Discovery of Oxygen on Comet 'Big Surprise'

Stunned scientists announced Wednesday the unexpected discovery of large quantities of oxygen on a comet which streaked past the Sun in August with a European spacecraft in tow.

The find came as a “big surprise”, and challenges mainstream theories on the formation of our Solar System, said scientist Andre Bieler of the University of Michigan.

Measurements made by the Rosetta probe suggested that oxygen molecules in the 67P comet’s gassy halo must have existed “before or at” its formation, he told journalists.

This may have implications for mankind’s understanding of the chemistry involved in the formation of the Solar System some 4.6 billion years ago.

“We believe this oxygen is primordial, which means it is older than our Solar System,” said Bieler.

Scientists had previously ruled out the presence of oxygen (O2) on comets such as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the subject of intensive prodding and probing by a European robot lab.

As O2 mixes easily with other elements, “we never thought that oxygen could ‘survive’ for billions of years” in a pristine state, said Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern, who co-authored a study in the journal Nature.

“This evidence of oxygen as an ancient substance will likely discredit some theoretical models of the formation of our Solar System,” she said.

The comet is being tracked on its deep space journey around the Sun by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft.

The historic mission seeks to unlock the mystery of the origins of life on Earth.

Scientists believe that comets “seeded” early Earth with some of the ingredients for life.

The team monitored the ratio of oxygen to water on the comet for several months to see if the gas molecules would dissipate as solar winds ripped away layers of surface.

They did not – proving the oxygen was embedded in the comet, not just hanging around its surface.

Prevailing theories of the Solar System’s birth posit a chaotic, collision-strewn mixing of matter flowing toward and away from the newly-formed Sun.

Pristine, icy grains containing oxygen would not have made it through such violence intact, the scientists said, leading them to speculate that the process was, in fact, “gentler”.

The oxygen molecules must have “survived from the dark molecular clouds from which they were probably formed into comets as we have them today,” said Altwegg.

Only twice before – on the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn – have oxygen molecules been found in the Solar System beyond Earth’s atmosphere, and never before on a comet.

Oxygen is difficult to detect with Earth-bound telescopes.

‘Don’t jump to conclusions’
Rosetta offered a rare opportunity to study 67P’s “coma” – the envelope of dust, gas and ice that forms as it nears the Sun on an elliptical orbit.

The new data suggests that water on comets is probably the rule rather than the exception, the scientists said.

Scientists not involved in this study underlined its importance, but said more time was needed to assess the implications.

The discovery “imposes a severe constraint on the mechanism for the formation of the Solar System,” said French astrophysicist Francis Rocard.

“But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions,” he cautioned.

Oxygen molecules were the fourth-most common gas detected in 67P’s debris halo – after water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Their presence did not tell us anything about the origins of life on Earth, of the possibility of finding it elsewhere in the universe, Altwegg said.

In looking at exo-planets, “the combination of O2 and methane has been taken as a sign that you might have life underneath,” she said.

“On this comet we have both, but we don’t have life. So having oxygen may not be a very good bio-signature.”

Nasa Astronauts Kick Off Spacewalk for Upgrades at ISS

Two Nasa astronauts stepped out on a spacewalk Wednesday for upgrades and maintenance at the orbiting International Space Station, the US space agency said.

Spaceflight veteran Scott Kelly, who is in the midst of a year-long stint at the ISS, began the first spacewalk of his career at 8:03am (12:03pm GMT or 5:33pm IST), according to a live broadcast on Nasatelevision.

His colleague, flight engineer Kjell Lindgren, is also embarking on his first spacewalk, the US space agency said.

Lindgren accidentally turned on his spacesuit’s water switch too early in the process of preparing to float outside the airlock, and Nasa experts at mission control in Houston were closely monitoring the cooling system on his spacesuit “just to be sure,” a Nasa commentator said.

Their tasks during the six and a half hour spacewalk include installing a thermal cover on a state-of-the-art particle physics detector, known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which has been attached to the space station since 2011.

They also plan to “apply grease to components on the space station’s robotic Canadarm2, and route cables to prepare for new docking ports for US commercial crew spacecraft,” Nasa said.

While it is a pioneering spacewalk for both Kelly and Lindgren, it is the 189th in support of space station assembly and maintenance.

Skull Face Dead Comet to Hurtle by Earth on Halloween

A massive space rock that will shave by Earth on Halloween looks like a dead comet with a skull face, Nasa said after gaining a closer look at the spooky space junk.

Astronomers initially thought the object was an asteroid when they spotted it in early October, and named it Asteroid 2015 TB145.

But using the US space agency’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, experts “have determined that the celestial object is more than likely a dead comet that has shed its volatiles after numerous passes around the sun,” Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement late Friday.

Scientists have also spotted an eerie skull-like resemblance on the face of the rock, based on radar data from the National Science Foundation’s 305-metre (1,000-foot) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

“In the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby,” said Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at Nasa and acting program manager for the US space agency’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program.

The space rock has already grabbed attention with its unusually high speed and big size, about as large as a football stadium at 2,000 feet (600 metres) in diameter.

There is no danger of it hitting Earth, however.

When it zips by Saturday at 1pm (5:00pm GMT or 10:30pm IST), it will do so at a distance of 302,000 miles (486,000 kilometres).

That’s about 1.3 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Isro's GSAT-15 to Be Launched on November 10

Isro’s latest communication satellite GSAT-15 is all set to be launched on November 10 from French Guiana on board Ariane 5.

The Indian space agency, as part of augmenting telecommunication services, had earlier launched communication satellites GSAT 14 and GSAT 6, respectively.

GSAT 14 was launched in January 2014 while GSAT 6 on GSLV in August 2015.

“In its 10th mission, scientists at Arianespace recently integrated GSAT-15 satellite with the launcher (Ariane 5)”, Arianespace said in a statement.

Preparations for Arianespace’s sixth heavy-lift mission have advanced into payload integration phase with GSAT-15 satellite making its first contact with the launch vehicle, it said.

GSAT-15, developed by Isro, would provide C- and Ku-band telecommunications and navigation services to India.

It will have a lift off mass of 3,164.5 kg.

“Flight VA227 (Ariane 5) is set for a November 10 lift off. It will mark Arianespace’s 10th launch this year”, it said.

GSAT-15 would be launched along with Arabsat-6B, set up by the Arab League Inter-governmental Organisation. Arabsat will be launched to provide telecommunications and television broadcast services for Middle East and African region.

The mission life of GSAT-15 will be 12 years.

Blue Lola Headphones Announced

Blue Lola

Blue has launched its latest headphones, the Blue Lola which will be available in December and will retail for £199.99 or about $250.

The Blue Lola headphones are the company’s second M-Fi headphones, although these new ones are designed to be more streamlined than the previous model.

Blue Lola

“With Lola, we are excited to bring a new level of sound quality to the headphone market. Popular mass-marketed headphones don’t live up to their hype, robbing listeners of the emotional impact that can come from listening to their favourite music. For those who won’t settle for the overhyped, we’ve created Lola, said John Maier, CEO of Blue Microphones. “Blue is helping thousands of listeners to rediscover their favourite music.”

Lola also advances Blue’s radically innovative approach to personalised comfort and fit by introducing a new lighter, slim-fit headband. First introduced with Mo-Fi, Blue’s reinvented headband design features a four-point multi-jointed linkage system and pivoting arms that allow the headphones to stay perfectly parallel at all times.Lola furthers this design with a new slimmer headband that provides total comfort and adjustability for any head shape and size. And earcups—shaped like ears—provide a superior seal around the ears for accurate bass response, improved isolation and reduced sound bleed.The result is a supremely precise, highly customizable fit system that allows for superior comfort and great performance.

 

You can find out more details about the new Lola headphones from Blue over at the company’s website at the link below, they will go on sale in the UK in December and will be available from Amazon.

Official Raspberry Pi Customised Versions Available Soon

Official Raspberry Pi Customised Versions

In London today the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Element14 have announced that custom Raspberry Pi mini PC versions will soon be made available.

Thanks to a signed global exclusive agreement whereby Element14 will provide “design and manufacturing services to OEM customers to create bespoke designs based upon the Raspberry Pi technology platform’ explains the agreement.

Raspberry Pi

The customised Raspberry Pi single board computer will need to be ordered in volumes of quantities between 3,000 and 5,000 depending on the nature of the customisations, the companies involved explained earlier today. Element 14 explains more one the new website :

Gain unique access to design and manufacturing services, specially tailored to those wishing to create custom versions of ANY Raspberry Pi board for mass production purposes.

We will support you every step of the way during the design process – from concept right through to the manufacture of the final boards; enabling the Raspberry Pi to be optimized to suit your specific applications.

With access to over 200 engineers through Embest and AVID Technologies, element14 offers in-house design services and manufacturing of advanced electronic assemblies for every phase of the design process.

Jump over to the Element 14 Raspberry Pi customisation website for more details and to create your required hardware online.

Mobile Roaming Fees Will End By 2017 In Europe

Roaming Europe

The original plan to abolish roaming fees in Europe was supposed to come into force in 2016, now the European Parliament has set a date for when European roaming fees will end.

From the 15th of June 2017, when you travel in Europe you will not be charged any extra fees for your calls, texts and data usage.

There will also be an interim cap which comes into place on the 30th of April 2016, you will be charged an extra €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.0.2 per text message sent and €0.005 per MB of data.

This will put an end to those high bills that many people have experienced when travelling within Europe and from 2017 there will be not extra fees to pay, you will just pay what you normally pay for your calls, texts and data.

BT And EE Merger Gets Provisional Approval From CMA

EE

The BT and EE Merger has been given provisional approval by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK.

The deal between the two companies will see British Telecom take over EE in a deal which is worth £12.5 million.

The CMA has decided that the merger of the two companies will not cause a problem for competition, this is mainly because BT’s main business is home telephones and broadband and EE’s main business is mobile.

We provisionally think that the retail mobile market in the UK, with 4 main mobile providers and a substantial number of smaller operators, is competitive. As BT is a smaller operator in mobile, it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect on competition. By the same token, it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect on competition in the retail broadband market, where EE is only a minor player.

This decision is not final, it is a provisional one, so we will have to wait for a while before the two companies can merge.

British Telecom are also subject to an OFCOM review at the moment where the regulator is looking into whether BT’s Openreach should be spun off into a separate company.

YouTube Red Subscription Service Launched In The US

youtube red

Google’s new video subscription service, YouTube Red is now available in the US and Google are offering a one month free trial of the service.

YouTube Red costs $9.99 a month and for that you get advert free videos and also the ability to save videos to view offline.

The new video service also supports background playback and Google will be releasing original content and shows on their new YouTube subscription service that will not be available on the standard version.

You can find out more details about the new YouTube subscription service at the link below, the service is only available in the US at the moment, there are no details on when it will launch in other countries.

Snapchat Videos Get Slow-Motion, Fast-Forward And Rewind

snap

Recently Snapchat launched a new feature that allows users to replay snaps that they have received as long as they’re willing to pay for it. This is one way that Snapchat can generate revenue from its large user base. But they weren’t finished. Now a new feature set has been released which Snapchat is calling Speed Modifiers. You will know it as slow-motion, fast-forward and rewind.

You should be familiar with these age old concepts by this time. Slow-motion will slow the video down and fast-forward will do the opposite. Rewind will play the video backwards. This will allow users to add more special effects to their snaps and should be a welcome addition.

Aside from that news, iOS users have support for 3D Touch on iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, it taps into the display’s ability to ascertain how much pressure the user is applying to then responds accordingly. 3D Touch support in Snapchat will let users quickly chat with their contacts. Again, a welcome addition.

Snapchat frequently sends out updates that include new features and these are some good new features that users will use regularly. This new feature set is available to all users for free. Enjoy.