Space-X News

SPACEX TO SEND PRIVATELY CREWED DRAGON SPACECRAFT BEYOND THE MOON NEXT YEAR

We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow.

Feb. 28, 2017
RELEASE 17-010

NASA Statement About SpaceX Private Moon Venture Announcement
The following is a statement on SpaceX’s announcement Monday about a private space mission around the moon:

“NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity’s future in space.

“NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.”

-end-

Tabatha Thompson / Kathryn Hambleton
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-4811 / 202-358-1409
tabatha.t.thompson@nasa.gov / kathryn.hambleton@nasa.gov

 

Universet accelererer trods alt

The grey and violet confidence regions are obtained from the supernova alone and the joint analysis, respectively.

The 1, 2, and 3σ confidence regions in the ΩmΛ parameter space for kΛCDM. The solid line identifies the flat ΛCDM models. The dashed line gives the no-acceleration criterion: Ωm = ΩΛ/2. The black point is where the 4.98σ confidence contour of the joint likelihood touches the dashed line.

Strong evidence for an accelerating universe

ABSTRACT: A recent analysis of the Supernova Ia data claims a ‘marginal’ (∼3σ) evidence for a cosmic acceleration. This result has been complemented with a non-accelerating Rh=ct cosmology, which was presented as a valid alternative to the ΛCDM model. In this paper, we use the same analysis to show that a non-marginal evidence for acceleration is actually found. We compare the standard Friedmann models to the Rh=ct cosmology by complementing SN Ia data with the Baryon Acoustic Oscillations, Gamma Ray Bursts and Observational Hubble datasets. We also study the power-law model which is a functional generalisation of Rh=ct. We find that the evidence for late-time acceleration is beyond refutable at a 4.56σ confidence level from SN Ia data alone, and at an even stronger confidence level (5.38σ) from our joint analysis. Also, the non-accelerating Rh=ct model fails to statistically compare with the ΛCDM having a Δ(AIC)∼30.

 

Cosmological renormalization

Cosmological renormalization of model parameters in the second-order perturbation theory

ABSTRACT: It is shown that the serious problem on the cosmological tension between the direct measurements of the Hubble constant at present and the constant derived from the Planck measurements of the CMB anisotropies can be solved by considering the renormalized model parameters. They are deduced by taking the spatial average of second-order perturbations in the flat Lambda-CDM model, which includes random adiabatic fluctuations.

 

Strong XUV irradiation of TRAPPIST-1

Strong XUV irradiation of the Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting the ultracool dwarf TRAPPIST-1

ABSTRACT: We present an XMM-Newton X-ray observation of TRAPPIST-1, which is an ultracool dwarf star recently discovered to host three transiting and temperate Earth-sized planets. We find the star is a relatively strong and variable coronal X-ray source with an X-ray luminosity similar to that of the quiet Sun, despite its much lower bolometric luminosity. We find Lx/Lbol=2-4×10-4, with the total XUV emission in the range Lxuv/Lbol=6-9×10-4, and XUV irradiation of the planets that is many times stronger than experienced by the present-day Earth. Using a simple energy-limited model we show that the relatively close-in Earth-sized planets, which span the classical habitable zone of the star, are subject to sufficient X-ray and EUV irradiation to significantly alter their primary and any secondary atmospheres. Understanding whether this high-energy irradiation makes the planets more or less habitable is a complex question, but our measured fluxes will be an important input to the necessary models of atmospheric evolution.

 

ALMA thermal observations of KBOs

The density of mid-sized Kuiper belt objects from ALMA thermal observations

ABSTRACT: The densities of mid-sized Kuiper belt objects are a key constraint into understanding the assembly of objects in the outer solar system. These objects are critical for understanding the currently unexplained transition from the smallest Kuiper belt objects with densities lower than that of water to the largest objects with significant rock content. Mapping this transition is made difficult by the uncertainties in the diameters of these objects, which maps into an even larger uncertainty in volume and thus density. The substantial collecting area of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array allows significantly more precise measurements of thermal emission from outer solar system objects and could potentially greatly improve the density measurements. Here we use new thermal observations of four objects with satellites to explore the improvements possible with millimeter data. We find that effects due to effective emissivity at millimeter wavelengths make it difficult to use the millimeter data directly to find diameters and thus volumes for these bodies. In addition, we find that when including the effects of model uncertainty, the true uncertainties on the sizes of outer solar system objects measured with radiometry are likely larger than those previously published. Substantial improvement in object sizes will likely require precise occultation measurements.

 

Fundamental Constants

The Relation Between Fundamental Constants and Particle Physics Parameters

ABSTRACT: The observed constraints on the variability of the proton to electron mass ratio μ and the fine structure constant α are used to establish constraints on the variability of the Quantum Chromodynamic Scale and a combination of the Higgs Vacuum Expectation Value and the Yukawa couplings. Further model dependent assumptions provide constraints on the Higgs VEV and the Yukawa couplings separately. A primary conclusion is that limits on the variability of dimensionless fundamental constants such as μ and α provide important constraints on the parameter space of new physics and cosmologies.

 

Habitable worlds with JWST

Synthetic spectra of TRAPPIST-1d with an equilibrium temperature of 280 K, for different stratospheric abundances of O3.

Habitable worlds with JWST: transit spectroscopy of the TRAPPIST-1 system?

ABSTRACT: The recent discovery of three Earth-sized, potentially habitable planets around a nearby cool star, TRAPPIST-1, has provided three key targets for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Depending on their atmospheric characteristics and precise orbit configurations, it is possible that any of the three planets may be in the liquid water habitable zone, meaning that they may be capable of supporting life. We find that present-day Earth levels of ozone, if present, would be detectable if JWST observes 60 transits for innermost planet 1b and 30 transits for 1c and 1d.

Earth-sized planets TRAPPIST-1 b and c

A combined transmission spectrum of the Earth-sized exoplanets TRAPPIST-1 b and c

Nature537,69–72

ABSTRACT: Three Earth-sized exoplanets were recently discovered close to the habitable zone of the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. The nature of these planets has yet to be determined, as their masses remain unmeasured and no observational constraint is available for the planetary population surrounding ultracool dwarfs, of which the TRAPPIST-1 planets are the first transiting example. Theoretical predictions span the entire atmospheric range, from depleted to extended hydrogen-dominated atmospheres. Here we report observations of the combined transmission spectrum of the two inner planets during their simultaneous transits on 4 May 2016. The lack of features in the combined spectrum rules out cloud-free hydrogen-dominated atmospheres for each planet at ≥10σ levels; TRAPPIST-1 b and c are therefore unlikely to have an extended gas envelope as they occupy a region of parameter space in which high-altitude cloud/haze formation is not expected to be significant for hydrogen-dominated atmospheres. Many denser atmospheres remain consistent with the featureless transmission spectrum—from a cloud-free water-vapour atmosphere to a Venus-like one.

First-ever quantum computer faceoff

Split decision in first-ever quantum computer faceoff

By Gabriel Popkin

In a new study, two quantum computers fashioned from dramatically different technologies have competed head-to-head in an algorithm-crunching exercise. One computer was more reliable, and the other was faster. But what’s most important, some scientists say, is that for the first time, two different quantum computers have been compared and tested on the same playing field.

“For a long time, the devices were so immature that you couldn’t really put two five-qubit gadgets next to each other and perform this kind of comparison,” says Simon Benjamin, a physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study. “It’s a sign that this technology is maturing.”

One of the computers is built around five ytterbium ions held in an electromagnetic trap and manipulated by lasers. It belongs to a lab led by Chris Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, and co-founder of the startup company ionQ. The other computer belongs to IBM. At its heart are five small loops of superconducting metal that can be manipulated by microwave signals. It is also the world’s only quantum computer that can be programmed online by users, rather than exclusively by scientists in the lab—a fact that allowed Monroe’s team to design the experiment.

new study, two quantum computers fashioned from dramatically different technologies have competed head-to-head in an algorithm-crunching exercise. One computer was more reliable, and the other was faster. But what’s most important, some scientists say, is that for the first time, two different quantum computers have been compared and tested on the same playing field.

“For a long time, the devices were so immature that you couldn’t really put two five-qubit gadgets next to each other and perform this kind of comparison,” says Simon Benjamin, a physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study. “It’s a sign that this technology is maturing.”

One of the computers is built around five ytterbium ions held in an electromagnetic trap and manipulated by lasers. It belongs to a lab led by Chris Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, and co-founder of the startup company ionQ. The other computer belongs to IBM. At its heart are five small loops of superconducting metal that can be manipulated by microwave signals. It is also the world’s only quantum computer that can be programmed online by users, rather than exclusively by scientists in the lab—a fact that allowed Monroe’s team to design the experiment.

Neither device has much computing power, but they demonstrate the principle that many think will eventually make quantum computers a major technology. Unlike conventional computers’ bits, which can be in states of only 0 or 1, quantum computers rely on quantum bits, or qubits, that can be teased into combinations, or “superpositions,” of both 0 and 1. In Monroe’s computer, each qubit is an ion in which an electron can be placed at one energy level to signify 0, another to signify 1, or both levels at once. In each of IBM’s superconducting circuits, electric current can circulate with one of two different strengths, or at both levels simultaneously. It’s also possible to join the superposition states of many qubits. This gives a quantum computer a potential calculating power that grows exponentially with every added bit.

 

Flotilla of tiny satellites

Flotilla of tiny satellites will photograph the entire Earth every day

By Mark Strauss

On 14 February, earth scientists and ecologists received a Valentine’s Day gift from the San Francisco, California-based company Planet, which launched 88 shoebox-sized satellites on a single Indian rocket. They joined dozens already in orbit, bringing the constellation of “Doves,” as these tiny imaging satellites are known, to 144. Six months from now, once the Doves have settled into their prescribed orbits, the company says it will have reached its primary goal: being able to image every point on Earth’s landmass at intervals of 24 hours or less, at resolutions as high as 3.7 meters—good enough to single out large trees. It’s not the resolution that’s so impressive, though. It’s getting a whole Earth selfie every day.

The news has already sparked excitement in the business world, which is willing to pay a premium for daily updates of telltale industrial and agricultural data like shipping in the South China Sea and corn yields in Mexico. But scientists are realizing that they, too, can take advantage of the daily data—timescales that sparser observations from other satellites and aircraft could not provide.

“This is a game changer,” says Douglas McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who wants to use Planet imagery to map coral bleaching events as they unfold. At present, coral researchers often rely on infrequent, costly reconnaissance airplane flights. “The previous state of the science was, for me, like taking a family photo album and shaking out all the photos on the floor and then being asked to haphazardly pick up three images and tell the story of the family.”