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Eerie NASA audio lets you hear what Jupiter moon Ganymede sounds like – CNET

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Ganymede poses in a still from a NASA Juno flyby animation.


Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

What does a moon sound like? NASA has an answer thanks to the Juno spacecraft. Juno took a swing by Jupiter’s big moon Ganymede in June. It sent back some stunning visuals, and its Waves instrument also collected data on electric and magnetic radio waves.

NASA took the Waves data and shifted it into an audio range that humans can hear. The result is eerily like something you’d hear from an old-fashioned dial-up modem, or perhaps the soundtrack to some spooky ’80s sci-fi alien movie.

Waves is focused on studying Jupiter’s magnetosphere, the area around the gas giant controlled by its magnetic field. NASA says Jupiter’s magnetosphere “is the largest object in the solar system. If it glowed in wavelengths visible to the eye, it would appear two to three times the size of the sun or moon to viewers on Earth.” 

Ganymede — the largest of Jupiter’s 79 known moons — has its own magnetosphere. We might not be able to see these magnetic fields directly, but the audio version of Juno’s experience brings the concept closer to home.

“This soundtrack is just wild enough to make you feel as if you were riding along as Juno sails past Ganymede for the first time in more than two decades,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton said in a NASA statement on Friday. “If you listen closely, you can hear the abrupt change to higher frequencies around the midpoint of the recording, which represents entry into a different region in Ganymede’s magnetosphere.”      

NASA has a knack for translating data into sound — a process called data sonification — to give us new ways of engaging with space missions. Hear the haunting sounds of black holes and galaxies or listen in on Juno’s approach to Jupiter in 2016.

The not-so-dulcet tones of Ganymede won’t lull you gently to sleep, but they might trigger memories of the internet’s earlier days, when your greatest annoyance was mom picking up the phone while you updated your GeoCities Buffy the Vampire Slayer fansite.

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Webb telescope reaches final destination, a million miles from Earth – Arab News

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WASHINGTON: The James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its cosmic parking spot a million miles away, bringing it a step closer to its mission to unravel the mysteries of the Universe, NASA said Monday.
At around 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (1900 GMT), the observatory fired its thrusters for five minutes to reach the so-called second Lagrange point, or L2, where it will have access to nearly half the sky at any given moment.
The delicate burn added 3.6 miles per hour (1.6 meters per second) to Webb’s overall speed, just enough to bring it into a “halo” orbit around L2, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
“Webb, welcome home!” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement.
Webb will begin its science mission by summer, which includes using its high resolution infrared instruments to peer back in time 13.5 billion years to the first generation of galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.
At L2, it will stay in line with the Earth as it moves around the Sun, allowing Webb’s sunshield to protect its sensitive equipment from heat and light.
For the giant parasol to offer effective protection, it needs the Sun, Earth and Moon to all be in the same direction, with the cold side operating at -370 degrees Fahrenheit (-225 Celsius).
The thruster firing, known as an orbital burn, was the third such maneuver since Webb was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket on December 25.
The plan was intentional, because if Webb had gotten too much thrust from the rocket, it wouldn’t be able to turn around to fly back to Earth, as that would expose its optics to the Sun, overheating and destroying them.
It was therefore decided to slightly underburn the rocket firing and use the telescope’s own thrusters to make up the difference.
The burns went so well that Webb should easily be able to exceed its planned minimum life of five years, Keith Parrish Webb observatory commissioning manager told reporters on a call.
“Around 20 years, we think that’s probably a good ballpark, but we’re trying to refine that,” he said. It’s hypothetically possible, but not anticipated, that a future mission could go there and refuel it.
Webb, which is expected to cost NASA nearly $10 billion, is one of the most expensive scientific platforms ever built, comparable to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and its predecessor telescope, Hubble.

But while Hubble orbits the Earth, Webb will orbit in an area of space known as a Lagrange point, where the gravitational pull from the Sun and Earth will be balanced by the centrifugal force of the rotating system.
An object at one of these five points, first theorized by Italian French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, will remain stable and not fall into the gravity well of the Sun and Earth, requiring only a little fuel for adjustments.
Webb won’t sit precisely at L2, but rather go around it in a “halo” at a distance similar to that between the Earth and Moon, completing a cycle every six months.
This will allow the telescope to remain thermally stable and to generate power from its solar panels.
Previous missions to L2 include the European Space Agency’s Herschel and Planck observatories, and NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe.
Webb’s position will also allow continuous communications with Earth via the Deep Space Network — three large antennas in Australia, Spain and California.
Earlier this month, NASA completed the process of unfolding Webb’s massive golden mirror that will collect infrared signals from the first stars and galaxies that formed a few hundred million years after the Universe began expanding.
Visible and ultraviolet light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched by the Universe’s expansion, and arrives today in the form of infrared, which Webb is equipped to detect with unprecedented clarity.
Its mission also includes the study of distant planets, known as exoplanets, to determine their origin, evolution and habitability.
Next steps include aligning the telescope’s optics and calibrating its scientific instruments. It is expected to transmit its first images back in June or July.

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NASA’s new space telescope reaches destination in solar orbit

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NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope, designed to give the world an unprecedented glimpse of infant galaxies in the early stages of the universe, arrived at its gravitational parking spot in orbit around the sun on Monday, nearly a million miles from Earth.

With a final five-minute, course-correcting thrust of its onboard rocket, Webb reached its destination at a position of gravitational equilibrium known as the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, arriving one month after launch, NASA officials said.

The thruster was activated by mission control engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, with radio signals confirming Webb was successfully “inserted” into its desired orbital loop around L2.

From there, Webb will follow a special “halo” path that keeps it in constant alignment with Earth but out of its shadow, as the planet and telescope circle the sun in tandem. The prescribed L2 orbit within the larger solar orbit thus enables uninterrupted radio contact, while bathing Webb’s solar-power array in non-stop sunlight.

By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits the Earth from 340 miles (547 km) away, passing in and out of the planet’s shadow every 90 minutes.

The combined pull of the sun and Earth at L2 – a point of near gravitational stability first deduced by 18-century mathematician Joseph-Louis Legrange – will minimize the telescope’s drift in space.

But ground teams will need to fire Webb’s thruster briefly again about once every three weeks to keep it on track, Keith Parrish, the observatory’s commissioning manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, told reporters on Monday.

Mission engineers are preparing next to fine-tune the telescope’s primary mirror – an array of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal measuring 21 feet, 4 inches (6.5 meters) across, far larger than Hubble’s main mirror.

Its size and design – operating mainly in the infrared spectrum – will allow Webb to peer through clouds of gas and dust and observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.

These features are expected to usher in a revolution in astronomy, giving a first view of infant galaxies dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set the expansion of the known universe in motion an estimated 13.8 billion years ago.

Webb’s instruments also make it ideal to search for signs of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and to observe worlds much closer to home, such as Mars and Saturn’s icy moon Titan.

NEXT STEPS

It will take several more months of work to ready the telescope for its astronomical debut.

The 18 segments of its principal mirror, which had been folded together to fit inside the cargo bay of the rocket that carried the telescope to space, were unfurled with the rest of its structural components during a two-week period following Webb’s launch on Dec. 25.

Those segments were recently detached from fasteners and edged away from their original launch position. They now must be precisely aligned – to within one-ten-thousandth the thickness of a human hair – to form a single, unbroken light-collecting surface.

Ground teams will also start activating Webb’s various imaging and spectrographic instruments to be used in the three-month mirror alignment. This will be followed by two months spent calibrating the instruments themselves.

Mirror alignment will begin by aiming the telescope at a rather ordinary, isolated star, dubbed HD-84406, located in the Ursa Major, or “Big Dipper,” constellation but too faint to be seen from Earth with the naked eye.

Engineers will then gradually tune Webb’s mirror segments to “stack” 18 separate reflections of the star into a single, focused image, Lee Feinberg, Webb’s optical telescope element manager at Goddard, said during Monday’s NASA teleconference.

Alignment is expected to start next week when the telescope, whose infrared design makes it super-sensitive to heat, has cooled down enough in space to work properly – a temperature of about 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-240 Celsius).

If all goes smoothly, Webb should be ready to begin making scientific observations by summer.

Sometime in June, NASA expects to make public its “early release observations,” a ‘greatest hits’ collection of initial images used to demonstrate proper functioning of Webb’s instruments during its commissioning phase.

Webb’s most ambitious work, including plans to train its mirror on objects farthest from Earth, will take a bit longer to conduct.

The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp was the primary contractor.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Karishma Singh, Rosalba O’Brien and Kenneth Maxwell)

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Copy or innovate? Study sheds light on chimp culture – Geo News

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Research tells that Chimpanzees in one part of Guinea crack and eat nuts while others declined to do so even when offered tools. — AFP/File
  • Chimpanzees in one part of Guinea crack and eat nuts while others declined to do so even when offered tools, according to research. 
  • Professor Koops experiments to check if the chimps would develop the behaviour if tools are provided but not once did they attempt to crack a nut.
  • Findings so far suggest there may be “greater continuity between chimpanzee and human cultural evolution than is normally assumed.”

TOKYO: Chimpanzees in one part of Guinea crack and eat nuts while others declined to do so even when offered tools, research published on Monday found, and the difference could shed light on their culture.

As humans, we are said to have cumulative culture: skills and technologies are transmitted and refined from generation to generation, producing behaviours more sophisticated than a single person could dream up.

Some experts believe this is unique to humans, and that traits like tool use by chimps instead develops spontaneously in individuals.

Their theory argues animals can innovate certain behaviours without a model to copy.

Evidence for this comes in part from captive chimps, who have been seen apparently independently developing simple tool use like scooping with a stick and sponging with a leaf.

But those behaviours differ from comparatively more complex techniques, like cracking nuts, and captivity is vastly different to the wild.

So Kathelijne Koops, a professor in the University of Zurich’s anthropology department, designed a series of experiments involving wild chimpanzees in Guinea.

While one population of chimps in Guinea’s Bossou does crack nuts, another group just six kilometres away in Nimba does not.

Koops wanted to see whether the Nimba population would develop the behaviour if introduced to the tools to do so.

The researchers set up four different scenarios: in the first, the chimps encountered palm nuts in shells, and stones that could be used for cracking them open.

In the second, there were palm nuts in shells, stones, but also edible palm nut fruit. In the third, they found the stones, unshelled palm nuts and some cracked nut shells.

And the final experiment offered them stones and Coula nuts, which are more commonly and easily cracked by chimpanzee populations that use the technique.

Secret cameras 

Each experiment ran for several months at a time, mostly in 2008, though in some cases as late as 2011.

But while the experiment sites in Nimba were visited and explored by dozens of chimpanzees, who were filmed with cameras installed at the location, not once did they attempt to crack a nut.

“Having observed nut cracking by Bossou chimpanzees on many occasions, it was so interesting to watch the Nimba chimpanzees interact with the same materials without ever cracking a nut,” Koops told AFP.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour suggests that nut cracking may in fact be an outcome of cumulative culture, similar to that of humans.

The researchers acknowledged difficulties studying chimps in the wild, including the inability to control the numbers visiting their sites.

Between 16 and 53 chimps visited each site during the experiments and primate behaviour specialist Professor Gisela Kaplan, who was not involved with the research, questioned whether the numbers were sufficient to draw broad conclusions.

“As in human society: the number of innovators is relatively small in animals and the expression of innovation depends also on many social and ecological circumstances and pressures,” said Kaplan, professor emerita in animal behaviour at the University of New England, Australia.

The study’s authors acknowledge there are other possible explanations for the chimps’ reticence, including the possibility that they simply weren’t motivated to eat the nuts.

But as chimpanzees in neighbouring areas do crack nuts, they consider it unlikely the Nimba population was uninterested in a new food source.

Koops said the involvement of a “normal-sized wild community” of chimps and the length of the experiments allow insights.

“Of course it would be interesting to test additional communities,” she said.

But the findings so far suggest there may be “greater continuity between chimpanzee and human cultural evolution than is normally assumed.”

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