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Sun, 14 Feb 2016
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Saturn

Five planets align for first time in a decade; last time: Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, December 26 2004

© Steve Allen Getty Images
The solar system is all set to give a rare celestial show.

Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will all be visible from Earth when they appear in a diagonal row before dawn on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

It's the first time the five bright planets, so-called as they can usually be seen easily with the naked eye, have aligned in such a way for more than 10 years, reports EarthSky.org.

The phenomenon will continue every early morning until Feb. 20.

Rocket

SpaceX Jason-3 satellite to examine climate change, oceans

© www.spaceflightinsider.com
SpaceX launches Jason-3 satellite, Vandenberg Air Base, California
Despite being a crucial player in the global climate change, oceans are among the least known and studied of the Earth system components due to extreme difficulty in probing their deep layers. But instead of observing them by diving deep, think of an alternative way to monitor them from an orbital stance via high-tech satellites revolving around the planet. This is the idea pushed forward by NASA and executed by the private spaceflight company SpaceX.

After successfully putting Jason-3, a $180-million US-European satellite, into the Earth's orbit on Sunday, the SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket failed to land safely on a droneship's platform in the Pacific Ocean, broke a support leg and tipped over. The carrier rocket had lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles, in a foggy and cloudy weather at 10:42 am local time (1842 GMT).

Its satellite, will mainly monitor the topography of the ocean floor, examine global sea surface rise, observe tropical cyclones, and help seasonal and coastal forecast during its five-year-long mission.

The botched landing marked the California-based company's fourth such failed attempt to save carrier rockets, disrupting its plan to reduce launch costs by recycling them instead of letting them fall into the ocean.


Comment: "More than 90 percent of all the heat being trapped in the Earth's system is actually going into the ocean." Methane under the oceans is heating the surrounding water as it escapes into the atmosphere.


Rocket

International Space Station produces first blooming flowers in space

© Scott Kelly/NASA
First ever flower grown in space makes its debut!
Successfully growing the first flower in space brings explorers one step closer to growing fresh produce on long space missions.

For the first time ever, a flower has bloomed in space, aboard the International Space Station. This brings cosmic explorers one step closer to growing other flowering plants in space, like tomatoes, which NASA says it hopes to do in 2018.

On Saturday, American astronaut Scott Kelly, who has been working since March 2015 on the space laboratory and has become its resident gardner, gleefully announced on Twitter that he successfully coaxed the brightly colored Zinnia to blossom, a big accomplishment, as less than a month ago, the plants were moldy and shriveled. But even the space mold held some interest to researchers, so it was collected and frozen so it can be returned to Earth for study.

For scientists back on Earth, the flowering experiment, called "Veggie," will allow them to better understand how plants grow in microgravity. For the astronauts in space, growing the quick-sprouting Zinnias is important practice for growing fresh food on longer space missions in the future.

Cow

Power to the poop: One Colorado city is using human waste to run its vehicles

© City of Grand Junction
Dump trucks refuel with renewable natural gas made from human poop at the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant in Grand Junction.
No matter how you spin it, the business of raw sewage isn't sexy. But in Colorado, the city of Grand Junction is making huge strides to reinvent their wastewater industry - and the result is like finding a diamond in the sludge.

The Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant is processing 8m gallons of Grand Junction's human waste into renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane. The RNG is then used to fuel about 40 fleet vehicles, including garbage trucks, street sweepers, dump trucks and transit buses.

It's possible through a process called anaerobic digestion, which breaks down organic matter into something called raw biogas. The biogas is then collected and upgraded to RNG - at pipeline quality - and can be used as electricity, heat or transportation fuel.

Beaker

Previously thought impossible: Body cells transfer genetic information directly into sperm cells

A revolutionary new study reveals that the core tenet of classical genetics is patently false, and by implication: what we do in this life — our diet, our mindset, our chemical exposures — can directly impact the DNA and health of future generations.

A paradigm shifting new study titled, "Soma-to-Germline Transmission of RNA in Mice Xenografted with Human Tumour Cells: Possible Transport by Exosomes," promises to overturn several core tenets of classical genetics, including collapsing the timescale necessary for the transfer of genetic information through the germline of a species (e.g. sperm) from hundreds of thousands of years to what amounts to 'real time' changes in biological systems.

Comment: In some shamanistic belief systems it is held that the deeds of our ancestors can have an effect on our lives, that a 'sin' (or good deed) can actually be inherited. Previously it has been shown that behaviour can indeed be affected by events in previous generations and passed on through genetic memory. However, the research mentioned in this present article goes even further. Here, not just the information of events in past generations can be inherited, but also the direct circumstances of our lives.

It is interesting that modern science may have stumbled upon a way to explain this shamanistic belief. It may also explain the 'functioning' of the so-called "family constellation" work, an alternative therapeutic method where past family events are brought back into awareness. Had the ancient shamans access to a long forgotten science?


Sun

Infinite loop: See the Sun's yearlong figure-eight in the sky

This strange figure of the sun creating a figure-eight shape in the sky is an awesome sight, but required a year of patience by a dedicated photographer to create.

Veteran astrophotographer Giuseppe Petricca took the image from Sulmona, Abruzzo, Italy using a Nikon Coolpix P90 Bridge. The dots forming a curved figure-eight pattern in the sky mark where the sun appeared every day at the same time. A composite causes the pattern called a solar analemma.

Satellite

Meet Jason-3, NASA's newest ocean monitoring satellite

© SpaceX
SpaceX is launching the planet's newest oceanographic satellite tomorrow morning. Here's the scoop on Jason-3, and how "sea level" is one of those little white lies you learned in school.

SpaceX is launching Jason-3 on a Falcon 9 rocket this Sunday morning. The satellite will provide oceanographic data for everything from tide forecast to continue monitoring decadal variability in ocean heights. The subsequent forecasts are essential for public safety, provides key data for ocean shipping, and will help improve models for hurricane intensity forecasts and El Nino predictions.

Jason-3 is scheduled to launch out of Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex on Sunday, January 17, 2016. The 30-second launch window opens at 10:42:18am local time (1:42pm ET). If it scrubs, SpaceX has a backup launch window the next day at 10:31:04am.

Question

The case of the so-called alien megastructure around a star just got weirder

© JPL-Caltech/NASA
The weirdest star in the cosmos just got a lot weirder. And yes, it might be aliens.

Known as KIC 8462852, or Tabby's star, it has been baffling astronomers for the past few months after a team of researchers noticed its light seemed to be dipping in brightness in bizarre ways. Proposed explanations ranged from a cloud of comets to orbiting "alien megastructures".

Now an analysis of historical observations reveals the star has been gradually dimming for over a century, leaving everyone scratching their heads as to the cause.

The first signs of this space oddity came from NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, which continually watched the star's region of the sky between 2009 and 2013. Most planet-hosting stars show small, regular dips in light when their planets pass in front of them. But Tabby's star dipped erratically throughout the four years, sometimes losing as much as 20 per cent of its brightness.

Rainbow

Spacetime is like a rainbow, universe has color-like energy versions

© Chris Rogers-Rainbow/Science Faction/Corbis
Spacetime is often discussed as a unified mechanism—but what if were actually that different particles felt its existence in a different way, creating a ‘rainbow’ composed of many forms of spacetime? Physicists from the University of Warsaw have used quantum theory to develop a model that supports this idea.
  • Researchers have suspected that spacetime is sensed in different ways
  • Physicists' model reveals different interactions based on particle energy
  • Thus, classical spacetime structure depends on energy of varying particles
Spacetime is often discussed as a unified mechanism—but what if were actually that different particles felt its existence in a different way, creating a 'rainbow' composed of many forms of spacetime?

Earlier hypotheses on this idea were formed from guesses, but now, physicists from the University of Warsaw have used quantum theory to develop a model that supports ideas of a structure based on the energies of different particles. When white light is passed through a prism, the rainbow on the other side reveals a rich selection of colours - and spacetime works in the same way, the researchers claim.

Just as a normal rainbow can be described in terms of varying wavelength, the physicists suggest the 'spacetime rainbow,' reflects the measure of energy differences.

Airplane

Russian inventor creates detachable cabin to save lives during plane crashes

© Independent, UK
How the cabin would detach mid-flight as well as during take-off and landing.
The innovation has caused a mixed reaction amongst viewers

A way of saving lives in plane crashes has been conceived, after an inventor released designs for a detachable cabin.

The technology was invented by Tatarenko Vladimir Nikolaevich, who has been working on the project for the past three years. The video above demonstrates exactly how it would work during in-flight emergency situations.

It consists of a detachable cabin that could be ejected at any time during take off, mid-flight or landing and allow the passengers to land safely. Due to parachutes attached to the cabin, which would automatically open once the lower capsule is separated from the aircraft, passengers could land safely on water or on the ground.

The prototype also includes storage space designed to hold luggage under the cabin, so that passengers wouldn't lose any of their personal belongings. The video shows how the cabin would detach mid-flight as well as during take-off and landing


Viewers have had mixed reactions to the innovation, with some supporting the idea but others considering it impractical.

Questions have been raised over the potential impact on the rest of the plane, the possibility of the detached cabin crashing against mountains or buildings before landing and the fate of the pilots.