Earth Weather / Space Weather

Science Wishes for 2014

By: Susie77, 5:55 PM GMT on December 30, 2013


Bizarre Physics, Exomoons & Humanoids: Science Wishes for 2014
By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer | December 30, 2013 07:12am ET
Courtesy of Live Science


Science breakthroughs in the past year include the discovery of new planets far beyond Earth's solar system, the confirmation of an elusive particle and new clues about the evolutionary history of early humans. But science keeps marching on, raising the question: What will next year bring?

An unscientific survey of scientists from a variety of fields yields some predictions — and some ambitious hopes and dreams for 2014.

From discoveries to send the physics world reeling to the search for alien moons, here's what scientists are wishing for in the new year.

Physics

For now, the famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on the border of France and Switzerland is quiet, shut down for two years of maintenance and improvements that will make the particle collider stronger than ever when it comes back online in 2015.

But the pace of physics hasn't slowed. The last of the LHC results from earlier tests are still to come, said Tara Shears, a physicist at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. And other big experiments are underway. In 2014, Shears will watch an experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) that is investigating antihydrogen, the antimatter component of hydrogen. Antimatter is a material with the same mass as ordinary matter but is made of particles with opposite charges. CERN's ALPHA experiment seeks to investigate the gravitational interaction between matter and antimatter.

Shears is also intrigued by measurements by the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), which is aboard the International Space Station. In April 2013, scientists announced the AMS had detected an excess of high-energy positrons, an antimatter particle that is essentially the opposite of an electron. Finally, Shears is hoping for more knowledge about neutrinos, neutral subatomic particles, from a new measurement chamber at Fermilab in Illinois. [Twisted Physics: 7 Mind-Blowing Findings]

Most of all, Shears hopes for a measurement that disrupts the Standard Model of physics, an explanation of how tiny particles interact. So far, discoveries such as the confirmation of the Higgs boson particle all match the Standard Model's predictions, which is disappointing because the model can't explain all the weirdness of the universe, Shears said.

"I hope for a stealth measurement, a Trojan horse that makes the Standard Model crumble 'round it," Shears told LiveScience.

Deep space

Other mysteries are lurking in the far reaches of the universe, where new observations are increasingly revealing planets far outside the bounds of this solar system. Researchers have found more than 800 of these exoplanets, but they're most excited about the dozen or so that have the potential to be habitable.

The past year turned up a few potential "Earth 2.0s," said Abel Mendez, a planetary scientist and director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. But the worlds still need to be confirmed as such. Mendez has ambitious hopes for 2014. He'd like to see a calculation of the density of a potentially habitable exoplanet, he told LiveScience. He'd also like to see an Earth-like planet discovered closer to Earth, which would allow for better characterizations than can be made about far-flung worlds.

Mendez's final dream for the new year? The discovery of an exomoon. So far, scientists have not been able to detect whether the exoplanets they've found have their own satellites, but experience in this solar system suggests they should.

"These three goals are very ambitious for just next year, but would represent a big advancement for exoplanets science," Mendez said.

Medicine

Back on Earth, 2014 could be a strong year for medical science, said bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the New York University Langone Medical Center. Caplan predicts major advances in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease using computed tomography (CT) scanning or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He also hopes to see stem cells— cells that can differentiate to become many types of tissue — take their place in doctors' bags of tricks.

"2014 could be the year in which regenerative medicine using stem cells shows its first real breakthrough for treating intractable diseases such as spinal-cord injury," Caplan told LiveScience. [7 Devastating Infectious Diseases]

Caplan has high hopes for medical ethics in the new year, too. Electronic forms for informed consent should start to replace paper consent forms, he said, which will make it easier to quiz patients to be sure they really understand the procedures they're agreeing to undergo. He also expects patients to challenge the norm of donated tissue samples being used in research; currently, any monetary benefit from these donations goes to researchers or drug developers rather than to the donors who made the work possible.

Finally, Caplan said, 2014 should be the year in which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes guidelines for at-home genetics testing. There are rumblings that the regulatory agency is turning its attention to these new tests. In November, California-based genetics testing company 23andMe received a FDA warning to stop marketing its mail-in genetics tests, which can tell buyers their genetic risk of certain diseases. The company has temporarily suspended those tests while it works with the FDA.

Caplan expects that when the FDA releases new regulations, it will change the way at-home genetics testing operates.

"No existing companies using current methods will meet those regulations, but they will begin to add more counseling and information on test accuracy in order to do so," he said.

Paleontology

New will meet old in 2014 in the field of paleontology, where technology is making it increasingly easier to investigate fragile fossils.

"The use of technology in the recovery and analysis of fossils is blossoming," said Matthew Mossbrucker, director of the Morrison Natural History Museum in Morrison, Colo. "For example, fine-scale CT scanning and virtual preparation can accelerate the process of examining fossils that were thought to be inaccessible — either because they are locked in hard rock or perhaps too delicate to prepare mechanically."

Researchers can even use new 3D-printing technology to take digital scans of fossils and turn them into perfect 3D copies to be studied and displayed. Mossbrucker and his colleagues plan to use CT scanning to analyze delicate fossils trapped in hard sandstone in the coming year, he said. [10 Modern Tools for Indiana Jones]

"These methods will not replace traditional fossil preparation, but will be another arrow in our quiver," Mossbrucker told LiveScience.

Robotics

Robotics and biomechanics researcher Andy Ruina of Cornell University calls his 2014 wishes "rather pedestrian" — that is, he wants to see robots act more like pedestrians.

The challenge is to create legged automatons that can walk on uneven surfaces, as humans do, using about the same amount of energy that humans do, Ruina told LiveScience. So far, Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot Atlas can handle rough terrain, but only while tethered to a power supply.

Ruina would also like to see a theory of robot control that explains how living creatures move and handle objects while also providing blueprints on how to get a machine to make the same movements.

Jekanthan Thangavelautham, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has similar dreams of an graceful robot that could manage greyhound-like speeds outdoors — in the range of 43 mph (70 km/h), that is. He'd also like to see a fully 3D-printed robot, as well as more robots put to more practical uses. The military, for example, could start using robotic exoskeletons in the field to give soldiers a boost of strength for carrying heavy packs or lifting armaments.

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Season's Greetings!

By: Susie77, 9:43 PM GMT on December 24, 2013

Wishing you all a most blessed and beautiful new journey around our Star. May all that you wish for be yours.


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Geminid Meteor Shower Now Underway

By: Susie77, 1:51 AM GMT on December 13, 2013

Courtesy of Space Weather.com

Last night, NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras reported 23 Geminid fireballs over the United States. This sharp uptick in activity signals the official beginning of the 2013 Geminid meteor shower. For the next 3 to 4 days, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from rock comet 3200 Phaethon, producing dozens of meteors per hour flying out of the contellation Gemini. "There is a nice show going on right now," says Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

The multiple cameras of NASA's fireball network are able to measure the orbits of Geminid meteoroids. This plot shows the orbits of the 39 fireballs recorded so far this week:



Earth is the blue dot where all the orbits intersect. The purple curve shows the path of Geminid parent 3200 Phaethon.

Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Dec. 13-14 when Earth passes through the busiest part of Phaethon's debris stream. Peak rates could reach 120 meteors per hour. However, glare from the nearly-full Moon could reduce the number of visible meteors 2- to 3-fold. Cooke advises looking during the hours just before local sunrise on Saturday, Dec. 14th. "At that time, the Moon will be below the horizon, improving your chances of seeing the show."

You can listen to radar echoes from the Geminids, unaffected by moonlight, on Space Weather Radio. Also, tune into NASA's live web chat about the Geminids on Friday the 13th beginning at 11 pm EST. http://spaceweather.com/

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Venus at Its Brightest!

By: Susie77, 3:01 PM GMT on December 04, 2013


By and in
| Human World | Space on Dec 03, 2013




See Venus at its brightest!


Phase of Venus when brightest

Phase of Venus when brightest









What’s that very bright star or planet in the west after
sunset now? It’s the planet Venus, now near its time of greatest
brilliancy.





Many are asking: what is that brilliant object shining in the
west after sunset now? It’s the beautiful “evening star,” really the
planet Venus. It’s the second planet outward from our sun and always
the third-brightest object in Earth’s sky, after the sun and moon.
Venus is so bright that it sometimes casts a shadow on dark, moonless
night. Venus is always bright … but it’s particularly noticeable now
because it’s at its brightest on December 6, 2013. It is near what
astronomers call its greatest illuminated extent or greatest brilliancy. Follow the links below to learn more about Venus at its brightest.When can I see Venus?
How bright is Venus?Why is Venus at its brightest now?
Venus on December 3, 2013 as seen by EarthSky Facebook friend Brodin Alain.  Venus on December 3, 2013 as seen by EarthSky Facebook friend Brodin Alain. Thank you, Brodin!
When can I see Venus? You can’t
miss Venus if you look outside after the sun goes down. Look in the
same direction as the sunset. Venus will be shining there – looming there, actually – a bright and somewhat eerie-looking object.
Venus always looks a bit eerie around its time of greatest
brilliancy. At these times, many people report Venus as a UFO. Plus,
there are multiple stories in military history about people mistaking
Venus for an enemy spy balloon, and trying to shoot it down.
You’ll know better. It’s just Venus at its brightest!
Venus has been in the evening sky since late March, 2013, but its
time of greatest brilliancy means its reign in the evening sky will soon
come to an end. Why? Because greatest brilliancy for Venus in the
evening sky always comes shortly before the planet passes (more or less)
between us and the sun.
There will be another time of greatest brightness for Venus ahead,
when it emerges from the sun’s glare before dawn. In the coming year,
Venus will reign as the “morning star” from January 11, 2014, until
October 25, 2014. It’ll be shining at its brilliant best for several
days in mid-February 2014.
View larger. | Look closely at Venus in the twilight sky tonight, and you might notice a little star nearby.  This star is beloved among stargazers.  It's called Nunki, and it's in a little asterism known as the Milk Dipper of Sagittarius.  See the dipper shape?  Photo taken November 19, 2013 by EarthSky Facebook friend Rajib Maji in India.  Thank you, Rajib!Venus
easily outshines any nearby stars. Here is Venus in November 2013,
when it was near the star Nunki, in the constellation Sagittarius.
Photo taken November 19, 2013 by EarthSky Facebook friend Rajib Maji in India. Thank you, Rajib!
How bright is Venus? Venus easily ranks as the brightest starlike object in all the heavens.
This planet ranges in magnitude from -3.9 to -4.9. A negative
magnitude means an exceptionally bright celestial object. Our sun, for
example, has a magnitude of -26!
Or contrast the brightness of Venus to the very brightest stars. Consider the well-known star Betelgeuse
in the constellation Orion, which shines at a magnitude of 0.45. At
its faintest, Venus shines nearly 40 times brighter than Betelgeuse. At
its brightest, Venus is about 100 times brighter.
Or consider the sky’s brightest star, Sirius,
whose magnitude is -1.44. At its faintest, Venus is nearly 10 times
brighter than Sirius. At its brightest, Venus beam nearly 25 times
brighter.
Venus is bright partly because it’s nearby, and partly because its surface is covered with highly reflective clouds.
As Venus comes closer to Earth, its phase shrinks but its disk size enlarges. Image credit:  Statis KalyvisVenus
waxes and wanes in phase, and the size of its disk increases and
shrinks, depending on where Earth and Venus are in orbit. As Venus
comes closer to Earth, its phase shrinks but its disk size enlarges.
Image via Statis Kalyvis
Why is Venus at its brightest now? Consider that Venus is a planet, like Earth, in orbit around the sun. Its orbit is inside ours; Venus is closer to the sun.
That’s why this dazzling world displays the full range of phases,
much like our moon. You need a telescope to observe the phases of
Venus, and they are most fun to watch around the time that Venus passes
between us and the sun. Around then, the lighted half or day side of
Venus is facing mostly away from us. Venus appears in a crescent phase.

Believe it or not, Venus doesn’t exhibit its greatest brilliancy at
the full phase. In order to see Venus as full, that planet must be far
across the solar system from us, and, at such times, the size of its
disk is small. So Venus appears fainter then.
Likewise, Venus doesn’t shine at greatest brilliancy when it’s
closest to Earth. Then the planet is either an extremely thin crescent
as seen from Earth, or it’s not visible at all because its day side
faces entirely away from us and it’s in the sun’s glare.
This is an illustration, showing the phase of Venus at greatest brilliancy, or greatest illuminated extent, on February 15, 2014.  It always happens when we are seeing about 25% of the day side of Venus.  Image via US Naval Observatory This
is an illustration, showing the phase of Venus at greatest brilliancy,
or greatest illuminated extent, on February 15, 2014. It always happens
when we are seeing about 25% of the day side of Venus. Image via US Naval Observatory
Here’s the secret to Venus at its brightest: Venus reaches its
greatest illuminated extent when the planet’s illuminated portion or day
side covers the greatest square area of sky.
That happens when Venus’ disk is about one-quarter (25%) illuminated by sunlight, as shown in the image at right.
Venus always displays its greatest illuminated extent about 36 days before and after passing between the Earth and sun (inferior conjunction, new phase). Venus will exhibit its greatest illuminated extent as the “evening star” on December 6, 2013.
It will pass between the Earth and sun at inferior conjunction on
January 11, 2014. It will next show off its greatest illuminated extent
(as the “morning star”) on February 15, 2014.
Another way of looking at it, Venus reaches its greatest illuminated
extent midway between a greatest elongation and inferior conjunction.
Venus’ greatest evening elongation last happened on November 1, 2013, and will occur next on March 22, 2014.
So watch for Venus. It’s bright and beautiful around now. People
from across the globe will be gazing in wonder at it, asking what it is,
and you can tell them!
Phase of planet Venus
Venus transitions to the morning sky at new phase and into the evening sky at full phase. Venus and all the solar system planets go  counterclockwise around the sun as seen from the north side of the solar system plane, as in this diagram.As
seen from Earth, Venus shows phases, much like the moon. That’s
because Venus orbits coser to the sun than Earth. Sometimes we see its
fully lighted day side, and sometimes we see only a fraction of the day
side. Venus transitions to the morning sky at new phase and into the
evening sky at full phase. Venus and all the solar system planets go
counterclockwise around the sun as seen from the north side of the solar
system plane, as in this diagram.
Bird’s-eye view of Earth’s and Venus’ orbits
Earth's and Venus' orbitsThe
Earth and Venus orbit the sun counterclockwise as seen to the north of
the solar system plane. Venus reaches its greatest elongation in the
evening sky about 72 days before inferior conjunction and its greatest
elongation in the morning sky about 72 days after inferior conjunction.
This world exhibits its greatest illuminated extent midway between a
greatest elongation and inferior conjunction
Bottom line: What’s that very bright star or planet in the west
after sunset now? It’s the planet Venus, now near its time of greatest
brilliancy.


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About Susie77

Sometimes I complain about the earthly weather, but mostly I like to post about astronomy and space events. Hope you enjoy the articles.

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