Hawkings and the Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner, who is well known for his contributions in different fields of science and technology, announced their pioneering technology of reaching the nearest solar system in around 20 years, give or take a couple of years.

Science philanthropist Yuri Milner, left, and cosmologist Stephen Hawking announced $100 million in funding
Science philanthropist Yuri Milner, and cosmologist Stephen Hawking announced $100 million in funding

With the technology currently available to us, a mission to the nearest solar system Alpha Centauri, twenty-five trillion miles (4.37 light-years) from the Earth, would take a minimum of thirty thousand years – not a promising or realistic option by any means.

This is, evidently, why it has created such an interest in the subject not only in the scientific community but also among people who are followers of progress made in space exploration.

Mr Hawking, please refer to https://timelybuzz.com/stephen-hawkings-advice-to-the-world/ for more on and from him, along with his team at the Korea Institute of Science are working to overcome the yet unsolved issues of the idea, and this where NASA has joined forces as they have the expertise and wherewithal to see the project through.

Talking about impediments and hurdles, reportedly, the priority is on high-intensity radiation in space which can damage the craft and make it dysfunctional.

At the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco held from December 3 to December 7 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, NASA advice on the project was:

* Re-align the path of the flight so that it can traverse in a way that will avoid the high radiation areas in space. The downside of this proposal, though, is that it may add years to the travel time and the disintegration may still happen.

* NASA’s second proposed solution was to add protective material or ‘shielding’ on the electronics. Again, the flipside to this suggestion is that it would add to the weight of the craft thereby causing considerable reduction in the speed – beating the main purpose of the technology.

* NASA’s third proposal was a self-repairing chip, a technology which has been around for some time. According to one of NASA team members, Jin-Woo Han ,“On-chip healing has been around for many, many years,”

However, there are impediments to surmount and work is continuing to make this a reality – the quest for the search of intelligent life in the universe continues!

“The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars,” Mr Hawking said in April. “But now we can transcend it. With light beams, light sails, and the lightest spacecraft ever built, we can launch a mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation.

“Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos because we are human, and our nature is to fly.”

One can only but imagine and wonder what the possibilities would be if we were ever to conquer the speed of light!

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From The Editors Science

Breakthrough in Night Vision Technology by Australian Scientists

The Australian National University (ANU) Scientists have made a pioneering breakthrough by creating a nanocrystal supposed to be 500 times smaller than the human hair and has shown the ability to convert darkness into visible light, is the simplest way to describe the discovery that involved fifteen years of research.

The discovery may be in its fledgling stage but has the potential to revolutionize night time vision technology, in that, they can replace the cumbersome and rather bulky night vision Goggles, in use currently, into a regular set of glasses in addition to its capacity for other uses as well.

According to Professor Dragomir Neshev of the ANU, “The nanocrystals are so small they could be fitted to normal eyeglasses to enable night vision.”

What this, basically, means is that the nanocrystal can be incorporated into your normal prescribed glasses, or even zero-power lenses, by simply adding it as an extremely thin layer over the glasses enabling night vision.

The professor added, “This tiny device could have other exciting uses including bank notes, imaging cells for medical applications and holograms”.

So, what exactly is a nanocrystal? Scientifically accepted as a material particle with a minimum of one dimension smaller than 100 nanometers, a ‘nanoparticle’ is made up of atoms in a single or poly-crystalline arrangement according to Wikipedia’s explanation.

Researchers at ANU have developed a nanocrystal that could allow for night vision technology to be applied to a conventional pair of glasses(Credit:Stuart Hay, ANU)
Researchers at ANU have developed a nanocrystal that could allow for night vision technology to be applied to a conventional pair of glasses.(Credit:Stuart Hay, ANU)

Co-researcher Dr. Mohsen Rahmani who happens to be the recipient of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award based at the Australia National University (ANU) Research School of Physics and Engineering says, “These semiconductor nanocrystals can transfer the highest intensity of light and engineer complex light beams that could be used with a laser to project a holographic image in modern displays,”

The basic concept, which took 15 years of research work to prove, that the new nanocrystal has the ability to change the light in three important and possible ways: the intensity of light, the shape of light, and the color of light. What this means is, with the combination of the three, very low levels of light like night time and dark places can be converted into visibility.

“This is the first time anyone has been able to achieve this feat because growing a nano semiconductor on a transparent material is very difficult,” said Ms. Camacho-Morales from the Nonlinear Physics Centre at ANU.

The Night Vision Device (NVD), which is currently in use, is a complex process which enables visibility in levels of light near total darkness. The image produced is typically monochrome, e.g. shades of green. NVDs are most often used by the military and law enforcement agencies but are available to civilian users as well.

Night Vision Devices (NVDs) comes as a unit complete with an image intensifier tube, a protective water resistant covering or ‘housing’ and a mounting system. Other components that come along with the NVD unit include optical apparatus like a ‘sacrificial lens’ or telescopic lenses. It may also come with an Infra Red illuminator which will make it an active instead of a passive night vision device (NVD).

However, all this may change with the new ANU discovery, which is still very much at its nascent stage, hopefully not in the too distant future especially its application in the medical field.

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From The Editors Science

John Glenn, First American to Orbit the Earth, Dies at 95

Not only did John Glenn hold the record of being the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, he was also the oldest man ever in space at the age of 77 when he made his second flight into space in 1998. After his famous endeavor as an astronaut, he went on to join politics and served his country for over two and a half decades as a senator from his home state of Ohio from 1974-1999.

He was hospitalized at the Ohio State University James Cancer Center since last week and was declared dead on December 8, 2016. He had been struggling with health issues ever since he suffered a stroke a few years ago. His death was confirmed on Thursday by the communications director of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at the Ohio State University, Hank Wilson.

“We are saddened by the loss of Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. A true American hero. Godspeed, John Glenn. Ad Astra,” NASA wrote on Twitter. [John Glenn: An American Hero’s Greatest Moments], paying tribute to the famous astronaut and a long serving senator.

President Obama awarded Glenn with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012
President Obama awarded Glenn with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012

President Barak Obama paid his respects saying, “with courage and a spirit of discovery there’s no limit to the heights we can reach together.” The president added “John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers, and astronauts. … On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “Senator Glenn’s legacy is one of risk and accomplishment, of history, created and duty to country carried out under great pressure with the whole world watching. The entire NASA Family will be forever grateful for his outstanding service, commitment, and friendship.”

Here’s a brief history of his life and achievements:

Born: July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio

Died: December 8, 2016

Father: John Herschel Glenn, Sr. (1895–1966)

Mother: Clara Teresa Glenn (1897–1971)

Education: Graduated from New Concord High School in 1939, studied Engineering at Muskingum College – although he could not complete the requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree, he was granted the degree in 1962 after becoming famous as an astronaut.

Military Service:
* After the Pearl Harbor attack, John Glenn left college to join the U.S. Army Air Corps though he was not called for duty during his enlistment in the Air Corps.

* In 1942 he enlisted as a United States Navy aviation cadet.

* In 1943 he completed his training and was assigned to Marine Squadron VMJ-353

* He was later transferred to VMF-155 as an F4U Corsair fighter pilot where he flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific.

* He was assigned to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and was promoted to captain shortly before the war ended.

* During the Korean war, Glenn flew the then new F9F Panther jet interceptor in 63 combat missions

For his services in two wars, which included a combined 149 combat missions, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on six occasions and the Air Medal with eighteen award stars.

Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962
John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962

NASA Career:
* In 1959 Glenn he was assigned to the NASA Space Task Group

* On February 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth three times during a flight lasting nearly 5 hours on board the Friendship 7 on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission.

* As the first American in orbit, Glenn became a national hero, met President Kennedy, and received a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

On February 23, 1962, he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by President Kennedy at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.

His initial entry into a career in politics was a series of ups and downs and setbacks; however, he served as senator for 3 terms from his home state of Ohio which ended in 1999.

Despite numerous achievements, awards and medals he will be most remembered as the first American to orbit the Earth and the oldest man in space, a record which is still intact.

Late John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) served his country in many a capacity with great honor and dignity and has left a legacy for future generations to derive inspiration from. John Glenn’s service and contributions to his country is nothing short of remarkable and his name will go down in history in golden letters.

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From The Editors Science

Breakthrough Prize – The Oscar Awards of Science

The annual Breakthrough Prize televised ceremony was held on December 4, 2016, the fifth since its inception in 2012 by the Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner and his wife Julia in 2012 with the purpose of annually rewarding theoretical physicists for outstanding scientific achievements.

However, as more patrons kept joining the great cause of honoring groundbreaking scientific contributions, the award was not restricted to just theoretical physics. The Breakthrough Awards now honors three disciplines in science namely, Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics.

Actor Vin Diesel (left) and Breakthrough prize co-founder Mark Zuckerberg during the 2017 Breakthrough prize ceremony at Nasa Ames Research Center. Photograph: Kimberly White/Getty Images
Actor Vin Diesel and Mark Zuckerberg during the 2017 Breakthrough prize ceremony at Nasa Ames Research Center. Credit: Kimberly White/Getty Images

As of now, the patrons, or rather the major contributors, of the annual “Breakthrough Prize” events are Russian billionaire and investor Yuri Milner & his wife Julia Milner, Google’s Sergey Brin & biotech firm 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma and his wife Cathy Zhang.

The nomination for each discipline is done in the most transparent manner possible. The candidates for the nomination are chosen through an online public voting system and the final award recipients are chosen from among these nominees by committees of previous laureates.

The laureates receive a cash reward of $3 million each in prize money along with a trophy created by the artist Olafur Eliasson – the sculpture is, arguably, the perfect amalgamation of art and science to form a “toroid” – a doughnut-shaped trophy.

The fifth Breakthrough Prize ceremony (2017) held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California was hosted by the Hollywood thespian, Morgan Freeman, and had all the trimmings, glitz, and glamour of an Oscar Award including the red carpet, performance by Alicia Keys and presentations from Daniel Ek (CEO of Spotify), Jeremy Irons, Mark and Scott Kelly, Hiroshi Mikitani (CEO of Rakuten), Sienna Miller, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vin Diesel, Kevin Durant, Dev Patel, Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Alex Rodriguez, Will.i.am, Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) and the founders of the Breakthrough Prize including Mark Zuckerberg.

This year’s Breakthrough Prize ceremony witnessed a total of 15 prizes bestowed upon scientists and researchers including 6 prizes of $100,000 each called the New Horizons Prizes for early career accomplishments, and one $250,000 Breakthrough Junior Prize.

Winners of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize awards in Mountain View, Calif., on Sunday evening. Credit Steve Jennings/Getty Images
Winners of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize awards in Mountain View, Calif, on Sunday evening. Credit: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Here is a breakup of the 15 prizes awarded this year:

Life Sciences: 5 prizes of $ 3 million and a trophy each were awarded under this particular discipline and the recipients were:

Stephen Elledge, an American geneticist at Harvard Medical School, for providing insights into the life and death of cells as well as the development and treatment of cancer.

Harry Noller, an American biochemist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for revealing the structure of ribosomes, which are the protein factories inside cells.

Roeland Nusse, a Dutch biologist at Stanford University, for studying intercellular signaling systems involved in development, cancer, and stem cell biology.

Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, for studying how cells recycle their damaged parts.

Huda Zoghbi, a Lebanese medical researcher at Baylor College, for discovering the genetic causes of certain niche neurological diseases.

Fundamental Physics: 1 prize of $3 million shared equally between three laureates under this discipline.

Joseph Polchinski, an American theoretical physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.

Andrew Strominger, an American theoretical physicist at Harvard University, for advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.

Cumrun Vafa, an Iranian-American string theorist at Harvard University, for advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.

Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics: The three laureates mentioned below will share $1 million equally, while $ 2 million will be divided among their 1,012 members of their research group.

Ronald Drever, a Scottish-American experimental physicist at Caltech, for co-leading the LIGO project, which observed gravitational waves.

Kip Thorne, an American theoretical physicist at Caltech, for co-leading the LIGO project, which observed gravitational waves.

Rainer Weiss, an American physicist at MIT, for co-leading the LIGO project, which observed gravitational waves.

Mathematics: 1 prize of $3 million awarded to below-mentioned laureate:

Jean Bourgain, a Belgian mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study, for contributions to the fields of high-dimensional geometry, partial differential equations, number theory, and other specialized areas of mathematics.

Breakthrough Junior Challenge:
A final prize, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, honors students with an “original science video [that] brings to life an important scientific or mathematical idea or principle,” to the tune of $250,000, with additional prize money for their teachers and school.

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From The Editors Science

State of the Art Weather Satellite – GEOS-R Launched

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R), the first in a series of four advanced satellites, was successfully launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2342 GMT atop an unmanned United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The NASA and NOAA collaboration is being managed by the NOAA team with an integrated NOAA-NASA program office organization. The satellite is designed and programmed to relay timely and accurate weather forecasts for the North American Continent, set to benefit forecasters by beaming pictures “like they’ve never seen before.”

An artist's impression of the NASA GOES-R weather satellite
An artist’s capture of the NASA GOES-R weather satellite

According to NOAA program director Greg Mandt, and in the process save lives, benefit airlines, weather forecasters and rocket launch teams. It is expected to inform accurately and well in time, weather forecasts and warnings of natural disasters including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, flash floods and other harsh weather conditions.

“Without a doubt, GOES-R will revolutionize weather forecasting as we know it,” Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Services division, said during a pre-launch news conference on Thursday.

Dozens of TV meteorologists had assembled at the launch site; Al Roker, host and weatherman on NBC’s “Today” show, in an interview with NASA TV had this to say, “What’s so exciting is that we’re going to be getting more data, more often, much more detailed, (in) higher resolution.”

“It gives us the opportunity to be able to give that information much more quickly to our viewers. And the more lead time there is, the better it is for people.” He went on to add. According to the GOES-R official website the instrument suites of the weather, satellite includes:

ADVANCED BASELINE IMAGER
The Advanced Baseline Imager is the primary instrument on GOES-R for imaging Earth’s weather, oceans, and the environment. ABI will view the Earth with 16 different spectral bands (compared to five on current GOES), including two visible channels, four near-infrared channels, and ten infrared channels.

EXTREME ULTRAVIOLET X-RAY IRRADIANCE SENSOR
The Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors on the GOES-R series satellites are critical to understanding and monitoring solar irradiance in the upper atmosphere, that is, the power and effect of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation per unit of area.

GEOSTATIONARY LIGHTNING MAPPER
The Geostationary Lightning Mapper is a single-channel, near-infrared optical transient detector that can detect the momentary changes in an optical scene, indicating the presence of lightning. GLM will measure total lightning (in-cloud, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground) activity continuously over the Americas and adjacent ocean regions with a near-uniform spatial resolution of approximately 10 km.

MAGNETOMETER
The GOES-R Magnetometer will provide measurements of the space environment magnetic field that controls charged particle dynamics in the outer region of the magnetosphere. These particles can be dangerous to spacecraft and human spaceflight.”

The satellite’s aim is for a 35,888-kilometre-high equatorial orbit, to join three out of date spacecraft, and will be referred to as GOES-16 once it does.

The satellite will not start doing the weather forecasting before a year at least. ; it’s scheduled to begin operations after a lengthy checkout and validation phase.

The second satellite in the series is supposed to be launched in 2018. The GOES series is expected to stretch till 2036.

 

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From The Editors Science

The Supermoon After a Gap of 68 Years

What is a supermoon and why does it happen? Also known as the Beaver moon, it’s nothing but an infrequent occurrence when the moon’s proximity to the earth is at its maximum. Hence, the moon, earth’s only natural satellite, will appear to be larger to us than it normally does.

The last time earthlings witnessed the supermoon was as far back as 1948. As reported by NASA the year 2016 will be witness to not one but three supermoons. One has already been observed on October 16, 2016. The next one will be witnessed from earth on November 14th and again on December 14th.

While the supermoon is a not so frequent occurrence, last observed in 1948, three supermoons in one calendar year is a big rarity. The next supermoon as predicted by scientists is supposed to happen in the year 2034.

According to scientists, the supermoon occurs because of the elliptical shape of the moon’s orbit around our planet. As the moon goes around the earth along the oval shaped orbit it is sometimes closer to the earth and at times farther away.

Comparing the Moon at apogee vs. perigee
Comparing the Moon at apogee vs. perigee

When the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit it is called perigee and at its farthest point in the orbit, it is an apogee. The difference in the size of the perigee full moon and the normal full moon will not be enormous.

The frenzy and hype about supermoons are exaggerated according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. ”If you have a 16-inch pizza, would you call it a super pizza compared with a 15-inch pizza?” deGrasse said on the StarTalk radio program.

However, there is no denying the fact that it will be the largest and brightest supermoon of the 21st, century. The best view of the supermoon will be from tall skyscrapers or from a place where the surroundings are not very brightly lit up – the darker your surroundings the better the view of the supermoon you can get.

It is a well-known fact that the moon affects the tides on earth. The full moon brings higher than normal tides during the 12 hour high tide cycle. Similarly, during the low tide period, the tides are lower than usual. However, during a perigee moon, the high tides are at its highest and low tides at its lowest.

Whatever the level of interest of the people in the supermoon, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go out and marvel at the beauty of this cosmic phenomenon.

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From The Editors Science Top 5

Top 5 Nuclear Powers In The World

Nuclear warfare has become a major cause of concern for the whole planet at present, with a large number of countries acquiring powerful nuclear weapons, which are enough to wipe out mankind from the face of the earth.

The countries with this nuclear power are considered to be more secure and powerful, due to this title no one can attack a country having nuclear power easily.

There are currently 5 countries that are recognized as nuclear weapon states, who have signed Non-Proliferation Treaty.

#1 Russia

Russia
Russian Nuclear Weapons

Russia is considered as the biggest nuclear power country in the world, with an estimated 8500 warheads in its control, including strategic nuclear weapons which can be launched by long-range delivery systems, and non-strategic nuclear weapons with lower yields and shorter ranges. The country has conducted its first test dating back to 1949 and the most recent one conducted in 1990.

#2 United States

United States
US Nuclear Bomb

The United States was the first nation to develop a nuclear weapon and is the only state to deploy a nuclear weapon against another country. The nation currently has a stockpile of 7,700 nuclear warheads, including more than 2,000 deployed weapons, 2,650 non-deployed warheads and about 3,000 weapons awaiting disassembly. The US began nuclear weapon development during World War II and successfully tested its first nuclear weapon in July 1945.

#3 France

Nuclear France
Nuclear France

On number 3 in this list is France, which has an estimated 300 nuclear warheads. France has the capability to strike with a nuclear weapon from air, sea or land – that is called as the trial strike. The country registered its presence in this field in 1960 by conducting its first nuclear test and last in January 1996 in French Polynesia.

#4 China

China's Nuclear Weapons
China’s Nuclear Weapons

China is another major nuclear power country of the world, an emerging superpower economically as well as in terms of defense strengths. They performed the first nuclear test in 1964, and the last one back in 1996. Today, the country owns nearly 250 nuclear warheads. China has a strict policy of “no-first-use”, meaning they would attack only if they are attacked by a nuclear weapon on them. Chinese nuclear warheads can be launched by air, land and sea-based delivery systems.

#5 United Kingdom

UK-Nuclear
UK-Nuclear

With an estimated 225 nuclear warheads, including 160 operational and 65 non-deployed warheads. The United Kingdom comes on number 5 in the list. UK has kept the size of its nuclear arsenal a top-secret. Today, UK is considered as a powerful country in terms of its nuclear capabilities and number of possessed warheads. Till date, United Kingdom has carried out 45 nuclear tests, the first one being in 1952 and the most recent one in 1991.

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From The Editors Science

SpaceX Rocket Explosion and It’s After Effects on Space Exploration

Every major project has its safety hazards and despite man’s best efforts with hundreds of checks and balances to ensure that the end product is 100 percent safe and foolproof, there is always the element or risk that may cause problems.

This does not imply that the makers of such products do not pay attention to detail or neglect safety factors, in fact, so much scrutiny and precision are given to security that a product is checked over and over again before it goes off the assembly line.

Automakers, Aircraft manufacturers, communication equipment makers, weapons producers, and hundreds of household and consumer products have to pass stringent safety checks before being sent to the market.

However, it is a well-known fact that Aircrafts have known to crash, cars have been recalled for transmission faults or one thing or another. Computers, cell phones, household consumer items have all failed at one time or another for some reason or another.

The American Space Program by far has been one of the greatest, most expensive and ambitious project undertaken by the National Space and Aeronautics Administration NASA and billions of dollars have been invested in ensuring that rockets and spaceships are built to the highest standards and specifications of safety in mind.

As, far as mechanical things are concerned, it is virtually next to impossible to predict that things will work l with clockwork precision as even the NASA projects were not immune to disaster.

In this context, three major mishaps have to be pointed out to realize that things can go wrong despite everything.

Launched on April 11, 1970, at 13.13 Central Standard Time (CST) Apollo 13 was the 7th manned mission to space and third intended to land on the moon. However, two days later an oxygen tank exploded on board causing the spaceship’s s system to malfunction causing loss of cabin heat, power loss and a shortage of potable water. It was nothing short of a miracle as the world watched with bated breath and-and intense anxiety that the ship safely made re-entry into the earth’s orbit, and a major disaster was thus averted.

Fortune, however, did not favor the crews of Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia both of which disintegrated in mid-flight the first in 73 seconds after launch in on 28-1-1986 and the latter on re-entry into the earth’s Atmosphere on 1-02-2003 killing all crew instantly on board seven each on each Shuttle. NASA ended the shuttle program on 31Aug, 2011.

In the latest development concerning the space program, an F-9 rocket belonging not to NASA but of a private company SpaceX owned by a flamboyant and dynamic young entrepreneur Elon Musk exploded during a Cape Canaveral launch.

Fortunately, there was no loss of life or damage to property due to the result. SpaceX is in the business of launching commercial satellites in space and transporting cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Falcon X rocket was carrying an Israeli communications satellite which was also destroyed. The satellite was to be used by Facebook for better connectivity purposes in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Emergency teams immediately responded to the crisis and NASA was monitoring the release of any toxic fumes SpaceX said in a statement stated that the explosion occurred due to an anomaly ” during the static fire test resulted in the loss of the rocket and the Israeli communications satellite that it had been due to carry into space on Saturday.

The explosion occurred at Launch Complex 40 at the Air Force station, right next door to Kennedy Space Center.

NASA said that Kennedy emergency staff were on standby. At the same time, personnel was monitoring the air for any toxic fumes. The Air Force stressed there was no threat to public safety in the surrounding communities.

The explosion is a major setback to SpaceX which has far-reaching ambitions which also involves sending a man mission to the red planet Mars with the sole purpose of colonizing it in by 2025.

Local authorities explained that area residents were not at risk due to the explosion.

NASA relies on SpaceX for transporting goods to the International Space Station supplying it food, science equipment, and other supplies.

The explosion will seriously affect SpaceX’s busy schedule as a replacement rocket will take months to build. Moreover, damage if any to the Launchpad has to be taken into account.

It would not be a surprise that Elon Musk takes on lease a rocket from space companies around the world for he is known to be very enterprising and seeking the initiative.

Despite stringent safety checks, it is next to impossible to avoid a disaster of such a nature.

NASA and the US government is very well known to apply the strictest standards and specifications as regards the human safety factor so the next launch when it comes, will be under intense watch.

As for Elon Musk and his businesses this though will be a major setback for the time being but knowing the company’s overdrive to deliver it will bounce back in no time.

Musk, has experienced similar problems with his Tesla Car Model S the autopilot of which malfunctioned and a Tesla car was involved in a crash which resulted in the death of a passenger Mark Zuckerberg, the owner, and CEO of Facebook speaking on the incident expressed his disappointment over the destroyed AMOS-6 satellite, owned by Israel-based Spacecom as it would have provided connectivity to many entrepreneurs and every else on the continent.

Facebook has entered into a partnership with Eutelsat Communications to boost data connectivity to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and the satellite was part of that plan to increase bandwidth.

The dedication and devotion of people like Zuckerberg and Musk speak volumes of the dynamic young entrepreneurs of the times for every setback is a major challenge, and they meet up with the expectations of the people.

In a statement, Zuckerberg said “We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” he wrote

As for Musk who launched Space X in 2002 for the time being, all does not bode well.

The immediate concern would be how this accident will affect SpaceX’s current schedule as nine more launches are planned for 2016. A rocket costs almost 200m dollars and not easy to replace. Companies will probably cook elsewhere for their space rides.

There are many who will say Space X was moving too fast and needs to be reined in. Will NASA cancel its contracts and cause immense financial losses to the company. It is too early to predict what will happen. However, one thing is sure, in commercial ventures of such magnitude delays Elon Musk, has a difficult task ahead of him. First to secure rockets, ensure 100 per cent safety, convince clients that Space X can deliver. Meanwhile, shareholders will be jittery if company stock will plummet. The shares of Spacecom, the Israeli communications company whose satellite was destroyed along with the rocket fell. The company will be compensated by Israel Aerospace Industries.

Space X has had suffered mishaps before, and its first three launches ended up in failure, however after 2008 when it completed its successful launch it was on the roads to success.

His other companies Tesla cars and Tesla Solar City are doing very well.
With the launch of the Tesla Super X, sales have skyrocketed, and orders are pouring in. Perhaps Musk will divert his Tesla’s profits to salvage SpaceX.

The man as mentioned is very creative and dynamic in his business dealings, His shareholders have confidence in him and have invested heavily in his company.

Of course as is the norm many clients will be reluctant to book orders with Space X but given the business acumen of Musk and his persuasive powers he will win over his customers.

Meanwhile, a lot of planning, restructuring, financing has to be put in place. The company plans to fly its first unmanned spacecraft to Mars in 2018 and send humans to Mars as early as 2025.

The World is becoming smaller and the population bigger and the idea of seeking to colonize Mars has a lot of appeals. Elon Musk is a visionary and a risk taker and although his latest venture has backfired his supporters, investors, and his employees have unshakable faith in him.

At a relatively young age of 45, Elon Musk is going places, and one accident will not dampen his spirit at all for he will emerge more successful, richer and powerful.

There have been many men in history who have taken risks, met with failures such as Edison or Einstein but they never gave up and persevered in their efforts to realize their dreams. Elon Musk is such a man and Space the final frontier.

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From The Editors Science Travel

Recently Discovered Planet Next Door Proxima b

Some 4.6 billion years ago as rock and ice particles swirling around the young sun collided and merged snowballing to produce ever larger planetary building blocks. In violent pileups, they smashed together to create planets, including the infant Earth. In the turmoil, another body, as big as Mars, struck our planet with the energy of trillions of atomic bombs, enough to melt it all the way through. 

Most of the impact was swallowed up in the bottomless magma ocean it created. But the collision also flung a small world’s worth of vaporized rock into orbit. Even so, our planet remained an alien world for the next 700 million years; scientists call this time the Hadean, after the Greek underworld. Gasses hissed from the cooling rock—carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapor, and others enveloping the planet in a scalding atmosphere devoid of oxygen. 

As the temperature dropped further, the steam condensed into rain that tells in primordial monsoons and filled the ocean basins. These first oceans may have been short-lived. Space rubble left over from the birth of the planets chunks of rock tens to hundreds of miles across bombarded Earth throughout the Hadean. The greatest impacts might have boiled the oceans away, forcing the process of cooling and condensation to begin again. By 3.8 billion years ago the impacts relented. Liquid water could persist. About that time, perhaps in the oceans, lifeless chemical reactions crossed a threshold, producing molecules involved enough to reproduce themselves and evolve toward greater complexity. 

Life was on a road that led, as early as 3.5 billion years ago, to single-celled, blue-green cyanobacteria that flourished in the sunlit parts of the oceans. By the trillions, these microscopic organisms transformed the planet. They captured the energy of the sun to make food, releasing oxygen as a waste product. Little by little they turned the atmosphere into breathable air, opening the way to the diversity of life that followed. Earth began to form over 4.6 billion years ago from the same cloud of gas (mostly hydrogen and helium) and interstellar dust that formed our sun, the rest of the solar system and even our galaxy. In fact, Earth is still forming and cooling from the galactic implosion that created the other stars and planetary systems in our galaxy. This process began about 13.6 billion years ago when the Milky Way Galaxy began to form.

Today, Earth is the only planet we know of that can support life. This is a surprising fact, considering that it is made out of the same matter as other planets in our solar system, was formed at the same time and through the same processes as every other planet, and gets its energy from the sun. Physicist Professor Stephen Hawking says that mankind could be wiped out by our own creations within the next 100 years. He predicts that as we rush to develop new technologies to improve our life, the threats to the human race will increase until some Global cataclysm is virtually inevitable. Thus, the need and the search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. 

Artist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri
This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image to the upper-right of Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface.

The planet is 4.2 light-years ( that is about 25 trillion miles) away from Earth and is named as Proxima b the new world has sparked a flurry of excitement among astrophysicists with the idea that it might be similar in crucial respects to Earth The planet has other characteristics that could affect its potential to host life. The planet is still within the potentially habitable zone (the place where temperatures are just right for liquid water to exist) of its star because Proxima Centauri is a type of red dwarf known as an M dwarf – a smaller, cooler, dimmer type of star than our yellow dwarf sun. The planet orbits an (M-type) red dwarf star named Proxima Centauri. The star has a mass of 0.12 M and a radius of 0.14 R It has a surface temperature of 3042 K  and is 4.85 billion years old. 

In comparison, the Sun is 4.6 billion years old and has a surface temperature of 5778 K. Proxima Centauri rotates once roughly every 83 days and has a luminosity about 0.0015 L. The star is rich in metals, something not commonly found in low-mass stars like Proxima. Its metallicity ([Fe/H]) is 0.21, or 1.62 times the amount found in the Sun’s atmosphere. 

Proxima b, despite its closeness to the star, receives less warmth than Earth, but enough that water could flow on the surface. Whether the planet has liquid water or an atmosphere is “pure speculation at this point,” Dr. Anglada-Escudé said in a news conference. However, “potentially habitable” doesn’t mean “habitable,” and it doesn’t mean “inhabited.” It’s possible that this world is a barren wasteland similar to Mars or a toxic planet like Venus. But life on Proxima b isn’t completely out of the question just yet. “Finding out that the nearest star to the sun hosts not just a planet, not just an Earth-sized planet, but one which is in the right location that it could support life, and there are a lot of caveats there really underscores that not only are planets very common in our galaxy but potentially habitable planets are common,” says Eamonn Kerins who is an astrophysicist. 

While its mass is thought to be at least 1.3 times that of the Earth, its size, and hence density, is unknown, meaning that scientists can only make an educated guess that it is likely to be rocky based on the types of exoplanets that have previously been detected around other small stars. It orbits its star in just 11.2 days, and its gravitational pull and the close orbit suggests that the rotation of the planet would probably be gravitationally locked by the sun’s pull. Just as the same side of the moon always faces Earth, one side of Proxima b is likely to be eternally bright, always facing the star, while the other is ever dark.

The astronomers don’t know if Proxima b transits yet. They found this planet using the technique called the radial velocity method which involves studying the very tiny movements in the world’s host star, Proxima Centauri. When Proxima b orbits around Proxima Centauri, the planet’s gravity tugs on the star and causes it to wobble slightly. Astronomers confirmed Proxima B’s existence by studying these wobbles. The first indications of the exoplanet were found in 2013 by Mikko Tuomi from archival observation data. 

To confirm the possible discovery, the European Southern Observatory launched the Pale Red Do project in January 2016. Proxima Centauri is a fickle star. It’s a type of red dwarf known as a flare star. That means every so often, Proxima Centauri flares and increases in brightness. This flaring is going to make it very hard to figure out where Proxima b is, even if it does transit.

Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at the Queen Mary University of London, described the finding as the “experience of a lifetime. “It is not unlikely that this planet is quite similar to Earth. The striking finding of this, of course, is that this system is so close to our Earth and solar system,” said Ansgar Reiners, a German scientist who is among the research’s co-authors. However, it is not clear if the planet has an atmosphere or if it contains water, but “the existence is plausible”, he added. There are hints of perhaps another planet, maybe more, but those hints are still ambiguous, the scientists said.The discovery could provide the impetus for planet-finding telescopes. Ruslan Belikov of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., has proposed a small space telescope costing less than $175 million dedicated to the search for planets in Alpha Centauri.

While it would not be powerful enough to spot Proxima b, its existence would give more confidence that terrestrial planets also orbit the two sun-like stars there.“It just raises the public awareness there’s a new world just next door,” Dr. Belikov said. “It’s a paradigm shift in people’s minds.” Earth being the only planet that provides oxygen from trees, water, food, and environment and a place to stay and live is crucial. It is unique and therefore for the Humans to survive, it is imperative for us all to look after it and to protect it in every possible way.