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Thu, 27 Oct 2016
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Science & Technology


Bright new nova discovered in Sagittarius

A nova in Sagittarius, discovered a few nights ago by a Japanese amateur, has become bright enough to see in binoculars.
© Stellarium
This map shows the sky facing southwest in late twilight for observers across the central U.S. and southern Europe. The 8th-magnitude nova (exaggerated here!) lies just above the spout of the Sagittarius Teapot, at right ascension 18h 10m 28s, declination –27° 29′ 59″. It has been temporarily dubbed TCP J18102829-2729590 accordingly.
Just in the nick for time — at least for northern observers — a bright nova has been discovered in Sagittarius. I say "nick of time" because the constellation is sinking in the southwestern sky right after dusk, affording only a short viewing window from mid-northern latitudes. But a window it is, and there's still time to snatch a view of this amazing stellar explosion. Just make sure to look right after the end of twilight. That means about an hour and a half after your local sunset time.
© Stellarium
I've labeled the two bright 'spout stars' in this more detailed map, which shows stars to about magnitude 9.5. This will get you very close. To continue to the nova, use the more detailed chart below.
Well-known nova hunter Koichi Itagaki of Japan nabbed the "new star" on October 20th, using a 180-mm telephoto lens to take sky-patrol photos. At the time it was only about 11th magnitude. But within two days, the star shot up an additional three magnitudes and now shines brighter than 8.0. That puts it within range of 50-mm binoculars and any telescope you might have.


Russia unveils first image of prospective super-heavy ICBM set to replace 'Satan' missile

© Vladimir Fedorenko / Sputnik
Russia has unveiled the very first image of a new super-heavy thermonuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat. The Sarmat, designed to be fitted with a hypersonic glider warhead, is expected to go into production as early as 2018.

The Sarmat is undergoing development at the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau in the city of Miass. The first image of the new prospective missile was declassified by the bureau on Sunday.

A short statement signed by chief designer V. Degtar and leading designer Y. Kaverin accompanies the illustration.

"In accordance with the Decree of the Russian Government 'On the State Defense Order for 2010 and the planning period 2012-2013,' the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau was instructed to start design and development work on the Sarmat. In June 2011, the Bureau and the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a state contract for the Sarmat's development," reads the note on the bureau's website.

Microscope 1

Newly discovered millipede boasts 200 poison glands and 414 legs

© Illacme tobini SciNews / YouTube
Explorers in California have discovered a new species of creepy crawly boasting 200 poison glands, four penises and 414 legs.

The 'illacme tobini' is a type of millipede and was found living in marble caves in Sequoia National Park high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Despite what the name suggests, millipedes do not possess 1,000 legs - in fact the world's leggiest creature, illacme plenipes, has just the 750. First seen in 1928, it can be found under sandstone boulders near Silicon Valley.

"I never would have expected that a second species of the leggiest animal on the planet would be discovered in a cave 150 miles away," said Assistant Professor in the Entomology Department at Virginia Tech Paul Marek, an expert in all things millipedes.

Blue Planet

Redrawing the tree of life: Scientists discover new bacteria groups, stunning microbial diversity underground

All the known major bacterial groups are represented by wedges in this circular 'tree of life.' The bigger wedges are more diverse groups. Green wedges are groups that have not been genomically sampled at the Rifle site --everything else has. Black wedges are previously identified bacteria groups that have also been found at Rifle. Purple wedges are groups discovered at Rifle and announced last year. Red wedges are new groups discovered in this study. Colored dots represent important metabolic processes the new groups help mediate.
One of the most detailed genomic studies of any ecosystem to date has revealed an underground world of stunning microbial diversity, and added dozens of new branches to the tree of life.

The bacterial bonanza comes from scientists who reconstructed the genomes of more than 2,500 microbes from sediment and groundwater samples collected at an aquifer in Colorado. The effort was led by researchers from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley. DNA sequencing was performed at the Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

As reported online October 24 in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists netted genomes from 80 percent of all known bacterial phyla, a remarkable degree of biological diversity at one location. They also discovered 47 new phylum-level bacterial groups, naming many of them after influential microbiologists and other scientists. And they learned new insights about how microbial communities work together to drive processes that are critical to the planet's climate and life everywhere, such as the carbon and nitrogen cycles.

These findings shed light on one of Earth's most important and least understood realms of life. The subterranean world hosts up to one-fifth of all biomass, but it remains a mystery.

Comment: Scientists excited by discovery of 'Underground Galapagos'


Elon Musk's dreams for human habitats on Mars

© Refugio Ruiz / Associated Press
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk answered questions about his plans to send humans to Mars in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session Sunday afternoon that prompted thousands of reader comments.

The question-and-answer session was intended as a follow-up to Musk's speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, last month, in which he described plans to send up to 1 million people to Mars and turn humans into a multiplanetary species within 40 to 100 years.

His vision involves massive, reusable rocket boosters launching spaceships into a "parking orbit" where they are later refueled by propellant tankers. Eventually 1,000 spaceships carrying 100 people each would embark en masse for the Red Planet.

But there are fewer details on what they would do once they arrive. Musk has said a refueling station would be established on Mars to harvest methane fuel for the rocket so settlers could come back to Earth.

Eye 1

Big Brother: Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company's "number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products."

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick's massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand - literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits "may be" combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

The change is enabled by default for new Google accounts. Existing users were prompted to opt-in to the change this summer.

Comment: Google continues to drive to collect information about all your online activities, at the moment so it can sell the data or target advertising to you. But it is data that is always available if the government comes calling, and it is a very complete picture. Yes, you can adjust your privacy settings, but many people do not know to do this and ultimately you are relying on the honesty of the company to not track your data if you so ask.


New research shows the universe may not be expanding at an accelerating pace

© Eurasia Review
Five years ago, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three astronomers for their discovery, in the late 1990s, that the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace.

Their conclusions were based on analysis of Type Ia supernovae - the spectacular thermonuclear explosion of dying stars - picked up by the Hubble space telescope and large ground-based telescopes. It led to the widespread acceptance of the idea that the universe is dominated by a mysterious substance named 'dark energy' that drives this accelerating expansion.

Now, a team of scientists led by Professor Subir Sarkar of Oxford University's Department of Physics has cast doubt on this standard cosmological concept. Making use of a vastly increased data set - a catalogue of 740 Type Ia supernovae, more than ten times the original sample size - the researchers have found that the evidence for acceleration may be flimsier than previously thought, with the data being consistent with a constant rate of expansion.

The study is published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Professor Sarkar, who also holds a position at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, said, "The discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe won the Nobel Prize, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, and the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. It led to the widespread acceptance of the idea that the universe is dominated by "dark energy" that behaves like a cosmological constant - this is now the "standard model" of cosmology."


Study reveals new earthquake hazard in Afghanistan-Pakistan border region

© University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Figure 1: a) Western India plate boundary zone, includes the Chaman fault and Kabul and b) ground velocity field of the Ghazaband fault and Quetta obtained from SAR imagery of the Envisat satellite.
The uniquely designed study helps to understand earthquake hazard in politically unstable region

MIAMI—University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science scientists have revealed alarming conclusions about the earthquake hazard in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The new study focused on two of the major faults in the region— the Chaman and Ghazaband faults.

"Typically earthquake hazard research is a result of extensive ground-based measurements," said the study's lead author Heresh Fattahi, a UM Rosenstiel School alumni. "These faults, however, are in a region where the political situation makes these ground-based measurements dangerous and virtually impossible."


Bizarro Earth

Large ninth planet in distant orbit must exist, scientists say

© Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)
Artist's illustration of Planet Nine, a world about 10 times more massive than Earth that may lie undiscovered in the outer solar system.
Planet Nine's days of lurking unseen in the dark depths of the outer solar system may be numbered.

The hypothetical giant planet, which is thought to be about 10 times more massive than Earth, will be discovered within 16 months or so, astronomer Mike Brown predicted.

"I'm pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter — not this winter, next winter — I think that there'll be enough people looking for it that ... somebody's actually going to track this down," Brown said during a news conference Wednesday (Oct. 19) at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California. Brown said that eight to 10 groups are currently looking for the planet.

Comment: Here at SOTT, we have been postulating the existence of a twin sun, a brown dwarf, to account for anomalies that could be explained by our solar system being a 'binary star system'.

The consequences of such an object (nemesis) smashing in and out through the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt are chronicled in our Fire in the Sky section, and our Comets and Catastrophes series. The historical consequences can be reviewed in the book series, The Secret History of the World, by Laura Knight Jadczyk.

Below is a video we have published on the subject:


Brand-new aspect of our immune system discovered by scientist

© Imperial College London
Thousands of new immune system signals have been uncovered with potential implications for immunotherapy, autoimmune diseases and vaccine development.

The researchers behind the finding say it is the biological equivalent of discovering a new continent.

Our cells regularly break down proteins from our own bodies and from foreign bodies, such as viruses and bacteria. Small fragments of these proteins, called epitopes, are displayed on the surface of the cells like little flags so that the immune system can scan them. If they are recognised as foreign, the immune system will destroy the cell to prevent the spread of infection.

In a new study, researchers have discovered that around one third of all the epitopes displayed for scanning by the immune system are a type known as 'spliced' epitopes.

These spliced epitopes were thought to be rare, but the scientists have now identified thousands of them by developing a new method that allowed them to map the surface of cells and identify a myriad of previously unknown epitopes.

The findings should help scientists to better understand the immune system, including autoimmune diseases, as well as provide potential new targets for immunotherapy and vaccine design.