NASA’s Phoenix lander may have already hit pay dirt with its first scoop of Martian soil – it contains white streaks that could be water ice. Meanwhile, mission engineers have fixed an electrical glitch on an important Phoenix instrument, restoring it to health.
“It’s been a thrill for me this first week after landing on the permafrost region in the Northern Arctic on Mars to find out that we’re in a really great place for doing the science we plan to do,” said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona in Tucson, US, Phoenix’s chief scientist, at a press conference on Monday.
The $420-million spacecraft has now gouged out its first scoopful of Martian dirt from an area informally known as the Knave of Hearts, using its 2.3-metre robotic arm.
The brain trust isn’t exactly sure if this stuff is actually ice or salt, since it’s theorized that Mars’ water was a seriously salty brine before it finally dried up completely. But I guess the first chemical analysis will find out, won’t it?
The goal of finding an Earth-like planet around another star has just come closer. Astronomers announced today they have discovered a planet of about three Earth masses orbiting a star smaller than our sun.
The planet has the closest mass to Earth of all the known extrasolar planets, and is the lightest planet ever found orbiting a normal-size star. “Our discovery indicates that even the lowest mass stars can host planets,” David Bennett of the University of Notre Dame, who led an international team of astronomers to the discovery, said on Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in St Louis, Missouri, US.
The planet is referred to as MOA-2007-BLG-192L and is around 3000 light years from Earth. Planet formation theory suggests it is likely made mostly of rock and ice.
The planet’s orbit around the host star is of a similar radius to the orbit of Venus, although it is likely to be much colder than Pluto. That is because the host star, thought to be a brown dwarf between 6 and 8 percent of the Sun’s mass, may not be large enough to sustain nuclear reactions in its core.
Believe it or not, astronomers and other planet hunters are getting rather good at finding extrasolar planets. The method used in this case is gravitational microlensing, which uses an object’s gravity that warps the light from another object behind it which magnifies the image of it.
Not my idea, blame Einstein. I just post the stuff. Read the article.
Also, read this post at Paul Gilster’s Centauri Dreams, they explain it better than I can.
And I can’t let this day go by without a little rant against the rampant corporatism that has the nation and the world by our collective throats and our wallets:
On Thursday, new Time Warner Cable Internet subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, will have monthly allowances for the amount of data they upload and download. Those who go over will be charged $1 per gigabyte, a Time Warner Cable executive told the Associated Press.
Just 5 percent of the company’s subscribers take up half of the capacity on local cable lines, Leddy said. Other cable Internet service providers report a similar distribution.
“We think it’s the fairest way to finance the needed investment in the infrastructure,” Leddy said.
Metered usage is common overseas, and other U.S. cable providers are looking at ways to rein in heavy users. Most have download caps, but some keep the caps secret so as not to alarm the majority of users, who come nowhere close to the limits. Time Warner Cable appears to be the first major ISP to charge for going over the limit: Other companies warn, then suspend, those who go over.
Time Warner can bite me. Trouble is, Verizon and all these other criminals do the same, plus report you to the ‘Ministry’ of ‘Homeland’ Security!
So much for the sanctity of the InnerTubes. Big Brother is not only watching, but making us pay in order for them to watch!