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Astronauts Have Now Baked Cookies in Space. But What Do They Taste Like?

In this photo made available by U.S. astronaut Christina Koch via Twitter on Dec. 26, 2019, she and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano pose for a photo with a cookie baked on the International Space Station.

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — The results are finally in for the first chocolate chip cookie bake-off in space. While looking more or less normal, the best cookies required two hours of baking time last month up at the International Space Station. It takes far less time on Earth, under 20 minutes.

And how do they taste? No one knows.

Still sealed in individual baking pouches and packed in their spaceflight container, the cookies remain frozen in a Houston-area lab after splashing down two weeks ago in a SpaceX capsule. They were the first food baked in space from raw ingredients. The makers of the oven expected a difference in baking time in space, but not that big.

“There’s still a lot to look into to figure out really what’s driving that difference, but definitely a cool result,” Mary Murphy, a manager for Texas-based Nanoracks, said this week. “Overall, I think it’s a pretty awesome first experiment.”

Located near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Nanoracks designed and built the small electric test oven that was launched to the space station last November. Five frozen raw cookies were already up there.

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano was the master baker in December, radioing down a description as he baked them one by one in the prototype Zero G Oven.

The first cookie — in the oven for 25 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius) — ended up seriously under-baked. He more than doubled the baking time for the next two, and the results were still so-so. The fourth cookie stayed in the oven for two hours, and finally success.

“So this time, I do see some browning,” Parmitano radioed. “I can’t tell you whether it’s cooked all the way or not, but it certainly doesn’t look like cookie dough any more.”

Parmitano cranked the oven up to its maximum 325 degrees F (163 degrees C) for the fifth cookie and baked it for 130 minutes. He reported more success.

Additional testing is required to determine whether the three returned cookies are safe to eat.

As for aroma, the astronauts could smell the cookies when they removed them from the oven, except for the first.

That’s the beauty of baking in space, according to former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. He now teaches at Columbia University and is a paid spokesman for DoubleTree by Hilton. The hotel chain provided the cookie dough, the same kind used for cookies offered to hotel guests. It’s offering one of the space-baked cookies to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum for display.

“The reminder of home, the connection with home, I think, can’t be overstated,” Massimino said. “From my personal experience … food is pretty important for not just nutrition but also for morale in keeping people connected to their home and their Earth.” Eating something other than dehydrated or prepackaged food will be particularly important as astronauts head back to the moon and on to Mars.

Nanoracks and Zero G Kitchen, a New York City startup that collaborated with the experiment, are considering more experiments for the orbiting oven and possibly more space appliances. What’s in orbit now are essentially food warmers.

There’s an added bonus of having freshly baked cookies in space.

“We made space cookies and milk for Santa this year,” NASA astronaut Christina Koch tweeted.

By Marcia Dunn / AP January 25, 2020

Source: Astronauts Have Now Baked Cookies in Space. But What Do They Taste Like?

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Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000-Year-Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost

This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia's Far East, on display at the Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum, Russia. Russian scientists have presented a unique prehistoric canine, believed to be 18,000 years old and found in permafrost in the Russia's Far East, to the public on Dec. 2, 2019.

(YAKUTSK, Russia) — Russian scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000 years old, found in permafrost in the country’s Far East.

Discovered last year in a lump of frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved, with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact.

“This puppy has all its limbs, pelage – fur, even whiskers. The nose is visible. There are teeth. We can determine due to some data that it is a male,” Nikolai Androsov, director of the Northern World private museum where the remains are stored, said at the presentation at the Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum which specializes in ancient specimens.

In recent years, Russia’s Far East has provided many riches for scientists studying the remains of ancient animals. As the permafrost melts, affected by climate change, more and more parts of woolly mammoths, canines and other prehistoric animals are being discovered. Often it is mammoth tusk hunters who discover them.

This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia’s Far East, on display at the Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum, Russia. Russian scientists have presented a unique prehistoric canine, believed to be 18,000 years old and found in permafrost in the Russia’s Far East, to the public on Dec. 2, 2019.
Sergei Fyodorov—Yakutsk Mammoth Museum/AP

“Why has Yakutia come through a real spate of such unique findings over the last decade? First, it’s global warming. It really exists, we feel it, and local people feel it strongly. Winter comes later, spring comes earlier,” Sergei Fyodorov, scientist with the North Eastern Federal University, told The Associated Press.

By DARIA LITVINOVA and ROMAN KUTUKOV / AP

Source: Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000-Year-Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost

Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000 Year Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000 years old, found in permafrost in the country’s Far East. Discovered last year in a lump of frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved, with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact. Follow us : https://web.facebook.com/News-Of-The-…

 

Researcher Who Gene Edited Babies Sentenced to Prison in China

FILE – In this Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018 file photo, He Jiankui speaks during the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong. On Tuesday, April 17, 2019, Stanford University said they had cleared three faculty members of any wrongdoing in dealings with He who claims to have helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

(BEIJING) — Three researchers involved in the births of genetically edited babies have been sentenced for practicing medicine illegally, Chinese state media said Monday.

The report by Xinhua news agency said lead researcher He Jiankui was sentenced to three years and fined 3 million yuan ($430,000).

Two other people received lesser sentences and fines. Zhang Renli was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 1 million yuan. Qin Jinzhou received an 18-month sentence, but with a two-year reprieve, and a 500,000 yuan fine.

He, the lead researcher, said 13 months ago that he had helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies, twin girls born in November 2018. The announcement sparked a global debate over the ethics of gene editing.

He also was involved in the birth of a third gene-edited baby.

The announcement sparked a global debate over the ethics of gene editing. He said he he had used a tool called CRISPR to alter a gene in embryos to try to help them resist infection with the AIDS virus.

The Xinhua report, citing court documents, said the researchers were involved in the births of three gene-edited babies to two women, confirming reports of a third baby.

The court said the the three researchers had not obtained qualification as doctors to practice medicine, pursued fame and profits, deliberately violated Chinese regulations on scientific research and crossed an ethical line in both scientific research and medicine.

It also said they had fabricated ethical review documents.

He studied in the U.S. before setting up a lab at the Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, a southern Chinese city that borders Hong Kong. The sentencing document accused him of colluding with Zhang and Qin, who worked at unnamed medical institutes in Guangdong province, where Shenzhen is located.

By Associated Press

Source: Researcher Who Gene Edited Babies Sentenced to Prison in China

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In a video posted on YouTube, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced to the world that he successfully used the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to modify the DNA of two embryos before birth, essentially creating the world’s first genetically modified humans. #CNN #News

 

 

Mystery Sounds From Storms Could Help Predict Tornadoes

Mysterious rumbles that herald tornadoes could one day be used to predict when and where they will strike, according to researchers.

Storms emit sounds before tornadoes form, but the signals at less than 20Hz are below the limit for human hearing. What causes these rumbles has also been a conundrum.

Now researchers said they have narrowed down the reasons for the sounds – an important factor in harnessing the knowledge to improve warnings.

“The three possibilities are core oscillations [in the tornado], pressure relaxation, and latent heat effects,” said Dr Brian Elbing, of Oklahoma State University, who is part of the team behind the research. “They are all possibilities because what we have seen is that the signal occurs before the tornado touches the ground, continues after it touches the ground, and then disappears some time after the tornado leaves the ground.”

The latest work was presented at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Seattle.

The low-frequency sound produced by tornadoes has been known about for several decades, but Elbing said a big problem has been a lack of understanding of what causes the sounds, and difficulties in unpicking them from a tornado and other aspects of the weather.

The subject has seen renewed interest in recent years, with Elbing saying it could prove particularly useful for hilly areas such as Dixie Alley, which stretches from Texas to North Carolina. “Infrasound doesn’t need line of sight like radar, so there is hope that this could significantly improve warnings in Dixie Alley where most deaths [from tornadoes] occur,” he said.

The team’s setup involves a microphone capable of picking up low-frequency sounds sealed inside a dome which has four openings at right angles to each other, each of which is attached to a hose. Three of these domes are arranged in an equilateral triangle, 60 metres away from each other.

The team say the setup allows them to filter out sounds from normal windand work out which direction the twister is travelling, while the signal itself offers an idea of the tornado’s size: a frequency of 1Hz indicates a very large tornado, while a 10Hz indicates a small one.

In their latest work, Elbing and colleagues reported a case in Oklahoma in which they were able to pick up audio clues eight minutes before the twister formed, with a clear signal detected four minutes before it hit the ground. That, they say, is important as the tornado was not picked up by radar.

“There is evidence that the amount of lead time before the tornado is dependent on how large the tornado is,” said Elbing, adding that low-frequency sounds have been detected up to two hours before a tornado forms. “This tornado we detected was very small, there was no warning issued for this tornado … which is why even a four-minute warning is a big deal.”

While the Oklahoma tornado was only 12 miles from the setup, Elbing said once the sound signal was better understood, the technique could be used over even greater distances.

“If we know the acoustic signature of a tornado, it is realistic to expect to detect a tornado from over 100 miles,” he said.

Dr Harold Brooks, a tornado expert at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not involved in the work, said many questions needed to be answered before the approach could be harnessed, including whether all tornadoes make such sounds, whether such sounds can be made from other storms, and how accurate the approach is.

“No system will be perfect so there will be errors of missed events and false alarms,” said Brooks, adding that it is also not clear how many microphone arrangements would be needed to offer good coverage, saying that since the approach was based on sound waves rather than light waves, a far smaller area can be examined by each system in a given time than for radar.

“At this point it is a really intriguing thing, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done in terms of a relatively large scale experiment to actually test it,” he said.

By: @NicolaKSDavis

Source: Mystery sounds from storms could help predict tornadoes

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Are your kids wondering: “Why are tornadoes so hard to predict?” This question came from Hai Ming, a 2nd Grader from the US. Like, share and vote on next week’s question here: https://mysterydoug.com/vote

This Is How We’d All Die Instantly If The Sun Suddenly Went Supernova

As far as raw explosive power goes, no other cataclysm in the Universe is both as common and as destructive as a core-collapse supernova. In one brief event lasting only seconds, a runaway reaction causes a star to give off as much energy as our Sun will emit over its entire 10-12 billion year lifetime. While many supernovae have been observed both historically and since the invention of the telescope, humanity has never witnessed one up close.

Recently, the nearby red supergiant star, Betelgeuse, has started exhibiting interesting signs of dimming, leading some to suspect that it might be on the verge of going supernova. While our Sun isn’t massive enough to experience that same fate, it’s a fun and macabre thought experiment to imagine what would happen if it did. Yes, we’d all die in short order, but not from either the blast wave or from radiation. Instead, the neutrinos would get us first. Here’s how.

An animation sequence of the 17th century supernova in the constellation of Cassiopeia. This... [+] explosion, despite occurring in the Milky Way and about 60-70 years after 1604, could not be seen with the naked eye due to the intervening dust. Surrounding material plus continued emission of EM radiation both play a role in the remnant's continued illumination. A supernova is the typical fate for a star greater than about 10 solar masses, although there are some exceptions.

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: Robert A. Fesen (Dartmouth College, USA) and James Long (ESA/Hubble)

A supernova — specifically, a core-collapse supernova — can only occur when a star many times more massive than our Sun runs out of nuclear fuel to burn in its core. All stars start off doing what our Sun does: fusing the most common element in the Universe, hydrogen, into helium through a series of chain reactions. During this part of a star’s life, it’s the radiation pressure from these nuclear fusion reactions that prevent the star’s interior from collapsing due to the enormous force of gravitation.

So what happens, then, when the star burns through all the hydrogen in its core? The radiation pressure drops and gravity starts to win in this titanic struggle, causing the core to contract. As it contracts, it heats up, and if the temperature can pass a certain critical threshold, the star will start fusing the next-lightest element in line, helium, to produce carbon.

This cutaway showcases the various regions of the surface and interior of the Sun, including the... [+] core, which is where nuclear fusion occurs. As time goes on, the helium-containing region in the core expands and the maximum temperature increases, causing the Sun's energy output to increase. When our Sun runs out of hydrogen fuel in the core, it will contract and heat up to a sufficient degree that helium fusion can begin.

Wikimedia Commons user Kelvinsong

This will occur in our own Sun some 5-to-7 billion years in the future, causing it to swell into a red giant. Our parent star will expand so much that Mercury, Venus, and possibly even Earth will be engulfed, but let’s instead imagine that we come up some clever plan to migrate our planet to a safe orbit, while mitigating the increased luminosity to prevent our planet from getting fried. This helium burning will last for hundreds of millions of years before our Sun runs out of helium and the core contracts and heats up once again.

For our Sun, that’s the end of the line, as we don’t have enough mass to move to the next stage and begin carbon fusion. In a star far more massive than our Sun, however, hydrogen-burning only takes millions of years to complete, and the helium-burning phase lasts merely hundreds of thousands of years. After that, the core’s contraction will enable carbon fusion to proceed, and things will move very quickly after that.

As it nears the end of its evolution, heavy elements produced by nuclear fusion inside the star are... [+] concentrated toward the center of the star. When the star explodes, the vast majority of the outer layers absorb neutrons rapidly, climbing the periodic table, and also get expelled back into the Universe where they participate in the next generation of star and planet formation.

NASA / CXC / S. Lee

Carbon fusion can produce elements such as oxygen, neon, and magnesium, but only takes hundreds of years to complete. When carbon becomes scarce in the core, it again contracts and heats up, leading to neon fusion (which lasts about a year), followed by oxygen fusion (lasting for a few months), and then silicon fusion (which lasts less than a day). In that final phase of silicon-burning, core temperatures can reach ~3 billion K, some 200 times the hottest temperatures currently found at the center of the Sun.

And then the critical moment occurs: the core runs out of silicon. Again, the pressure drops, but this time there’s nowhere to go. The elements that are produced from silicon fusion — elements like cobalt, nickel and iron — are more stable than the heavier elements that they’d conceivably fuse into. Instead, nothing there is capable of resisting gravitational collapse, and the core implodes.

Artist's illustration (left) of the interior of a massive star in the final stages, pre-supernova,... [+] of silicon-burning. (Silicon-burning is where iron, nickel, and cobalt form in the core.) A Chandra image (right) of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant today shows elements like Iron (in blue), sulphur (green), and magnesium (red). We do not know whether all core-collapse supernovae follow the same pathway or not.

NASA/CXC/M.Weiss; X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/U.Hwang & J.Laming

This is where the core-collapse supernova happens. A runaway fusion reaction occurs, producing what’s basically one giant atomic nucleus made of neutrons in the star’s core, while the outer layers have a tremendous amount of energy injected into them. The fusion reaction itself lasts for only around 10 seconds, liberating about 1044 Joules of energy, or the mass-equivalent (via Einstein’s E = mc2) of about 1027 kg: as much as you’d release by transforming two Saturns into pure energy.

That energy goes into a mix of radiation (photons), the kinetic energy of the material in the now-exploding stellar material, and neutrinos. All three of these are more than capable of ending any life that’s managed to survive on an orbiting planet up to that point, but the big question of how we’d all die if the Sun went supernova depends on the answer to one question: who gets there first?

The anatomy of a very massive star throughout its life, culminating in a Type II Supernova when the... [+] core runs out of nuclear fuel. The final stage of fusion is typically silicon-burning, producing iron and iron-like elements in the core for only a brief while before a supernova ensues. Many of the supernova remnants will lead to the formation of neutron stars, which can produce the greatest abundances of the heaviest elements of all by colliding and merging.

Nicole Rager Fuller/NSF

When the runaway fusion reaction occurs, the only delay in the light getting out comes from the fact that it’s produced in the core of this star, and the core is surrounded by the star’s outer layers. It takes a finite amount of time for that signal to propagate to the outermost surface of the star — the photosphere — where it’s then free to travel in a straight line at the speed of light.

As soon as it gets out, the radiation will scorch everything in its path, blowing the atmosphere (and any remaining ocean) clean off of the star-facing side of an Earth-like planet immediately, while the night side would last for seconds-to-minutes longer. The blast wave of the matter would follow soon afterwards, engulfing the remnants of our scorched world and quite possibly, dependent on the specifics of the explosion, destroying the planet entirely.

                        

But any living creature would surely die even before the light or the blast wave from the supernova arrived; they’d never see their demise coming. Instead, the neutrinos — which interact with matter so rarely that an entire star, to them, functions like a pane of glass does to visible light — simply speed away omnidirectionally, from the moment of their creation, at speeds indistinguishable from the speed of light.

Moreover, neutrinos carry an enormous fraction of a supernova’s energy away: approximately 99% of it. In any given moment, with our paltry Sun emitting just ~4 × 1026 joules of energy each second, approximately 70 trillion (7 × 1013) neutrinos pass through your hand. The probability that they’ll interact is tiny, but occasionally it will happen, depositing the energy it carries into your body when it happens. Only a few neutrinos actually do this over the course of a typical day with our current Sun, but if it went supernova, the story would change dramatically.

A neutrino event, identifiable by the rings of Cerenkov radiation that show up along the... [+] photomultiplier tubes lining the detector walls, showcase the successful methodology of neutrino astronomy and leveraging the use of Cherenkov radiation. This image shows multiple events, and is part of the suite of experiments paving our way to a greater understanding of neutrinos. The neutrinos detected in 1987 marked the dawn of both neutrino astronomy as well as multi-messenger astronomy.

Super Kamiokande collaboration

When a supernova occurs, the neutrino flux increases by approximately a factor of 10 quadrillion (1016), while the energy-per-neutrino goes up by around a factor of 10, increasing the probability of a neutrino interacting with your body tremendously. When you work through the math, you’ll find that even with their extraordinary low probability of interaction, any living creature — from a single-celled organism to a complex human being — would be boiled from the inside out from neutrino interactions alone.

This is the scariest outcome imaginable, because you’d never see it coming. In 1987, we observed a supernova from 168,000 light-years away with both light and neutrinos. The neutrinos arrived at three different detectors across the world, spanning about 10 seconds from the earliest to the latest. The light from the supernova, however, didn’t begin arriving until hours later. By the time the first visual signatures arrived, everything on Earth would have already been vaporized for hours.

A supernova explosion enriches the surrounding interstellar medium with heavy elements. The outer... [+] rings are caused by previous ejecta, long before the final explosion. This explosion also emitted a huge variety of neutrinos, some of which made it all the way to Earth.

ESO / L. Calçada

Perhaps the scariest part of neutrinos is how there’s no good way to shield yourself from them. Even if you tried to block their path to you with lead, or a planet, or even a neutron star, more than 50% of the neutrinos would still get through. According to some estimates, not only would all life on an Earth-like planet be destroyed by neutrinos, but any life anywhere in a comparable solar system would meet that same fate, even out at the distance of Pluto, before the first light from the supernova ever arrived.

https://www.forbes.com/video/6111169884001/

The only early detection system we’d ever be able to install to know something was coming is a sufficiently sensitive neutrino detector, which could detect the unique, surefire signatures of neutrinos generated from each of carbon, neon, oxygen, and silicon burning. We would know when each of these transitions happened, giving life a few hours to say their final goodbyes during the silicon-burning phase before the supernova occurred.

There are many natural neutrino signatures produced by stars and other processes in the Universe.... [+] Every set of neutrinos produced by a different fusion process inside a star will have a different spectral energy signature, enabling astronomers to determine whether their parent star is fusing carbon, oxygen, neon, and silicon in its interior, or not.

IceCube collaboration / NSF / University of Wisconsin

It’s horrifying to think that an event as fascinating and destructive as a supernova, despite all the spectacular effects it produces, would kill anything nearby before a single perceptible signal arrived, but that’s absolutely the case with neutrinos. Produced in the core of a supernova and carrying away 99% of its energy, all life on an Earth-like would receive a lethal dose of neutrinos within 1/20th of a second as every other location on the planet. No amount of shielding, even from being on the opposite side of the planet from the supernova, would help at all.

Whenever any star goes supernova, neutrinos are the first signal that can be detected from them, but by the time they arrive, it’s already too late. Even with how rarely they interact, they’d sterilize their entire solar system before the light or matter from the blast ever arrived. At the moment of a supernova’s ignition, the fate of death is sealed by the stealthiest killer of all: the elusive neutrino.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Ethan Siegel Ethan Siegel

I am a Ph.D. astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, who professes physics and astronomy at various colleges. I have won numerous awards for science writing since 2008 for my blog, Starts With A Bang, including the award for best science blog by the Institute of Physics. My two books, Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive, Beyond the Galaxy: How humanity looked beyond our Milky Way and discovered the entire Universe, are available for purchase at Amazon. Follow me on Twitter @startswithabang.

Source: This Is How We’d All Die Instantly If The Sun Suddenly Went Supernova

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Our Sun would never undergo a Supernova explosion. But what if it does? Video clips from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and ESA/Hubble Images by: ESA/NASA, pixabay.com Music: Olympus by Ross Budgen – Music ( https://youtu.be/BnmglWHoVrk ) Licensed under CC BY 4.0 International License We’re on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/astrogeekz/ We’re on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/astrogeekz/ Support us on Patreon.

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Christmas Day Sees The Third, Final And Most Dangerous Solar Eclipse Of 2019

In 2019, Christmas comes a little late in the day for nature lovers, sky-watchers and astronomers as the decade’s final solar eclipse rips across the globe.

Unlike the events of August 21, 2017’s “Great American Eclipse,” this one won’t be visible from North America, and nor will it be as impressive as that day’s total solar eclipse.

What begins at 03:43 a.m. Universal Time on December 26—that’s 10:43 p.m. EST and 7:43 p.m. PST on Christmas Day—is an annular solar eclipse. Since a New Moon is slightly further away than usual, it will appear smaller in the sky so will only block the center of the Sun’s disk. Observers will therefore see a ring around the Sun, and for a maximum of 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

However, it will be dangerous. In essence a partial solar eclipse, solar eclipse glasses must be worn at all times to avoid the threat of blindness. That makes it the most dangerous solar eclipse of 2019, since the peak of July’s total solar eclipse could be viewed with the naked eye.

It’s the third solar eclipse of 2019 after January 6, 2019’s partial solar eclipse in Russia and northeast Asia, and a total solar eclipse in South America on July 2, 2019.

Today In: Innovation

Where is the annular solar eclipse happening? 

The phenomenon—often referred to as a “ring of fire” or “ring of light”—will be visible at sunrise in Saudi Arabia, and then slightly higher in the sky from a narrow path through Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, southern India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. The Sun will then set as a “ring” east of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

Is it safe to look at?

No. At least, not with the naked eye. An annular solar eclipse is effectively a particularly beautiful partial solar eclipse.

At its maximum, the Moon will block 97% of the Sun. That might sound like a lot, but in practice it’s not nearly enough to block the Sun’s light enough to look at the spectacle. So at all times eclipse glasses will be needed, as will solar filters on the front of telescopes or binoculars. That makes it easily the most dangerous solar eclipse of 2019.

However, observers may notice the light levels dim around them in the few minutes either side of “annularity.”

Where’s the best place to watch it? 

As with all astronomical phenomenon, it’s advisable to go to where the spectacle will look its most dramatic, and where there’s the biggest chance of clear skies. Saudi Arabia fulfils both of those needs, and some eclipse-chasers will make their way to near Al-Hufuf around two hours northeast of Riyadh where it may be possible to see a “ring of fire” distorted as a bizarre sideways “D” shape right on the eastern horizon. That was last possible in May 2013 in Western Australia. If you’re planning such a trip, there’s some great advice here.

When is the next annular solar eclipse? 

On June 21, 2020 there will be a rarer and far deeper kind of annular solar eclipse when the Moon very briefly blocks 99% of the Sun as seen from the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, India, Tibet, China, Taiwan and Guam. Seeing a sunrise “ring of fire” will be tricky, and Ethiopia (61 seconds), Oman (37 seconds) or Tibet (23 seconds) is where clear skies are predicted. Those watching from the edge of the path may just glimpse the Sun’s white-hot crown—its corona—which is normally visible as a halo only during totality at a total solar eclipse. Ditto Baily’s beads and even rare shadow bands.

When is the next annular solar eclipse in North America? 

After a very long drought, North America is currently experiencing something of a boom in solar eclipses. In fact, the great American eclipse of 2017, although a major event at the time, will probably be remembered for being merely a precursor to a golden age of eclipses. Perhaps the biggest and most important so that the clips of most North American’s lifetime will be on April 8, 2024, when a total solar eclipse will be observable from 12 states across the U.S. The Great North American Eclipse?

However, before that there are actually two annular total solar eclipses in North America, one in 2021 in Canada and another in 2023 in southwest U.S.:

  • June 10, 2021: A week after a total lunar “blood moon” eclipse, a 94% annular solar eclipse will be visible at sunrise from at northern Ontario, northern Quebec (including the Polar Bear Provincial Park), Greenland and far north-eastern Russia. Expect eclipse-chasers to get into planes to get above the clouds.
  • October 14, 2023: a 95% “ring of fire” at lunchtime from Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico (including Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, Great Basin National Park in Nevada, and four national parks in Utah).

Few people—even experienced eclipse-chasers—travel across the world to see an annular solar eclipse. After all, they’re not considered to be as dramatic as a total solar eclipse (for which eclipse-chasers are prepared to go anywhere on the planet to witness)

Disclaimer: I am the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and co-author of “Total Solar Eclipse 2020: A travel and field guide to observing totality in Chile and Argentina on December 14, 2020

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist interested in space exploration, moon-gazing, exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, astro-travel, wildlife conservation and nature. I’m the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and the author of “A Stargazing Program for Beginners: A Pocket Field Guide” (Springer, 2015), as well as many eclipse-chasing guides.

Source: Christmas Day Sees The Third, Final And Most Dangerous Solar Eclipse Of 2019

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Pam talks about the second half of December and the Solar Eclipse in Capricorn on the 25th-26th. Where does this fall in your own birthchart? If you don’t know, check out her two-part tutorial videos at https://gumroad.com/l/FHjOZ. Just download a birthchart free from her website http://www.thenextstep.uk.com, and then use the tutorials to get much more meaning for yourself by better understanding these transits to your birthchart. I have recently filmed around two and a quarter hours of concentrated teaching called Astrological Synthesis. This is the video explaining these: https://youtu.be/EwDyUCdC3r4. These videos are not for absolute beginners, you should at a minimum understand the meaning of the signs, and the house rulerships. If you want to understand these further, I have an Astrological Signs video and my two part Tutorial Video Series, both available via the Products page on my website. The contents covered in Astrological Synthesis are 1) Planetary Symbolism 2) Where Planets Become Stronger 3) Aspects 4) Blending Archetypes 5) Life Theme/Story in the birthchart. These videos do not pretend to offer exhaustive natal chart analysis, but will help to give you some powerful insights that you may not find elsewhere. Here is the link to the global meditation on 12th January organised by The Master Shift: https://www.facebook.com/events/22263…

Why NASA And Apple Are Using This Startup To Test Their Electronics More Efficiently

When Danielle Wuchenich hatched the idea for measurement startup Liquid Instruments, she was not chasing worldly success but a faster process for discovering the secrets of space. Her solution—a tool which jams 12 different electrical signal and frequency instruments into a single device—ended up being useful on Earth, with Apple, NASA and Texas Instruments employing the tool to ensure that the electronics they’re developing work.

Now Liquid Instruments’ chief strategy officer, Wuchenich was a graduate student at Australian National University, working on creating a tool called a phasemeter to measure gravitational waves in space, something only of use to high-level researchers. But in conducting the routine electrical measurements required for her research, she encountered a problem:

Every time she wanted to measure voltage over time, signal frequency or signal transmission, Wuchenich had to rely on separate devices with separate software and user interfaces, each with hefty price tags. To avoid this headache, Wuchenich programmed the high-tech phasemeter to do multiple kinds of measurements. In so doing, Wuchenich landed on a universally viable application for an otherwise esoteric product.

Over three years, a twelve-person founding team—consisting of Wuchenich, her lab mates and principal investigator CEO Daniel Shaddock—turned prototype into product. Liquid Instruments began selling its device, dubbed Moku:Lab, in 2017, an 8-inch tool the company argues is not only more efficient than the competition, but cheaper. Moku:Lab costs $6,500, whereas all the tools the device replaces cost up to $60,000, the company estimates. Shaddock says the product has the potential to fundamentally change the test and measurement industry.

“In the old days you had a typewriter for writing letters and a calculator for calculating. And they did the job pretty well. Then along came the computer, and it can write letters, it can calculate things, but it can do a whole lot more,” says Shaddock. “We’ve stumbled upon the formula for the computer for the test and measurement industry.”

So far, investors and scientists are buying it. The startup has raised $10.1 million from Anzu Partners, ANU Connect Ventures and Australian Capital Ventures Limited at a valuation of $33.7 million, with its 2018 revenue coming to around $750,000, according to Wuchenich. And Liquid boasts some big-name customers, including NASA, Texas Instruments, Apple and Nvidia.

Despite this early success, Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Richard Eastman says Liquid Instruments faces a tough challenge breaking into an oligopoly dominated by five major companies—Keysight, Rohde & Schwarz, Tektronix, National Instruments  and Anritsu. With several of these large players also selling single pieces of hardware that can make multiple measurements, Eastman is skeptical Liquid Instruments can make a dent. “I’m not sure it looks disruptive,” Eastman says.

Also, Liquid Instruments will need to prove it offers comparable precision to its rivals. J. Max Cortner, president of the Instrument & Measurement Society, says while Liquid Instruments offers a unique product, its specs are in mainstream ranges, which may not be good enough for its customer base of highly trained researchers. “That’s going to be their dividing line, their frontier. How do they expand this easy-to-use concept into the physical extremes?” Cortner says.

Wuchenich is hoping Moku:Lab’s ready-to-use software and a specialized computer chip called FPGA will separate it from the competition. She notes whatever Liquid Instruments loses on precision, it more than compensates with its low price point. “Bottom line—customers don’t want/can’t afford to overpay for specs they don’t need,” she wrote in an email.

It’ll be an uphill battle for a small startup like Liquid Instruments to compete with behemoths whose customers have been loyal for decades. But for Colonel Brian Neff, who heads the department of electrical engineering at the U.S. Air Force Academy and uses Moku:Lab to train his students, Liquid Instruments is a formidable challenger.

“There are advantages to this new way of thinking that I’d love to see some of the other players adopt, and if they don’t adopt, then I think it’s that’s just more promising for a company like Liquid Instruments to be able to come in and innovate a solution that hasn’t really been done to this point,” Neff says.

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I cover billionaires and venture capital for Forbes. I’ve covered startups and debates in the business world for Inc. and breaking news for The Associated Press, WBUR and Metro Boston. I recently graduated from Tufts University, where I served as editor-in-chief of The Tufts Daily.

Source: Why NASA And Apple Are Using This Startup To Test Their Electronics More Efficiently

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In 2017, a Nobelprize was awarded for the direct detection of gravitational waves, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. But really we are still no sure that the events are indeed of astrophysical origin and not misidentified noise that originates on Earth. In this video I tell you what gravitational waves are, how to measurement (directly and indirectly), what the problem is with the existing direct detection, what’s the matter with LIGO’s Nobelprize winning figure, and what’s with the glitches. References: * Better climate predictions https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/12/op… https://www.extremeearth.eu/ * Articles I have written recently about LIGO In English http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2019… In German https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldu… * How can LIGO detect signals? https://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0702079 https://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0511083 * Plot was made by eye quotes: https://www.newscientist.com/article/… * List of LIGO/Virgo run 3 alerts and retractions https://gracedb.ligo.org/superevents/…

There May Be Almost a Million Times More Microplastics in the Oceans Than We Thought

The amount of plastic in the oceans around California may be almost a million times more abundant than previously calculated.

Scientists writing in Limnology and Oceanography Letters estimate the true number of microplastics per cubic meter is 8.3 million—not ten as previously stated.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, developed a new method of counting plastic. It shows more traditional methods may be missing some of the smaller microplastics, with the effect of underestimating the degree to which plastic is contaminating the world’s oceans.

These traditional methods involve trawling a mesh net below water. The bulk of studies use a mesh fine enough to separate plankton from seawater but not fine enough, it appears, to capture microplastics smaller than 333 micrometers, or one-third of a millimeter—a microplastic is considered anything that is smaller than 5 millimeters.

But by using surface seawater samples and salps, the team at UC Diego were able to collect microplastics just 10 micrometers in size. The thickness of a piece of paper, for perspective, is 100 micrometers.

“For years we’ve been doing microplastics studies the same way (by) using a net to collect samples. But anything smaller than that net mesh has been escaping,” lead author Jennifer Brandon, a biological oceanographer with UC San Diego, said in a statement. Brandon developed the method when she was a graduate student at the university.

Salps are a group of gelatinous and often transparent creatures that can vary in size from a few millimeters to a few meters. They frequently group together to form longer chains (or wheels) when they reach maturity. They are filter feeders, taking in food (and microplastics) from the surrounding water. Because the size of the pores on their filters are just 5 micrometers they can absorb infinitesimally small particles.

“They are passive filter-feeders, meaning they don’t select what particles they eat based on anything but size,” Brandon told Newsweek. “So if there are microplastics in the water, they will eat them.”

Microplastics on Beach
Microplastics pictured here on Almaciga Beach, Tenerife, may be far more abundant than previously thought. DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty

Using specimens collected at the Scripps Pelagic Invertebrate Collection, the researchers were able to study samples of salps collected over the years during expeditions in the North Pacific to find out how much microplastic they were ingesting. The team found that the mini-particles included in the study were five orders of magnitude more common than particles 333 micrometers or more.

“We were surprised at how high the numbers were,” said Brandon. “But we expected the mini-microplastics to be higher than the previous recorded numbers of microplastics, because as microplastics break down, they make more and more smaller pieces”

When compared to seawater samples collected at surface level, the team found the microplastics discovered in the salps were “significantly smaller.” They also observed particles were more abundant in samples collected closer to the land than they were in samples collected near the garbage patch, something that may be explained by runoff pollution.

While the effect of microplastic pollution on human health is not widely understood, research has shown that it has a detrimental effect animals further down the food chain. For example, a study has shown exposure to polystyrene microplastics affects oyster reproduction.

“[Plastic] keeps breaking down but stays chemically plastic and doesn’t go back into the ecosystem,” said Brandon.

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Source: There May Be Almost a Million Times More Microplastics in the Oceans Than We Thought

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You might not be able to see them, but they’re in the water. Although trash heaps are easier to spot in waterways, microplastics—pieces of plastic smaller than five millimeters—have started to stir more concern. Acting as sponges, the pieces soak up the chemicals around them and often make their way through the food chain, ending up on dinner plates. Most microplastics are created over time from larger pieces or directly from microbeads in products like face washes or toothpaste. The pieces are so small they pass through waste treatment plants and into waterways. ➡ Subscribe: http://bit.ly/NatGeoSubscribe About National Geographic: National Geographic is the world’s premium destination for science, exploration, and adventure. Through their world-class scientists, photographers, journalists, and filmmakers, Nat Geo gets you closer to the stories that matter and past the edge of what’s possible. Get More National Geographic: Official Site: http://bit.ly/NatGeoOfficialSite Facebook: http://bit.ly/FBNatGeo Twitter: http://bit.ly/NatGeoTwitter Instagram: http://bit.ly/NatGeoInsta VIDEOGRAPHER/EDITOR: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo SPECIAL THANKS: Nancy Donnelly, Julie Lawson, and District Fishwife ADDITIONAL FOOTAGE: NG Creative Are Microplastics in Our Water Becoming a Macroproblem? | National Geographic https://youtu.be/ZHCgA-n5wRw National Geographic https://www.youtube.com/natgeo

Two Female Astronauts Are Making History

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Men have floated out the hatch on all 420 spacewalks conducted over the past half-century. That changed Friday with spacewalk No. 421.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir ventured outside the International Space Station before 8 a.m. ET Friday and will spend over five hours replacing a broken battery charger, or BCDU. NASA’s livestream of the historic spacewalk features astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson as one of the female narrators.

The units have previously been replaced using a robotic arm, but the newly failed unit is too far for it to reach.

The units regulate how much energy flows from the station’s massive solar panels to battery units, which are used to provide power during nighttime passes around Earth. Three previous spacewalks had been planned to replace lithium-ion batteries, but those will be rescheduled until the latest BCDU issue is resolved.

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3-2-1: NASA’s first female launch director to lead countdowns during Artemis missions to the moon

The hardware failure does present some concern, especially since another BCDU was replaced in April and there are only four more backups on the station. In total, there are 24 operational BCDUs.

The battery charger failed after Koch and a male crewmate installed new batteries outside the space station last week. NASA put the remaining battery replacements on hold to fix the problem and moved up the women’s planned spacewalk by three days.

All four men aboard the ISS remained inside during Friday’s spacewalk.

The spacewalk is Koch’s fourth and Meir’s first.

Koch and Meir will have some time left over during their extravehicular activity, or EVA, to finish additional tasks like hardware installations for the European Space Agency.

The planned EVA comes almost seven months since the first all-female spacewalk was canceled due to a lack of properly sized spacesuits for astronauts Koch and Anne McClain. Astronaut Nick Hague ended up joining Koch instead.

But this time, the right spacesuit hardware is in place.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history months after the first all-female spacewalk was supposed to take place with Anne McClain. USA TODAY

NASA, meanwhile, is asking schoolteachers to share photos of their students celebrating “HERstory in the making.” The pictures could be featured on the spacewalk broadcast.

Punchlines: Sewage beer, laptop ban and trips to Mars? Science and tech roundup

Interstellar visitor: Newly discovered comet has a surprisingly familiar look

Russia holds claim to the first spacewalk in 1965 and also the first spacewalk by a woman in 1984. The U.S. trailed by a few months in each instance.

As of Thursday, men dominated the spacewalking field, 213 to 14.

Meir, a marine biologist who arrived at the orbiting lab last month, will be the 15th female spacewalker. Koch, an electrical engineer, is seven months into an 11-month spaceflight that will be the longest by a woman.

Contributing: Emre Kelly, Florida TodayAssociated Press

Source: Two female astronauts are making history. How to watch NASA’s first all-female spacewalk

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Watch as NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir prepare tools necessary for their spacewalk duties outside of the International Space Station. Watch the Spacewalk Live https://www.space.com/first-all-femal… Credit: NASA

Scientists Weighed All The Mass In The Milky Way Galaxy It’s Mind Boggling

Something weird is happening in our galaxy: It’s spinning fast enough that stars ought to be flying off, but there’s something holding them together.

The substance that acts as a gravitational glue is dark matter. Yet it’s incredibly mysterious: Because it doesn’t emit light, no one has ever directly seen it. And no one knows what it’s made of, though there are plenty of wild hypotheses.

For our galaxy — and most others — to remain stable, physicists believe there’s much, much more dark matter in the universe than regular matter. But how much?

Recently astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia star map attempted to calculate the mass of the entire Milky Way galaxy.

It’s not an easy thing to do. For one, it’s difficult to measure the mass of something we’re inside of. The Milky Way galaxy measures some 258,000 light-years across. (Recall that one light-year equals 5.88 trillion miles. Yes, the galaxy is enormous.) And an abundance of stars and gas obscures our view of the galactic center. The team of astronomers essentially measured the speed of some objects moving in our galaxy and deduced the mass from there (the more massive the galaxy, the faster the objects should move.)

Their answer: The galaxy weighs around 1.5 trillion solar masses. This number helps put in perspective how very small we are.

Take, for instance, where stars in the Milky Way fit in.

If you’re lucky enough to get a completely dark, clear sky for stargazing, it’s possible to behold as many as 9,000 stars above you. That’s how many are visible to the naked eye. But another 100 billion stars (or more) are out there just in our own Milky Way galaxy — yet they’re just 4 percent of all the stuff, or matter, in the galaxy.

Another 12 percent of the mass in the universe is gas (planets, you, me, asteroids, all of that is negligible mass in the grand accounting of the galaxy). The remaining 84 percent of the matter in the galaxy is the dark matter, Laura Watkins, a research fellow at the European Southern Observatory, and a collaborator on the project, explains.

The enormity of the galaxy, and the enormity of the mystery of what it’s made of, is really hard to think through. So, here, using the recent ESA-Hubble findings, we’ve tried to visualize the scale of the galaxy and the scale of the dark matter mystery at the heart of it.

As a visual metaphor, we’ve constructed a tower of mass. You’ll see that all the stars in the galaxy just represent a searchlight at the top of the building. The vast majorities of the floors, well, no one knows what goes on in there.

The mass of the Milky Way, visualized

To visualize the mass of 1.5 trillion suns, let’s start small. This is the Earth. It has a mass of 5.972 × 10^24 kilograms.

This is the Earth compared to the sun. The sun is 333,000 times more massive than Earth.

Now let’s try to imagine the mass of the 100 billion stars (or more) stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

That’s enormous.

Another 12 percent** of the mass in the galaxy is just gas floating between stars (mostly hydrogen and helium).

Here’s what the gas looks like using this same visual scale.

What about black holes? “It’s a bit harder to put an exact number of how much they contribute to the total mass, as we don’t know how many there are, but it will be a very, very very small fraction,” Watkins explains. “The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is around 6 million solar masses,” which is really tiny on the scale of the entire mass of the galaxy.

And it’s tiny on the scale of the most abundant, mysterious matter in the galaxy: the dark stuff. Again: 84 percent of the galaxy is made up of dark matter.

Dark matter doesn’t seem to interact with normal matter at all, and it’s invisible. But our galaxy, and universe, would fall apart without it.

Scientists hypothesized its existence when they realized that galaxies spin too quickly to hold themselves together with the mass of stars alone. Think of a carnival ride that spins people around. If it spun fast enough, those riders would be ripped off the ride.

Accounting for “dark matter,” and the gravity it generates, made their models of galaxies stable again. There’s some other evidence for dark matter, too: It seems to produce the same gravitational lensing effect (meaning that it warps the fabric of spacetime) as regular matter.

Now let’s try to visualize the mass of dark matter, compared to the mass of stars and gas.

And remember: This is just our galaxy. There are some hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe.

Also remember that dark matter isn’t even the biggest mystery in the universe, in terms of scale. Some 27 percent of the universe is dark matter, and a mere 5 percent is the matter and energy you and I see and interact with.

The remaining 68 percent of all the matter and energy in the universe is dark energy (which is accelerating the expansion of the universe). While dark matter keeps individual galaxies together, dark energy propels all the galaxies in the universe apart from one another.

What you can see in the night sky might seem enormous: the thousands of stars, and solar systems, to potentially explore. But it’s just a teeny-tiny slice of what’s really out there.

**(Clarification: Ari Maller, a physics professor at New York City College of Technology, wrote in, pointing out that the proportions in our graphic —4 percent of the matter in the galaxy being stars, 12 percent gas, and 84 percent dark matter — are a bit off. They do, he says, represent the overall proportions of each in the universe. But, he writes “we don’t live in an average place,” clarifying that instead ”the gas in the Milky Way is only about 10 percent of its mass.”)

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Source: Scientists weighed all the mass in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s mind-boggling.

Read more: http://www.newscientist.com/article/m… The latest weigh-in of our home galaxy shows much less mass from dark matter, which means we may live in a cosmic oddball

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