NASA’s Kepler telescope finds 26 additional planets

NASA Kepler Misson
NASA Kepler Misson, Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt

The Kepler space telescope have discovered 11 new planetary systems, hosting 26 confirmed planets. The discoveries adds to the list of confirmed planets outside the Earth’s solar system to 729, of these 60 has been found by the Kepler team

The Kepler telescope was successfully launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II at 10:49 p.m. EST March 6, 2009. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars at distances where water could pool on the planet’s surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life. The mission is focused on discovery and as the mission progresses, Kepler will drift farther and farther behind Earth in its orbit around the sun. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which was launched into the same orbit more than five years ago, is now more than 62 million miles behind Earth.

Continue reading “NASA’s Kepler telescope finds 26 additional planets”

Car seat of near future ID’s drivers seating position

Car Seat with sensor ID
Intelligent Car Seat from AIIT, in Tokyo

A group of engineers at the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology has developed a system that can recognize an individual by analyzing the seating position and how the body applies pressure on the seat when a person is sitting down. The group of engineers, led by professor Shigeomi Koshimizu at the public graduate school in Tokyo, will seek commercialization of the system for use as a highly reliable anti-theft system in two to three years, through collaboration with different automakers.

The seat works by using a system of 360 pressure sensors attached under the driver’s seat.Through their combined efforts they remember and create a “pressure map” that is then stored and can later be used for identification purposes.

Continue reading “Car seat of near future ID’s drivers seating position”

Russian Mars probe will crash back to Earth next month

Russian Phobos-Grunt
Electrical testing of the spacecraft "Phobos-Grunt".

The Russian Phobos-Ground probe was intended to land on the Martian moon Phobos, and bring back soil samples to Earth in a 2,5 year mission. The craft started it’s journey from Site 45 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on November. 8, 2011, when it was launched with a two-stage Zenit rocket (Zenit-2SB41.1). After a flawless liftoff, the first separation of the rocket went according to plan. Unfortunenaly issues occurred during the second separation of the two-stage rocket, leaving the Phobos-Grunt in an elliptical orbit with a perigee (lowest point) of 207 kilometers above the Earth surface and an apogee (highest point) of 347 kilometers.

Even after several attempt to salvage the mission, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency finally had to admit defeat and the Phobos-Ground probe was left stuck in an orbit around earth. The €129m ($170m) Phobos-Ground probe is now expected to fall back to Earth between 6 and 19 January. The craft weighs 13.2 tonne, including 11 tonnes of highly toxic fuel. But Roscosmos expect that only 20 to 30 fragments weighing a total of up to 200kg (440lb) will survive the fiery plunge and shower the Earth’s surface. Where they will land can only be calculated a few days beforehand, Roscosmos said in a statement.

Continue reading “Russian Mars probe will crash back to Earth next month”

MorpHex project spreads its legs and does a dance

MorpHex Robot
Kåre Halvorsen's MorpHex hexapod robot

In mid November, Kåre Halvorsen also known as “Zenta”, presented a new project, the MorphHex project. A spherical hexapod robot with a crab like movement, that now a few weeks later is ready to strut its stuff, and do a little dance. Starting with a 28cm in diameter globe from Toys r’ Us, the brainchild of Zenta has evolved into a quite an impressive robot.

Continue reading “MorpHex project spreads its legs and does a dance”

NASA’s Voyager hits new region at the edge of our solarsystem

Voyager - The Interstellar Mission
Voyager - The Interstellar Mission

NASA‘s Voyager 1 spacecraft have now entered a new region between our solar system and interstellar space. The data obtained from Voyager over the last year reveals this new region to be a sort of cosmic purgatory. In this area the wind of charged particles streaming out from our sun has become calmer, our solar system’s magnetic field is piled up, and higher energy particles from inside our solar system appear to be leaking out into interstellar space.

Although Voyager 1 is about 18 billion kilometers (11 billion miles) from the sun, it is not yet in interstellar space. Based on the latest data collected, the direction of the magnetic field lines has not changed, indicating Voyager is still within the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself. The data do not reveal exactly when Voyager 1 will make it past the edge of the solar atmosphere into interstellar space, but suggest it will be in a few months to a few years.

Continue reading “NASA’s Voyager hits new region at the edge of our solarsystem”

Asteroid 2005 YU55 approaches Earth for a close flyby

Asteroid 2005 YU55
Asteroid 2005 YU55, passing earth

Today on Tuesday, November 8, an asteroid with a diameter of 400 meters will approach Earth’s atmosphere. Named Asteroid 2005 YU55, and deemed “potentially hazardous” by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Ma. will fortunately miss Earth by 0.85 lunar distance, or approximately 335,000 kilometers (208,000 miles).

The approach will mark the closest a known object with this size, has ever gotten to a collision with Earth since 1976. This will as far as we know, continue to hold true until Asteroid 2001 WN5 gets within 0.6 lunar distance in 2028. The Asteroid visiting this evenings was discovered 6 years ago in 2005, and was later named Asteroid 2005 YU55 accordingly. Since this discovery was done rather late, there is still possibility that scientists may find other large floating rocks heading our way before the arrival of Asteroid 2001 WN5 in 2028.

Continue reading “Asteroid 2005 YU55 approaches Earth for a close flyby”

First Vega launch vehicle arrive to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana

Vega Launch Vehicle
ESA Vega Launch Vehicle

At the 4th of October the first elements of Europe’s new Vega launch vehicle left Italy and began a long journey to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This marked the final step towards it’s inaugural flight in January 2012. After several intense weeks of checking the hardware and equipment, the Vega’s Zefiro-23 and Zefiro-9 motors and the AVUM fourth stage were carefully packed and left Avio’s facility in Colleferro, where they were built. The equipment was then loaded onto the MN Colibri, in preparation for its its journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

The equipment for the qualification launcher arrived at the Dégrad de Cannes Harbour in Cayenne, French Guiana, and was then taken by road to Kourou where it arrived at the 24 of October. The launch campaign will then start on 7 November 2011 with the transfer of the first stage to the launch pad. The first launch for the Vega launcher is scheduled for the end of January 2012.

Continue reading “First Vega launch vehicle arrive to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana”

ESA have finally launched the first two Galileo satellites

Galileo, Satellite Positioning system

The European global navigation system Galileo, that in the past has been plagued with delays, has moved two small steps closer to it’s initial goal. The European Space Agency (ESA) this Friday launched the first two, of four operational satellites, designed to validate the Galileo concept in both space and on Earth. The launch was made from Kourou, French Guiana, with a Russian Soyuz rocket, that deployed the first two satellites at an altitude of nearly 23 000 km. The fully deployed Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares), positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) planes at 23 222 km altitude above the Earth, and at an inclination of the orbital planes of 56 degrees to the equator.

The initial plans for the Galileo system was to be up and operational by 2014, but several delays and increased budget costs have now moved the end date well beyond that. The first Galileo satellite was planned to be launched at the end of December 2005, followed by a second in 2006. Now 6 years later these first two satellites are finally been delivered in orbit, and two more will follow in 2012 if everything now goes to plan. The European Commission is now looking to complete the 30-satellite constellation by the year 2019, with two new satellites scheduled to launch during every quarter.

Continue reading “ESA have finally launched the first two Galileo satellites”

PaveGen – Creating electricity, one footstep at a time

PaveGen London trials
PaveGen trials in East London

Recycled rubber paving slabs from PaveGen are set to help power Europe’s largest urban mall at the 2012 London Olympics site. The paving slabs harvest the kinetic energy that occur when people step on them, and converts it into electricity. This will be PaveGen first commercial application, where 20 tiles will be placed along the central crossing between London’s Olympic stadium and the recently opened Westfield Stratford City mall. The mall expects an estimated 30 million visitors in its first year.

“That should be enough feet to power about half its (the mall’s) outdoor lighting needs” said Laurence Kemball-Cook, the 25-year-old engineering graduate who developed the prototype during his final year of university in 2009.

Continue reading “PaveGen – Creating electricity, one footstep at a time”

Increased hard disk space with table salt

Electron microscopy images of magnetic bits at densities
Electron microscopy images of magnetic bits at densities.

The increasing need for larger data storage space have for a long time pushed the development of ever larger and faster data storage mediums. At the moment existing hard drives max out at 3TB, but TDK’s new HAMR head innovation promises to double this limit to 6TB utilizing heat-assisted magnetic recording. HAMR was developed by Fujitsu in 2006, and relies on recording platters with a high coercivity, making it possible to pack information in more tightly than current platters. To do this they need to be heated before they’re able to write data, which TDK does using a small laser in the drive head. TDK has said that it plans to begin mass-producing drives with these increased capacities by late next year

Now how ever, TDK’s HAMR technology might already be redundant through a recent discovery by Dr Joel Yang at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), collaborating with researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Data Storage Institute (DSI). They have developed a process that can increase the data recording density of hard disks to 3.3 Terabit/in2, six times the recording density of current models. The key ingredient in the much enhanced patterning method and storage capacity, is sodium chloride, the chemical grade of regular table salt.

Continue reading “Increased hard disk space with table salt”