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Tue, 24 May 2022
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DARPA launches 'Ouija' project to study radio signals in Earth's atmosphere with satellites

Timelapse view of the ionosphere
A timelapse view of the ionosphere as seen from the International Space Station, with city lights shining below.
The U.S. military plans to launch satellites to learn more about how radio signals behave in part of the Earth's atmosphere.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has set up a new program, called Ouija, which will use sensors on "low-orbiting satellites" to track high-frequency radio waves in the ionosphere. DARPA has a solicitation for proposals available now for one part of the proposal and plans to release a second solicitation at another date.

The ionosphere is best known as the atmospheric zone where auroras roam, depending upon solar activity and the Earth's magnetic field. The Ouija program will focus on a region of the ionosphere roughly 125 miles to 185 miles (300 to 400 kilometers) in altitude — well below the orbit of the International Space Station, which zooms around our planet at an average height of 250 miles (400 km).

Characterizing how radio waves behave in this space will be crucial to help future warfighters work effectively, DARPA officials said in an April 22 statement. Signal propagation in the ionosphere is notoriously unpredictable, due to the high density of charged particles (mainly electrons) that can alter the path of radio signals.


Scientists discover "ghost" fossils - "completely unexpected"

ghost fossils
© Scientists Discover "Ghost" Fossils - "Completely Unexpected"
The images show the impressions of a collapsed cell-wall covering (a coccosphere) on the surface of a fragment of ancient organic matter (left) with the individual plates (coccoliths) enlarged to show the exquisite preservation of sub-micron-scale structures (right). The blue image is inverted to give a virtual fossil cast, i.e., to show the original three-dimensional form. The original plates have been removed from the sediment by dissolution, leaving behind only the ghost imprints.
Discovery of 'ghost' fossils reveals plankton resilience to past global warming events.

An international team of researchers has discovered a new type of fossilization.

An international team of scientists from University College London (UCL), the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Natural History Museum (London), and the University of Florence has found a remarkable type of fossilization that has remained almost entirely unnoticed until now.

The fossils are microscopic imprints, or "ghosts," of single-celled plankton, called coccolithophores, that lived in the seas millions of years ago, and their discovery is revolutionizing our understanding of how climate change affects plankton in the oceans.

Coccolithophores are important in today's oceans, providing much of the oxygen we breathe, supporting marine food webs, and locking carbon away in seafloor sediments. They are a type of microscopic plankton that surround their cells with hard calcareous plates, called coccoliths, and these are what normally fossilize in rocks.


May 31st could have the most powerful meteor storm in generations - or not

Tau Herculid meteor outburst
© Jeff Sullivan.
A Geminid meteor outburst from 2020. Be sure to watch the skies on the last morning of May, for a possible Tau Herculid meteor outburst.
If predictions hold true, we may be in for a rare meteor outburst from an obscure meteor shower on May 31st topping a thousand meteors per hour... or we may see nothing at all. Welcome to the wonderful world of meteor shower predictions and prognostications.

The story starts with the discovery of periodic Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 back in 1930 from the Hamburg Observatory. (We'll be referring to it as simply 'Comet 73P' from here on out). Astronomers Arthur Wachmann and Carl Schwassmann caught this fuzzball comet on glass plate captures as a +9.5 magnitude object, moving through the constellation Hercules.

But it was the orbit of Comet 73P that gave observers pause: going around the Sun as a short period comet once every 5.4 years with an orbit inclined just over 11 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane, there was a good chance the comet would be a splendid object on its May 31st 1930 passage 0.062 Astronomical Units (AU) (9.2 million km) from the Earth.


Extraterrestrial stone found in Egypt may be first evidence on Earth of rare supernova

Hypatia stone supernova

Samples of the extraterrestrial Hypatia stone next to a small coin.
New chemistry 'forensics' indicates that the stone named Hypatia from the Egyptian desert could be the first tangible evidence found on Earth of a supernova type Ia explosion. These rare supernovas are some of the most energetic events in the universe.

This is the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Icarus, by Jan Kramers, Georgy Belyanin, and Hartmut Winkler of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and others.

Since 2013, Belyanin and Kramers have discovered a series of highly unusual chemistry clues in a small fragment of the Hypatia Stone.

Comment: See also: Did Earth 'Steal' Martian Water?


NASA's Voyager 1 is sending back mysterious data from beyond our solar system

NASA Voyager
© NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Voyager 1 is sending mysterious data from beyond our solar system. Scientists are unsure what it means. Paola Rosa-Aquino May 19, 2022, 8:39 PM An illustration depicting one of NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft. Both Voyagers have entered interstellar space.
NASA's Voyager 1 is continuing its journey beyond our solar system, 45 years after it was launched. But now the veteran spacecraft is sending back strange data, puzzling its engineers.

NASA said on Wednesday that while the probe is still operating properly, readouts from its attitude articulation and control system — AACS for short — don't seem to match the spacecraft's movements and orientation, suggesting the craft is confused about its location in space. The AACS is essential for Voyager to send NASA data about its surrounding interstellar environment as it keeps the craft's antenna pointing right at our planet.

"A mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission," Suzanne Dodd, a project manager for Voyager 1 and 2 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "The spacecraft are both almost 45 years old, which is far beyond what the mission planners anticipated." NASA said Voyager 1's twin, the Voyager 2 probe, is behaving normally.


Moon volcanoes may have spewed 18 quadrillion pounds of volcanic water

Rocket M rover lunar ice moon
© Masten Space Systems
The Rocket M rover will drill below the lunar surface for ice.
And its ice form could be mined for drinking water and rocket propellant.

The Moon's violent volcanic past may provide a vital lifeline for astronauts on future missions.

Those characteristic dark splotches on the Moon, also known as lunar maria, originated billions of years ago when a series of volcanic eruptions took place on the lunar surface.

Now, a new paper from researchers at CU Boulder predicts that those volcanoes may have also left ice sheets behind that may measure up to hundreds of feet thick in parts.

Light Saber

Laser weapons used in Ukraine - Russia

laser system
© Sputnik/Russia's Defense Ministry
Peresvet Laser System
Russia has developed its own anti-drone laser capability and is already using it in Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov claimed in an interview on Wednesday. It has a range of 5km and was nicknamed Zadira, or 'troublemaker' in Russian, he said. He didn't disclose any other details about the new device.

The revelation came as Borisov was discussing the advanced weapons being developed in Russia. He compared the new tool to Peresvet, a laser system first unveiled by President Vladimir Putin in 2018, the exact purpose of which was not explained at the time.

The official confirmed that the Peresvet was designed to disable optic sensors, including on spy satellites orbiting the earth as high as 1,500 km.
"While Peresvet blinds, the new generation of laser weapons causes physical damage to the target, burning it through."


Did a 5th giant planet mess up the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune?

Artist rendering of an early solar system.
© NASA / JPL-Caltech / T. Pyle (SSC)
Artist rendering of an early solar system.
The solar system's current planetary orbits seem stable, but that's only because the planets have settled into them over billions of years. The early solar system was a much different place than that seen today, and for almost 20 years, scientists thought they had a good handle on how it got that way. But more recently, data had started pointing to some flaws in that understanding - especially about how the giant planets in the outer solar system got where they are today. Now an international team of astrophysicists thinks they have a better understanding of that process, and they believe it could help solve a long-standing argument about the early solar system.

Currently, the best model scientists have for the formation of the solar system is known as the Nice model, after the town in France, where it was first developed in 2005. As part of this model, the gas giants that currently reside in the outer fringes of this solar system originally orbited what became the sun much more closely with more circular orbits. However, something caused instability in the system that kicked those planets out into the much more unevenly spaced and oblong orbits we see them in today.

What exactly caused that anomaly has thus far been a mystery. However, a team comprised of researchers from Michigan State University, Zhejiang University, and the University of Bordeaux think they have an answer. It's as simple as dust in the (solar) wind.


Scouring through old Hubble images turned up 1,000 new asteroids

hubble space
Researchers have found over 1,700 asteroid trails in archived Hubble data from the last 20 years. While many of the asteroids are previously known, more than 1,000 are not. What good are another 1,000 asteroids? Like all asteroids, they could hold valuable clues to the Solar System's history.

As time passes and more and more telescopes perform more and more observations, their combined archival data keeps growing. Sometimes discoveries lurk in that data that await new analytical tools or renewed efforts from scientists before they're revealed. That's what happened in an effort called the Hubble Asteroid Hunter.

In 2019 a group of astronomers launched the Hubble Asteroid Hunter. It's a citizen science project on the Zooniverse platform. Their goal was to comb through Hubble data to find new asteroids.

Comment: See also:


NASA footage captures 'doorway,' inspires theories of life on Mars

doorway on mars
The image of what looks to be a symmetrical, created Martian portal, captured May 7 by NASA’s Curiosity rover, has ignited a cosmic array of speculation.
It's not a stairway to heaven - it's a doorway on Mars.

The image of what looks to be a symmetrical, hand-hewn Martian portal, captured May 7 by NASA's Curiosity rover, has ignited a cosmic array of speculation, conspiracy theories and dreams of intelligent life on the red planet.

"If you zoom in all the way you can see Matt Damon crouching inside the doorway," noted one wise guy on Reddit.

Comment: See also: