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Exploring mysterious worlds in 'The Hunt for Planet B' – CNN

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(CNN)If the universe is a seemingly endless desert, planet Earth is just a grain of sand.

The mere thought can send you down an existential rabbit hole. But I like to look at the universe and consider all of the possibilities just awaiting discovery.
Astronomers have yet to find a solar system quite like ours. And of the thousands of known exoplanets, none quite match up with the planets in our cosmic backyard. But scientists have only just begun to scratch the surface of these planets outside the solar system. The next step is looking inside of them.
If you’re intrigued by exploring other worlds, watch “The Hunt for Planet B,” airing on CNN Saturday, November 20, at 9 p.m. ET.
Follow scientists as they plan for the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s most powerful space observatory.

Defying gravity

After years of delays, the Webb telescope is scheduled for launch December 18 from French Guiana. It will study exoplanets in new ways and look deeper into the universe than ever before.
The telescope’s name is not without controversy, and many still hope NASA will change it.
Webb will peer into the very atmospheres of exoplanets, some of which are potentially habitable. For those of you who submitted questions about the mission, we’ve tracked down answers from the experts.
Webb is ready to help us understand the origins of the universe and begin to answer key questions about our existence, such as where we came from and if we’re alone in the cosmos.

Other worlds

This illustration shows the TRAPPIST planets, all roughly the size of Earth.

Oh, the places Webb will go! The telescope will look at varied objects, like stars and galaxies in the distant universe and planets in our own solar system, but many associate Webb with exoplanets.
Once it launches, the telescope will undergo months of setup to prepare for taking observations a million miles from Earth. Then, the magic begins.
The observatory is slated to look at the TRAPPIST-1 system, which includes seven Earth-size exoplanets orbiting a cool dwarf star about 40 light-years away.
But astronomers are also eager to investigate still other mysterious exoplanets, like those between the sizes of Earth and Neptune. No known planet like this exists in our solar system — but they are the most common exoplanet in our galaxy. Now, scientists want to know how they formed.

Across the universe

Scientists agree that for humankind, there is likely no Planet B. We must do everything we can to take care of Earth because they say it’s the only world for us.
But looking ahead, it’s a question astronomers puzzle over: If Planet B exists, what might it be like?
Some believe it will be a true Earth twin where life forms in much the same way as it does here.
Others hope we’ll learn life can form in a variety of ways. When looking at the diversity of exoplanets around different types of stars, that doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
And then there is an even more intriguing idea: What if life didn’t begin on Earth at all, but somewhere else?

Fantastic creatures

Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas is pictured with her dog, Zach.

Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas is pictured with her dog, Zach.

If you’ve been working from home in the pandemic, chances are your pet has grown used to extra quality time — which makes the separation anxiety that much tougher once you’re back in the office.
Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, a lecturer in animal-computer interaction at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, has set out to change that with the DogPhone. Unlike other pet tech, DogPhone allows dogs to call their owners.
She tested her invention on Zach, her black Labrador retriever, by hiding a sensor inside a ball. If the ball is moved, it triggers a computer video call. The results are promising.

Ocean secrets

It’s time to go to the twilight zone — the one in the ocean. This region, before daylight gives way to the perpetual dark of the deep sea, is as mysterious to us as space.
The more researchers learn, the more they realize the animals that inhabit it play a critical role in regulating the Earth’s climate. Here, beautiful and bizarre creatures migrate up and down daily.
This zone has a surprising advocate: filmmaker James Cameron.
“It acts as this giant carbon pump that’s pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and taking it down into the deep ocean,” Cameron told CNN. It’s just one of many reasons he wants to preserve this region, the largest biomass on our planet.

Discoveries

Take another look:
— Floating junk in space is a growing problem, and this week it just got worse, sending space station crew scrambling for cover.
— Over 1,000 manatees in Florida have died this year, the highest recorded number in decades, and the reasons may surprise you.
— Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe is one of Egypt’s lost “sun temples,” dating from the mid-25th century BCE.
Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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BEYOND LOCAL: NASA launches spacecraft to test asteroid defense concept – BayToday

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday night on a mission to smash into an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a speeding space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth.

The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a $330 million project with echoes of the Bruce Willis movie “Armageddon.”

If all goes well, the boxy, 1,200-pound (540-kilogram) craft will slam head-on into Dimorphos, an asteroid 525 feet (160 meters) across, at 15,000 mph (24,139 kph) next September.

“This isn’t going to destroy the asteroid. It’s just going to give it a small nudge,” said mission official Nancy Chabot of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is managing the project.

Dimorphos orbits a much larger asteroid called Didymos. The pair are no danger to Earth but offer scientists a better way to measure the effectiveness of a collision than a single asteroid flying through space.

Dimorphos completes one orbit of Didymos every 11 hours, 55 minutes. DART’s goal is a crash that will slow Dimorphos down and cause it to fall closer toward the bigger asteroid, shaving 10 minutes off its orbit.

The change in the orbital period will be measured by telescopes on Earth. The minimum change for the mission to be considered a success is 73 seconds.

The DART technique could prove useful for altering the course of an asteroid years or decades before it bears down on Earth with the potential for catastrophe.

A small nudge “would add up to a big change in its future position, and then the asteroid and the Earth wouldn’t be on a collision course,” Chabot said.

Scientists constantly search for asteroids and plot their courses to determine whether they could hit the planet.

“Although there isn’t a currently known asteroid that’s on an impact course with the Earth, we do know that there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids out there,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA. “The key to planetary defense is finding them well before they are an impact threat.”

DART will take 10 months to reach the asteroid pair. The collision will occur about 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.

Ten days beforehand, DART will release a tiny observation spacecraft supplied by the Italian space agency that will follow it.

DART will stream video until it is destroyed on impact. Three minutes later, the trailing craft will make images of the impact site and material that is ejected.

John Antczak, The Associated Press

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Doing Photon Upconversion A Solid: Crystals That Convert Light To More Useful Wavelengths – Eurasia Review

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Solid-solution organic crystals have been brought into the quest for superior photon upconversion materials, which transform presently wasted long-wavelength light into more useful shorter wavelength light. Scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology revisited a materials approach previously deemed lackluster—using a molecule originally developed for organic LEDs—achieving outstanding performance and efficiency. Their findings pave the way for many novel photonic technologies, such as better solar cells and photocatalysts for hydrogen and hydrocarbon productions.

Light is a powerful source of energy that can, if leveraged correctly, be used to drive stubborn chemical reactions, generate electricity, and run optoelectronic devices. However, in most applications, not all the wavelengths of light can be used. This is because the energy that each photon carries is inversely proportional to its wavelength, and chemical and physical processes are triggered by light only when the energy provided by individual photons exceeds a certain threshold.

This means that devices like solar cells cannot benefit from all the color contained in sunlight, as it comprises a mixture of photons with both high and low energies. Scientists worldwide are actively exploring materials to realize photon upconversion (PUC), by which photons with lower energies (longer wavelengths) are captured and re-emitted as photons with higher energies (shorter wavelengths). One promising way to realize this is through triplet-triplet annihilation (TTA). This process requires the combination of a sensitizer material and an annihilator material. The sensitizer absorbs low energy photons (long-wavelength light) and transfers its excited energy to the annihilator, which emits higher energy photons (light of shorter wavelength) as a result of TTA (Figure 1).

Finding good solid materials for PUC has proven challenging for a long time. Although liquid samples can achieve relatively high PUC efficiency, working with liquids, especially those comprising organic solvents, is inherently risky and cumbersome in many applications. However, previous trials to create PUC solids generally suffered from poor crystal quality and small crystal domains, which lead to short travelling distances of triplet excited states and thus, low PUC efficiency. Additionally, in most previous solid PUC samples, stability under continuous photoirradiation was not tested and experimental data were often acquired in inert gas atmospheres. Hence, the low efficiency and insufficient materials stability had been of concern for a long time.

Now, in a recent study led by Associate Professor Yoichi Murakami from Tokyo Tech, Japan, a team of researchers found the answer to this challenge. Published in Materials Horizon, their paper (open access) describes how they focused on van der Waals crystals, a classical materials class that has not been considered for the quest of high-efficiency PUC solids. After discovering that 9-(2-naphthyl)-10-[4-(1-naphthyl)phenyl]anthracene (ANNP), a hydrocarbon molecule originally developed for blue organic LEDs, was an excellent annihilator for embodying their concept, they tried mixing it with platinum octaethylporphyrin (PtOEP), a staple sensitizer that absorbs green light.

The team found that aggregation of the sensitizer molecules could be completely avoided by utilizing the crystalline phase of a van der Waals solid solution with a sufficiently low proportion of PtOEP to ANNP (around 1:50000). They proceeded to thoroughly characterize the obtained crystals and found some insight into why using the ANNP annihilator prevented the aggregation of the sensitizer when other existing annihilators had failed to do so in previous studies. Moreover, the solid crystals the team produced were highly stable and exhibited outstanding performance, as Dr. Murakami remarks: “The results of our experiments using simulated sunlight indicate that solar concentration optics such as lenses are no longer needed to efficiently upconvert terrestrial sunlight.”

Overall, this study brings van der Waals crystals back into the game of PUC as an effective way of creating outstanding solid materials using versatile hydrocarbon annihilators. “The proof-of-concept we presented in our paper is a major technical leap forward in the quest for high-performance PUC solids, which will open up diverse photonics technologies in the future,” concludes Dr. Murakami. Let us hope further research in this topic allows us to efficiently transform light into its most useful forms.

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New Russian module docks with International Space Station – CGTN

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A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress cargo spacecraft and the Prichal node module lifts off from a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, November 24, 2021. /CFP

A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress cargo spacecraft and the Prichal node module lifts off from a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, November 24, 2021. /CFP

A Russian cargo craft carrying a new docking module successfully hooked up with the International Space Station Friday after a two-day space journey.

The new spherical module, named Prichal (Pier), docked with the orbiting outpost at 6:19 p.m. Moscow time (1519 GMT). It has six docking ports and will allow potential future expansion of the Russian segment of the station.

The module has moored to the docking port of the new Russian Nauka (Science) laboratory module.

On Wednesday, a Soyuz rocket took off from the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying the Progress cargo ship with Prichal attached to it. After entering space, the cargo ship with the module went into orbit.

Progress is also delivering 700 kilograms of various cargoes to the space station and is expected to undock from the station on December 22.

The first Soyuz spacecraft is expected to dock at the new module on March 18, 2022, with a crew of three cosmonauts: Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergei Korsakov.

Earlier this week, the Russian crew on the station started training for the module’s arrival, simulating the use of manual controls in case the automatic docking system failed.

The space outpost is currently operated by NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Mark Vande Hei; Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov; and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency.

Source(s): AP

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