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NASA Telescope To Reveal “Surface Features” And Vegetation On Alien Exoplanets

The goal is to “directly image a habitable Earth-like exoplanet within our stellar neighborhood.”

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NASA Telescope To Reveal “Surface Features” And Vegetation On Alien Exoplanets
Photo Credit: www.space.com

(TMU) — Have you ever wondered what exoplanets outside our solar system look like? We’ve seen countless artist depictions, but imagine seeing the actual planet, its colours, atmosphere, continental structures, and even its vegetation.

NASA announced this week that they are funding research for just such an endeavour—a conceptual telescope called a solar gravitational lens (SGL)—that would allow us to observe distant alien worlds with astonishing resolution.

The project’s goal, according to NASA’s description, is to “directly image a habitable Earth-like exoplanet within our stellar neighbourhood” with a resolution of around 25 km, which is “enough to see surface features and signs of habitability.”

The new announcement of an SGL follows Phase I and II funding by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

Slava Turyshev, a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has written about and studied such technology, describes how an SGL works:

In the strong interference region of the SGL, this light is greatly amplified, forming the Einstein ring around the Sun, representing a distorted image of the extended source.”

This isn’t the only large-scale astronomical endeavour by NASA that could yield unbelievable new data on alien worlds. The James Webb Space Telescope, when it launches in 2021, will be capable of seeing planets (in high-contrast, mid-infrared range) that are 10 million to 100 million times fainter than we can currently image. Webb will also study the atmospheres of these planets and look for traces of oxygen and other “techno-signatures” of industrial gases.

The new phases of the SGL research provided three critical innovations.

According to NASA, they have: “1) proven the feasibility of high-resolution, multipixel imaging of a habitable exoplanet; (2) devised a swarm architecture for smallsats to explore the interstellar medium; (3) designed the low-cost solar array propulsion to achieve the exit velocity from the solar system needed for the mission.”

The remaining technological hurdle is devising a way to ferry a “meter-class telescope with a solar coronagraph” to a great distance from the Sun. Slava Turyshev, physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has suggested the solution may be deploying a “swarm architecture for smallsats” powered by solar sails that can image “multiple planets/moons of an exosolar system” simultaneously.

While it could be many years until we begin to receive data and images from these projects, it’s exciting to know that in our lifetime we will likely see the “surface features” of alien exoplanets and be able to observe their vegetation patterns.

Who knows—we may even pick up atmospheric traces or “signs of habitability” that tell us who lives there.

By Jake Anderson | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Move Over, Venus – Russians Claim To Find Life On A Different Planet

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Move Over, Venus - Russians Claim To Find Life On A Different Planet
Photo Credit: NASA

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

Is there a new space race in progress – besides the ones to put humans on Mars and big weapons in orbit? Just days after one group of astronomers reveals they have found phosphine gas in Venus’s atmosphere that is a strong indicator of the presence of life floating around up there, a group of Russian astronomers announce they have clear images of fossils from living microorganisms in a meteorite that came from an exoplanet outside of our solar system – life that existed even before the solar system came into existence. Race over? Or is this just an early lap before the first pit stop?

“The images we have obtained are unambiguous and easy to interpret. However, there will be many debates about it. People who have never worked in this field are the ones who argue the most.”

Aleksey Rozanov, the chief research officer at the JINR Astrobiology Center, told the news agency RIA Novosti that he and a research team from the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research are about to release a collection of high-quality electron microscope images of fossils from “micro-aliens” found inside the Orgueil meteorite which fell in Orgueil, France, on May 14, 1864. Those in the meteorite world know that the 20 stones which were collected are perhaps the most studied meteorite in the world. In fact, stories of organic matter similar to peat being found on it emerged almost immediately after its discovery, along with its unusual composition indicating it was probably not from our solar system. And yet, Rozanov is touting this as a ‘new’ discovery. Why?

“This is not a discovery, but the establishment of a solid fact that panspermia is a real phenomenon.”

Mikhail Kapralov, Junior Researcher of the Laboratory of Radiation Biology of the Astrobiology Section of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, explains that the team used the electron microscope to look inside the meteorite – in its crevices and inner cleavages where evidence would exist that was not picked up when the meteorite landed in France. They found fossilized magnetotactics – bacteria that align along a magnetic field – and fossils similar to coccoid, the rod-shaped forms of prokaryotes, acritarchs, protists, alveolates and armored amoebae. If all of this is real, this is truly a game-changing discovery.

The Hoax: The Orgueil Meteorites and the seeds of aliens.
Is it real?

Meteorite experts may remember the infamous Orgueil hoax. In 1965, a fragment of the meteorite, which had been kept in a sealed glass jar since it was recovered, suddenly appeared to have a seed embedded in it. An investigation found it was from a European rush (a grass-like plant), that was glued into it and covered with coal dust. The hoaxer was never found. The researchers also reference the works of “American academician Richard Hoover.” Hoover, a former NASA scientist, was the author of the so-called “Hoover Paper” published on the Journal of Cosmology in 2011 which claimed he had found evidence of fossils in numerous meteorites. The controversial (in the scientific world) journal was criticized for publishing it and NASA disassociated itself from him.

Aleksey Rozanov released a few images of the alleged fossils (see them here) and promises that all will be published in November. Will they prove we’re not alone in the universe? That remains to be seen. Will they end the controversies? Probably not. Is there a race on to find any kind of evidence of life other than us? Roxanov has the best answer:

“Much was found already then, but out of fear it was not so interpreted so as not to frighten people.”

We’ll see.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

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Lamborghini Unveils Gokart Pro For Adults For Only $1,500 – And It Looks Insanely Fun

If you’ve dreamed of driving a Lamborghini but didn’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars, this new electric go-kart might be right up your alley.

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Lamborghini Unveils Gokart Pro For Adults For Only $1,500 – And It Looks Insanely Fun
Photo Credit: Lamborghini

(TMU) – If you’ve ever dreamed of driving a Lamborghini but didn’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to purchase the legendary sports car, this new electric go-kart from the Italian sports manufacturer might be right up your alley.

The new Lambo kart is hardly a luxury item on the level of a Huracan, Gallardo, Urus or even an old-school Countach – in fact, this electric racer comes in at an irresistible price-point of less than USD $1,500.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which owns personal transporter company Segway-Ninebot, has teamed up with the Italian carmaker to bring consumers the Ninebot GoKart Pro Lamborghini Edition, reports electrek.

Capable of reaching speeds of 25 mph (40 km/h), this Lamborghini Edition kart sports some serious upgrades over your typical Segway Ninebot kart.

The candy yellow racer is propelled by a self-balancing Xiaomi scooter, whle its rear tires have been swapped with high-traction rubber tires for safe turning. It remains unclear whether you’ll be able to rip some gnarly burnouts with the scooter’s electric engine.

The Lamborghini kart also sports true Ackermann steering, meaning that each wheel will have its own pivot to allow for sharp and accurate turning. Functional headlights will ensure that there won’t be any nasty collisions or spills on the raceway, while the sick rear wing on the kart will give it sharp aerodynamism and handling improvements.

Four air ducts will help cool the 432Wh battery, which will power the Lamborghini GoKart for about 15.5 miles, or about 25 km – the equivalent of 62 laps around a 400 meter track.

Speed limits can be adjusted using a smartphone app, allowing parents to prevent kids from driving at speeds they feel might be too dangerous. However, the big bucket seat and maximum passenger weight of 220 lb. (100 kg) will also allow adults to take a turn at the wheel.

Maxing out the wow factor on this ride, the kart also includes built-in Bluetooth speakers to allow you to play music or, if you so choose, you can simulate the roar of Lamborghini’s V8 and V12 piston engines, augmenting the relatively quiet sound of the kart’s electric motor.

“In addition, as a bonus, there is a program in the go-kart, which will ensure the release of loud noises, which will make not only the driver but also the surroundings reveal that there are beasts ‘under the hood’, in the form of a Lamborghini engine,” a press release from Xiaomi notes.

Of course, the Lamborghini Edition isn’t street legal, but it can be folded up and placed in the trunk of your car so that it can be hauled off to the track.

Xiaomi is a Chinese tech giant that remains relatively obscure in the United States but is popular among consumers in Latin America, Europe, and Asia due to its high-quality mid-range and budget Android smartphones that pack impressive specs into an affordable package.

The quirky smartphone manufacturer also produces a range of other strange yet affordable tech products, ranging from sleek miniature washer dryers to electric toothbrushes, e-bikes and scooters, air conditioners and even rice cookers – among other eccentric internet-connected devices that comprise Xiaomi’s growing line of “smart lifestyle” products.

And now, you’ll be able to get your very own “Lamborghini” for the insanely low price of 9999 Chinese Yuan, or about $1,480, from the Mi Store.

Xiamoi is putting the go-kart on sale for a measly $1,450 (in Chinese yen) starting tomorrow.

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Scientists Discover Possible Signs Of Alien Life On Venus

Scientists believe that they may have detected signs of alien life on Venus, after spotting a compound that is produced when organic matter breaks down.

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Scientists Discover Possible Signs Of Alien Life On Venus
Photo Credit: TMU

(TMU) – Scientists believe that they may have detected signs of alien life on the planet Venus, after spotting phosphine, a compound that is produced when organic matter breaks down.

The levels of phosphine on the planet are so high that they cannot be explained by any other known process.

The discoveries were reported in a new article published this week in Nature Astronomy, by an international team of researchers led by Jane Greaves from Cardiff University.

Phosphine molecules have been detected in Venus’ clouds. Pic: ESO

Humans have discovered how to create phosphine through industrial processes, but in nature, it is only known to be caused by anaerobic organisms like bacteria and microbes.

Since the compound is so closely connected with organic life, scientists see it as a “biosignature”, or indication that life is present.

Still, it is unlikely that intelligent life would be able to exist on the planet because the surface is so hot and acidic, although some researchers have speculated that species on different planets could have a vastly different chemical composition than those found here on earth, which could make some environments more habitable.

The life that might exist on Venus is likely a variety of microorganisms that can survive in the planet’s upper cloud decks, which researchers believe is more habitable than the surface, but very little is known about what type of life could exist there, or where it might be.

Venus was observed from the JCMT in Hawaii. Pic: Will Montgomerie

In their report, the researchers admit that the presence of this compound “is not robust evidence for life, only for anomalous and unexplained chemistry” and that further study is needed to confirm their theories.

“Either phosphine is produced by some sort of chemical or geological process that no-one knows about – or there could be a biological reason,” Emily Drabek-Maunder, an astrophysicist from the Royal Observatory Greenwich and one of the paper’s authors told the Independent.

“Our study isn’t conclusive that this is evidence of life. However, what is exciting about it is that we’ve found this rare gas in the upper atmosphere of Venus. Our team can’t explain the amount of phosphine that we’ve found, through our current understanding of the planet. When we try to model what’s happening in the atmosphere – volcanic activity, sunlight, or even lightning – nothing recreates the amount of phosphine gas that we’ve seen,” she added.

Still, the report has caused genuine excitement in the scientific community, and it actually happened by accident.

The discovery was made while the researchers were checking for levels of different compounds on Venus to establish a baseline.

They weren’t actually expecting to find any phosphine there, but when they did find some in their initial studies they decided to research the situation further.

“We had no expectation there was actually going to be any there,” said David Clements, a scientist at Imperial College London who was also an author on the paper.

It turned from a ‘let’s try this, it’s an interesting problem, and we can set some parameters for what needs to be done’, into ‘my goodness, we’ve found it, what on Earth does that mean?’” he added.

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NASA-Funded Scientist Claims New Thruster Could Approach Light Speed

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NASA-Funded Scientist Claims New Thruster Could Approach Light Speed
Photo Credit: NASA

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

How far can one get in 15 minutes traveling at just under the speed of light? Without doing any complex math, it’s common knowledge (at least it was until the coronavirus shutdown and we forgot everything we learned in school) that sunlight takes a little over eight minutes to reach Earth (one astronomical unit), so in 15 minutes you could get to Mars and back or halfway to Jupiter. Fifteen minutes is also the amount of fame Cal Fullerton physics professor emeritus Jim Woodward is getting from a Wired article on his MEGA (Mach-effect gravitational assist) thruster that runs on piezoelectric crystals vibrating on an electric current. Woodward claims he’s finally made it work and is ready to show the world … if not travel to Alpha Centauri. Should Elon Musk be worried?

“Woodward realized that if Einstein was right and inertia really is gravity in disguise, it should be possible to detect these brief changes in an object’s mass as its energy fluctuates. If part of an object accelerated at the exact moment when it became a little heavier, it would pull the rest of the object along with it. In other words, it would create thrust without propellant.

Woodward called these temporary changes in mass “Mach effects,” and the engine that could use them a Mach-effect thruster. By combining hundreds or thousands of these drives, they could conceivably produce enough thrust to send a spaceship to the stars in less than a human lifetime.”

In a richly detailed interview, Wired covers Jim Woodward’s life and how he arrived at the MEGA thruster. While he has often been criticized for his theories, this one got enough attention from NASA that he and partner Hal Fearn, a physicist at California State University, received a grant to build a protype MEGA thruster. The ‘drives’ would be stacks of piezoelectric crystals which generate energy when electrically charged. The charge would come from a nuclear power source. Woodward and Fearn had claimed before that they’d built a MEGA thruster, but others could not duplicate it – a fact Woodward eventually determined was due to an error Fearn made in measurements. However, they stayed together and in June 2020 they made a small change to the thruster mount on the prototype which caused it to come alive and lurch. That lurch was not at or near the speed of light, but Woodward’s theory is that it will accelerate over time to achieve that velocity.

Woodward and Fearn film and record the displacement registered by the torsion balance from every test of their Mach-effect thruster. Photograph: Rozette Rago

“I was shocked at the huge increase in measured force.”

Is Fearn declaring victory? Unfortunately, something else was going on in June 2020 – the coronavirus shutdown. Woodward is a survivor of stage IV lung cancer living with COPD, and is being treated for relapsed Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In other words, he can’t travel to demonstrate the prototype. Not only that, most labs are in limited operation. Once that changes, he and Fearn will send the device to other physicists for testing. They know it will be met with scepticism, and that won’t be helped by the fact that the vibration frequency needed to charge the piezoelectric crystals and create thrust varies due to heat build-up. They’re using the extra time to work with an engineer to build an amplifier that will maintain a sustained thrust.

Woodward has been developing his Mach-effect thrusters for nearly 30 years. Photograph: Rozette Rago

Will it work? That remains to be seen. If it does, how soon can a ship be built to use it? Who knows? Two things are certain – Woodward is pleased with his lifetime of work on advanced propulsion and his peers look at him as the leader in the field. Greg Meholic, an engineer at the Aerospace Corporation working on advanced propulsion, puts it best.

“There is a worldwide effort looking at Jim’s devices, because this is really the only game in town at this point. It’s been wonderful to have someone like him in the community that actually is doing something to advance these things, because that’s what’s really critical.”

Let’s hope Jim Woodward gets to see his creation in operation.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

Please SHARE this article with your family and friends.

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