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Sun, 04 Dec 2016
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Telescope

Contact lost with Russian 'Progress' spaceship carrying supplies to International Space Station

© roscosmos
The Russian space agency has reported disruption of the data signal with its Progress cargo spaceship, which was launched to deliver 2.6 tons of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

"After the launch of the Soyuz-U launch vehicle along with the Progress MS-04 cargo spacecraft, telemetry connection was lost on the 383th second of flight," Roscosmos said in a statement.

Comment: There have been reports of an explosion in the skies over Tuva, Russia around the time the cargo ship vanished:



Moon

Brazil to launch its first nanosatellite to the Moon

© NASA
Brazil plans to launch a nanosatellite into Lunar orbit before 2020 to study the effects of the microgravity environment on different life forms. It will become the first Brazilian space probe to venture outside Earth's orbit.

The project, named Garatéa-L, is being developed by a team of University of São Paulo scientists with help from the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency.

The nanosatellite will be launched by an Indian PSLV-C11 rocket, which is also slated to send an additional four such satellites to the Moon.

Fireball 3

The man in NASA who stands between Earth and asteroid Armageddon

© Michael Deforge
Lindley Johnson spent 23 years in the U.S. Air Force keeping his eyes above the skies. He helped identify and tackle a growing risk to human space activity—the sheer volume of stuff orbiting the planet—in addition to helping manage and monitor military assets in orbit. In 1982, the Air Force set up a space command to coordinate its activities, not the least of which was making sure the then-new Space Shuttle fleet wouldn't have a tragic encounter with spacefaring material.

In the early 1990s, Johnson's focus turned to natural threats to the planet from near-Earth asteroids, now a large and growing class of rocks that scientists track both for their potential impact risk and to study the solar system. About 1,500 new objects are discovered every year. Since retiring as a lieutenant colonel several years ago, he's become the founding head of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, overseeing a network of ground-based telescope surveys for new asteroids and working with other agencies to prepare for the unlikely event of a direct hit. His job title—no pressure—is Planetary Defense Officer.

A sign on the credenza in his office reads, "Every Day is Asteroid Day," he said.

Laptop

'Gooligan' malware breached security of 1M Google accounts; could compromise 74% of Android devices

© Dado Ruvic / Reuters
"Gooligan" malware has breached the security of 1 million Google accounts and could eventually compromise about 74 percent of Android devices, according to a cybersecurity firm. Gooligan has been found in at least 86 applications at third-party app stores.

Security firm Check Point Software Technologies said Wednesday that apps infected with the malware and installed on an Android device use exploits in Android versions 4 and 5 to access "full control of the device and can execute privileged commands remotely."

"After achieving root access, Gooligan downloads a new, malicious module from the [campaign's Command and Control] server and installs it on the infected device," Check Point wrote. "This module injects code into running Google Play or GMS [Google Mobile Services] to mimic user behavior so Gooligan can avoid detection, a technique first seen with the mobile malware HummingBad."

Sun

Unexpected solar flare gives off stunning UV radiation flash

On Nov. 29th, new sunspot AR2615 erupted, producing two M-Class solar flares.

A pulse of UV and X-radiation from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. This affected the normal propagation of radio waves.

Mariners and ham radio operators may have noticed brief fade-outs and/or unexpected hops at frequencies below ~10 MHz.


Comment: From Spaceweather.com:
Following months of negligible solar flare activity, the sudden emergence of AR2615 and its subsequent explosion caught forecasters off guard. A pulse of UV and X-radiation from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean: map. This affected the normal propagation of radio waves. Mariners and ham radio operators may have noticed brief fade-outs and/or unexpected hops at frequencies below ~10 MHz.

A few hours later, it happened again. At 23:38 UT on Nov. 29th, AR2615 produced an M1.2-class flare, causing a short-lived radio blackout over Australia.

This is *not* a major space weather event, but it is a break from the sun's recent deepening quiet. NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% chance of additional M-flares on Nov. 30th.



MIB

Here's how to check if your Google account is one of the 1 million infected with malware

Anyone running an older version of the Android operating system, be warned: Malware is infecting 13,000 Android devices every day, putting at risk the private details of more than 1 million Google accounts.

That's according to cybersecurity software company Check Point, which discovered a new piece of malware called "Gooligan" that's infecting Android phones and stealing email addresses.

Users who download Gooligan-infected apps or click links in phishing messages are being exposed to the malware, which allows attackers to access sensitive information from Google apps like Gmail, Drive, and Photos.

Once attackers hack into the device, they're buying apps on the Google Play store and writing reviews posing as the phone's owner, Check Point says.

Anyone who owns a device running Android 4 and 5 — that includes Android Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Lollipop — is most at risk, according to Check Point, and those devices make up nearly 75% of Android users.

Eye 1

All in the eyes: Women and men look at things differently

Women and men look at faces and absorb visual information in different ways, which suggests there is a gender difference in understanding visual cues, according to a team of scientists that included psychologists from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

The researchers used an eye tracking device on almost 500 participants at the Science Museum over a five-week period to monitor and judge how much eye contact they felt comfortable with while looking at a face on a computer screen.

They found that women looked more at the left-hand side of faces and had a strong left eye bias, but that they also explored the face much more than men. The team observed that it was possible to tell the gender of the participant based on the scanning pattern of how they looked at the face with nearly 80 per cent accuracy. Given the very large sample size the researchers suggest this is not due to chance.

Lead author Dr Antoine Coutrot from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences said: "This study is the first demonstration of a clear gender difference in how men and women look at faces.

Microscope 1

Part human, part virus: The body's intimate relationship with viral DNA

© DigitalGenetics / Fotolia
When viruses infect us, they can embed small chunks of their genetic material in our DNA. Although infrequent, the incorporation of this material into the human genome has been occurring for millions of years. As a result of this ongoing process, viral genetic material comprises nearly 10 percent of the modern human genome. Over time, the vast majority of viral invaders populating our genome have mutated to the point that they no longer lead to active infections. But, as scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health have demonstrated, they are not entirely dormant.

Sometimes, these stowaway sequences of viral genes, called "endogenous retroviruses" (ERVs), can contribute to the onset of diseases such as cancer. They can also make their hosts susceptible to infections from other viruses. However, scientists have identified numerous cases of viral hitchhikers bestowing crucial benefits to their human hosts -- from protection against disease to shaping important aspects of human evolution, such as the ability to digest starch.

Comment: See also:


Sun

Stunning NASA video reveals barren solar surface with lowest level of activity since 2011

© Nasa Solar Dynamics Observatory
Images captured by Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory from Nov 14-18 reveal just a handful of barely-visible spots on the surface of the sun, which is otherwise as blank as a cue ball

The face of the sun was nearly spotless this month as our star marches toward solar minimum, hitting its lowest activity level since 2011.

Images captured by Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory from Nov 14-18 reveal just a handful of barely-visible spots on the surface of the sun, which is otherwise as blank as a cue ball.

The sun follows a pendulum-like pattern of activity over roughly an 11-year period, and while scientists say this behaviour is not unusual, some have warned the current trend could send Earth into a 'mini ice age.'

Archaeology

Cluster of forty-nine pit caves discovered in northwest China

© PressTV
A cluster of world-class sinkholes has been discovered in northwest China. Forty-nine pit caves have also been discovered during a 4-month-survey in China's Hanzhong City located in Shaanxi Province.

The cluster includes 31 regular-sized, 17 large and 1 super-sized pit caves with the largest measuring up to 500 meters in diameter. All found caves live up to the standards of a world geological relic and are intact since they're located in places that are hard to reach.

Rare plant and animal species were also found during the survey conducted by experts from UNESCO as well as other international and local bodies.

Local governments have already started their work to utilize technical, ecological and legal methods to preserve these natural marvels. The caves are expected to contribute greatly to the study of environment and climate change in both the north and south of China.