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Mon, 30 Jan 2023
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Stunning photo shows every visible planet in the solar system lining up across the night sky

all planets in sky
© Dr Gianluca Masi
Dr Gianluca Masi took the image from the roof of the building where he lives last night, using a camera with special lenses. It shows Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the Moon
Stargazers have been capturing some spectacular images of a rare astronomical event that means every planet in the solar system is visible in the night sky at the same time.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can all be seen with the naked eye, while Uranus and Neptune are possible to spot with binoculars or a telescope.

Astronomer Dr Gianluca Masi shared a picture he took of the five planets that could be seen with the naked eye, while other skywatchers across the world also captured images of the 'planet parade'. He took it from the roof of a building in Rome, Italy last night, using a camera with special lenses.


40-year study finds mysterious patterns in temperatures at Jupiter

Scientists have completed the longest-ever study tracking temperatures in Jupiter's upper troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere where the giant planet's weather occurs and where its signature colorful striped clouds form. The work, conducted over four decades by stitching together data from NASA spacecraft and ground-based telescope observations, found unexpected patterns in how temperatures of Jupiter's belts and zones change over time. The study is a major step toward a better understanding of what drives weather at our solar system's largest planet and eventually being able to forecast it.
Jupiter Temperature Changes
© ESO / L.N. Fletcher, NAOJ
Figure 1: (Left) Color composite images of Jupiter in the wavelengths of 8.6 and 10.7 microns, obtained by the VLT in February, and March 2016, respectively. The colors represent the temperatures and cloudiness: The darker areas are cold and cloudy, and the brighter areas are warmer and cloud-free. (Right) Jupiter at a wavelength of 18 microns obtained in May 2019 with COMICS on the Subaru Telescope.
Jupiter's troposphere has a lot in common with Earth's: It's where clouds form and storms churn. To understand this weather activity, scientists need to study certain properties, including wind, pressure, humidity, and temperature. They have known since NASA's Pioneer 10 and 11 missions in the 1970s that, in general, colder temperatures are associated with Jupiter's lighter and whiter bands (known as zones), while the darker brown-red bands (known as belts) are locations of warmer temperatures.

But there weren't enough data sets to understand how temperatures vary over the long-term. An international research team of planetary scientists from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA, University of Leicester (UK), and other institutes broke new ground by studying images of the bright infrared glow (invisible to the human eye) that rises from warmer regions of the atmosphere (upper troposphere), directly measuring Jupiter's temperatures above the colorful clouds. The scientists collected these images at regular intervals over three of Jupiter's orbits around the Sun, each of which lasts 12 Earth years.


Scientists digitally reconstruct 'handsome' face of Ramses II

ramses III
© Dominio público
Researchers used CT software to "digitally unwrap" the mummy of one of ancient Egypt's greatest pharaohs of Egyptian history

Egyptian and British scientists have unveiled a facial reconstruction of Ramses II, having used computer tomography (CT) software to "digitally unwrap" the mummy of the famous Ancient Egyptian pharaoh. The joint scientific project allowed historians for the first time to observe what the ruler looked like at different points in his life.

The researchers say they used earlier CT scans of the pharaoh's mummy and applied them to analysis software. They were then able to differentiate between the skull and other materials used during the embalming process and produce a 3D rendering of the skull. They then applied the average facial muscle layer measurements believed to be appropriate for ancient Egyptians to reconstruct the pharaoh's face.

2 + 2 = 4

How much of science is reproducible?

scientific formulae
Reproducibility is the most fundamental yardstick in science. If a result can't be replicated, it doesn't count as science.

Yet in recent years, there has been much talk of a 'replication crisis'. Many results that we assumed were robust simply cannot be replicated. The term is typically used in the context of psychology and medicine, though it may apply to other fields as well.

So how much of science is reproducible? One way of tackling this question is to select a large number of studies from a particular field and then attempt to replicate them. This has been done several times.

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HAARP to bounce signal off asteroid in NASA experiment

HAARP in Alaska
© UAF/GI photo by JR Ancheta
With temperatures falling to 40 degrees below zero, a frosty landscape surrounds antennas at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program site in Gakona, Alaska, on Dec. 20, 2022. HAARP conducted a run-through on that date to prepare for the Dec. 27 asteroid bounce experiment.
An experiment to bounce a radio signal off an asteroid on Dec. 27 will serve as a test for probing a larger asteroid that in 2029 will pass closer to Earth than the many geostationary satellites that orbit our planet.

The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program research site in Gakona will transmit radio signals to asteroid 2010 XC15, which could be about 500 feet across. The University of New Mexico Long Wavelength Array near Socorro, New Mexico, and the Owens Valley Radio Observatory Long Wavelength Array near Bishop, California, will receive the signal.

This will be the first use of HAARP to probe an asteroid.

"What's new and what we are trying to do is probe asteroid interiors with long wavelength radars and radio telescopes from the ground," said Mark Haynes, lead investigator on the project and a radar systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "Longer wavelengths can penetrate the interior of an object much better than the radio wavelengths used for communication."

Knowing more about an asteroid's interior, especially of an asteroid large enough to cause major damage on Earth, is important for determining how to defend against it.

"If you know the distribution of mass, you can make an impactor more effective, because you'll know where to hit the asteroid a little better," Haynes said.

Many programs exist to quickly detect asteroids, determine their orbit and shape and image their surface, either with optical telescopes or the planetary radar of the Deep Space Network, NASA's network of large and highly sensitive radio antennas in California, Spain and Australia.


Russia begins deployment of new state-of-the-art Sarmat ICBM

© Global Look Press/Russian Defense Ministry
RS-28 Sarmat Intercontinental ballistic missile test launch
Russia's first new silo-based Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) will be deployed into service next year, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said at a meeting of Russia's senior defense officials with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
"Successful launches of the new heavy Sarmat missile system during state-run tests made it possible to begin work on its deployment."
In total, some 22 new strategic nuclear missile launchers, including the silo-based Sarmat, as well as the Avangard and Yars systems, are set to be deployed to the country's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) next year, the minister revealed.

Putin said that efforts would continue to improve the country's SMF, adding that
"The share of modern types of weapons in [Russia's] strategic nuclear forces has exceeded 91% this year. We will continue to maintain and improve the combat-readiness of our nuclear triad. This is the main guarantee for preserving our sovereignty and territorial integrity, strategic parity, and the general balance of power in the world."


'Christmas' comet E3 ZTF to become visible to the unaided eye

Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF
© Michael Jaeger
Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF
Taken by Michael Jaeger on December 22, 2022 @ Jauerling, Austria
If it's not too late, ask for a telescope for Christmas. Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3) is approaching Earth for a close encounter next month, and it already looks great. Michael Jaeger of Martinsberg, Austria, photographed the two-tailed interplanetary snowball on Dec. 22nd.

"This comet has become an exciting object," says Jaeger, "Although it will not reach maximum brightness until late January or February, it already shows two tails and a bright green atmosphere."

Discovered in March 2022 by the Zwicky Transient Facility, Comet ZTF is falling in from the outer solar system. Perihelion (closest approach to the sun) will occur on Jan. 12, 2023, at a distance of 1.11 AU. Closest approach to Earth follows on Feb. 1, 2023, at a distance of 0.28 AU. Between those two dates, the comet could hit magnitude 5 or 6, technically visible to the unaided eye.

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Beautiful: The highest resolution photos ever taken of snowflakes

high resolution photograph snowflakes
© Nathan Myhrvold / Modernist Cuisine Gallery, LLC
"Yellowknife Flurry," a photograph by Nathan Myhrvold, captures the intricate structure of snowflakes.
Photographer and scientist Nathan Myhrvold has developed a camera that captures snowflakes at a microscopic level never seen before

The first chill of a winter storm is enough to send most people indoors, but not Nathan Myhrvold. The colder the weather, the better his chances are of capturing a microscopic photograph of a snowflake. Now, nearly two years in the making, Myhrvold has developed what he bills as the "highest resolution snowflake camera in the world." Recently, he released a series of images taken using his creation, a prototype that captures snowflakes at a microscopic level never seen before.

Myhrvold, who holds a PhD in theoretical mathematics and physics from Princeton University and served as the Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft for 14 years, leaned on his background as a scientist to create the camera. He also tapped into his experience as a photographer, most notably as the founder of Modernist Cuisine, a food innovation lab known for its high-resolution photographs of various food stuffs published into a five-volume book of photography of the same name that focuses on the art and science of cooking. Myhrvold first got the idea to photograph snowflakes 15 years ago after meeting Kenneth Libbrecht, a California Institute of Technology professor who happened to be studying the physics of snowflakes.


Scientists achieve a breakthrough in nuclear fusion

National Ignition Facility at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
© Damien Jemison, Lawrence Livermore National Labratory
The fusion record was achieved at the National Ignition Facility at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which ignites fusion fuel with an array of 192 lasers. These lasers reach high energies thanks in part to devices called preamplifiers (seen here).
A U.S. lab has successfully sparked a fusion reaction that released more energy than went into it. But there's still a long way to go toward fusion as a clean energy source.

For more than 60 years, scientists have pursued one of the toughest physics challenges ever conceived: harnessing nuclear fusion, the power source of the stars, to generate abundant clean energy here on Earth. Today, researchers announced a milestone in this effort. For the first time, a fusion reactor has produced more energy than was used to trigger the reaction.

On December 5, an array of lasers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, fired 2.05 megajoules of energy at a tiny cylinder holding a pellet of frozen deuterium and tritium, heavier forms of hydrogen. The pellet compressed and generated temperatures and pressures intense enough to cause the hydrogen inside it to fuse. In a tiny blaze lasting less than a billionth of a second, the fusing atomic nuclei released 3.15 megajoules of energy — about 50 percent more than had been used to heat the pellet.

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NASA Mars lander InSight falls silent after 4 years

Mars Lander
NASA's InSite Lander
It could be the end of the red dusty line for NASA's InSight lander, which has fallen silent after four years on Mars.

The lander's power levels have been dwindling for months because of all the dust coating its solar panels. Ground controllers at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory knew the end was near, but NASA reported that InSight unexpectedly didn't respond to communications from Earth on Sunday.

"It's assumed InSight may have reached the end of its operations," NASA said late Monday, adding that its last communication was Thursday. "It's unknown what prompted the change in its energy."

The team will keep trying to contact InSight, just in case.

InSight landed on Mars in 2018 and was the first spacecraft to document a marsquake. It detected more than 1,300 marsquakes with its French-built seismometer, including several caused by meteoroid strikes. The most recent marsquake sensed by InSight, earlier this year, left the ground shaking for at least six hours, according to NASA. The seismometer readings shed light on Mars' interior.