On Oct. 29, mission operators sent a series of commands to NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft for the first time since mid-March. The spacecraft has been flying solo while the 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) radio antenna used to talk to it has been offline for repairs and upgrades. Voyager 2 returned a signal confirming it had received the “call” and executed the commands without issue.
The call to Voyager 2 was a test of new hardware recently installed on Deep Space Station 43, the only dish in the world that can send commands to Voyager 2. Located in Canberra, Australia, it is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), a collection of radio antennas around the world used primarily to communicate with spacecraft operating beyond the moon. Since the dish went offline, mission operators have been able to receive health updates and science data from Voyager 2, but they haven’t been able to send commands to the far-flung probe, which has traveled billions of miles from Earth since its 1977 launch.
Among the upgrades to DSS43, as the dish is known, are two new radio transmitters. One of them, which is used to talk with Voyager 2, hasn’t been replaced in over 47 years. Engineers have also upgraded heating and cooling equipment, power supply equipment, and other electronics needed to run the new transmitters.
The successful call to Voyager 2 is just one indication that the dish will be back online in February 2021.
“What makes this task unique is that we’re doing work at all levels of the antenna, from the pedestal at ground level all the way up to the feedcones at the center of the dish that extend above the rim,” said Brad Arnold, the DSN project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California. “This test communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we’re doing.”
The Deep Space Network consist of radio antenna facilities spaced equally around the globe in Canberra; Goldstone, California; and Madrid, Spain. The positioning of the three facilities ensures that almost any spacecraft with a line of sight to Earth can communicate with at least one of the facilities at any time.
Voyager 2 is the rare exception. In order to make a close flyby of Neptune’s moon Triton in 1989, the probe flew over the planet’s north pole. That trajectory deflected it southward relative to the plane of the planets, and it has been heading in that direction ever since. Now more than 11.6 billion miles (18.8 billion kilometers) from Earth, the spacecraft is so far south that it doesn’t have a line of sight with radio antennas in the Northern Hemisphere.
DSS43 is the only dish in the Southern Hemisphere that has a transmitter powerful enough and that broadcasts the right frequency to send commands to the distant spacecraft. Voyager 2’s faster-moving twin, Voyager 1, took a different path past Saturn and can communicate via antennas at the two DSN facilities in the Northern Hemisphere. The antennas must uplink commands to both Voyagers in a radio frequency range called S-band, and the antennas downlink data from the spacecraft in a range called X-band.
While mission operators haven’t been able to command Voyager 2 since DSS43 went offline, the three 34-meter-wide (111-foot-wide) radio antennas at the Canberra facility can be used together to capture the signals that Voyager 2 sends to Earth. The probe is sending back science data from interstellar space, or the region outside our Sun’s heliosphere—the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun that surrounds the planets and the Kuiper Belt (the collection of small, icy bodies beyond Neptune’s orbit).
DSS43 began operating in 1972 (five years before the launch of Voyager 2 and Voyager 1) and was only 64 meters (210 feet) wide at the time. It was expanded to 70 meters (230 feet) in 1987 and has received a variety of upgrades and repairs since then. But the engineers overseeing the current work say this is one of the most significant makeovers the dish has received and the longest it’s been offline in over 30 years.
“The DSS43 antenna is a highly specialized system; there are only two other similar antennas in the world, so having the antenna down for one year is not an ideal situation for Voyager or for many other NASA missions,” said Philip Baldwin, operations manager for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program. “The agency made the decision to conduct these upgrades to ensure that the antenna can continue to be used for current and future missions. For an antenna that is almost 50 years old, it’s better to be proactive than reactive with critical maintenance.”
The repairs will benefit other missions, including the Mars Perseverance rover, which will land on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021. The network will also play a critical role in moon-to-Mars exploration efforts, ensuring communication and navigation support for both the precursor moon and Mars missions and the crewed Artemis missions.
NASA contacts Voyager 2 using upgraded Deep Space Network dish (2020, November 4)
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Utah monolith mystery: Wildlife officials' 12-ft desert discovery – Daily Mail
Mystery of the 12-ft metal monolith discovered in middle of Utah desert – and it looks eerily similar to the machines in Space Odyssey
- State workers in a helicopter noticed the shiny marker while flying overhead
- About 10 to 12 feet tall, it’s planted in the ground and not dropped from above
- There are no identifying markings and no one has claimed responsibility
- Utah has a history of ‘land art’ placed in the desert far from population centers
Government workers had a close encounter of the strange kind out in the Utah desert.
A crew with the state wildlife resources department was aboard a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter when they spotted a mysterious monolith sticking out of the dirt last week.
About 10 to 12 feet tall, the shiny metal object was firmly planted in the ground, suggesting it wasn’t just dropped from above.
Officials suggest it could be have been constructed by an artist or a huge fan of 2001: Space Odyssey – the structure resembles the machines found in Arthur C. Clarke’s story.
The unlabeled object is located inside a red rock cove but, fearful amateurs could endanger themselves trying to get a closer look, the workers have withheld details about its exact location.
Scroll down for video
Worker with Utah’s wildlife resources department spotted a shiny metal monolith in the desert. The object is between 10 and 12 feet tall and is firmly planted in the ground
The team was in the remote area to count bighorn sheep when they spotted the unidentified object.
‘One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,’ pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL-TV. ‘He was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around!’ And I was like, ‘what.’ And he’s like, ‘There’s this thing back there – we’ve got to go look at it!’
After the copter circled back and landed, the crew went into the cove to investigate.
‘We were thinking, Is this something NASA stuck up there or something? Are they bouncing satellites off it?’ Hutchings said.
Officials suggest it could be have been constructed by an artist or a huge fan of 2001: Space Odyssey – the structure resembles the machines found in Arthur C. Clarke’s story (pictured)
The team was in the remote area to count bighorn sheep when they spotted the unidentified object
‘We were thinking, Is this something NASA stuck up there or something? Are they bouncing satellites off it?’ said Department of Public Safety pilot Bret Hutchings
State workers climb the monolith to give a sense of its size. A biologist with the wildlife resources office spotted the object from the sky, prompting the crew to land and investigate
‘We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it.’
All jokes aside, Hutchings believes the structure is probably some kind of artwork.
‘I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big [2001: A Space Odyssey] fan,’ he said.
Department of Public Safety pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL-TV the unmarked object ‘is about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,’
The monolith is located inside a red rock cove but workers have withheld details about its exact location to prevent others from endangering themselves trying to get a closer look
Utah has a history of ‘land art,’ unusual installations that cropped up far from population centers in the 1960s and ’70s.
The most famous, Spiral Jetty, a 1,500-foot-long coil by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 that’s composed entirely of mud, salt crystals and basalt.
Located on the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point, the jetty appears and disappears depending on water levels.
Utah has a history of ‘land art,’ unusual installations far from population centers. Located on the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake, artist Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is made of mud, salt and basalt rock
So far, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the monolith, though.
‘That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,’ Hutchings said.
The workers took video and photos of the object, but left in place.
So far, it hasn’t disturbed the bighorn sheep that live in the southern half of Utah.
Their population was once down to under a thousand in the 1970s, but conservation efforts have seen them make a big comeback in recent decades.
The crew was in the remote area to count bighorn sheep, which live in the southern half of Utah
The sheep are less wary of people in early December, which is their mating season.
‘Because they’re focused on courtship and breeding, they’ll allow vehicles to get closer to them than they normally would,’ Brent Stettler of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources told My National Parks Trip Media.
A 2020 space oddity? Mysterious metal object found in Utah desert – cjoy.com
A mysterious slab of metal stands silently in the desert, leaving Earth’s primates puzzled.
That’s how the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey begins. It’s also the way things are playing out in Utah in 2020, after biologists made a baffling discovery in the state’s southern desert.
State wildlife officials say they were counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter last Wednesday when they stumbled upon a mysterious slab of metal sticking up out of the rock. The object stood 3-3.7 metres tall and appeared to be completely solid and undecorated, according to a crew from the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Its true origin is unknown.
“One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings told Utah broadcaster KSLTV.
Hutchings and the crew of biologists touched down nearby and ventured down into a red-rock cove to examine the object up close.
Video shows it’s a solid piece of metal standing as tall as two humans.
“The intrepid explorers go down to investigate the alien life form,” one crew member said with a chuckle, in video they later provided to KSLTV.
Hutchings says the group had some fun with the discovery, though they still don’t know exactly they’re dealing with.
— Andrew Adams (@AndrewAdamsKSL) November 21, 2020
“We were joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, I guess the rest of us make a run for it,” Hutchings said.
The object appeared to have been planted in place and likely did not fall into position from above, Hutchings said.
State officials did not indicate exactly where they found the monolith because it was in a remote area that is dangerous for hikers. They say they’d rather not inspire amateur adventurers to go out looking for it in hopes of solving the mystery.
“That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,” Hutchings said.
He added that the object is probably an art installation or a tribute to Kubrick’s film.
The opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey depicts a race of ape-like human ancestors who swarm over a mysterious slab of metal that suddenly appears in their rocky home. One of the apes learns how to use tools a short time after the object appears.
No members of the helicopter crew have reported any incredible scientific discoveries to date, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating about the object’s origin.
The Utah Highway Patrol encouraged followers to guess about the object’s purpose, triggering a slew of guesses about aliens, wormholes, interdimensional portals and Kubrick’s film.
Many users called for the object to be left alone, if only to avoid any further misfortunes during a historically weird 2020.
“If I were y’all I’d wait until at least 2021, maybe 2022 for good measure, before touching it,” one user wrote.
“PUT IT BACK!” another user wrote. “We’ve had enough surprises this year.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Scientists produce diamonds in minutes at room temperature – MINING.com
“Natural diamonds are usually formed over billions of years, about 150 kilometres deep in the Earth where there are high pressures and temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius,” Jodie Bradby, professor at The Australian National University and one of the authors of the study, said in a media statement.
“The twist in this story is how we apply the pressure. As well as very high pressures, we allow the carbon to also experience something called ‘shear’ – which is like a twisting or sliding force. We think this allows the carbon atoms to move into place and form Lonsdaleite and regular diamond.”
To observe and understand how this process works, the researchers used advanced electron microscopy techniques to capture solid and intact slices from the experimental samples to create snapshots of how the two types of diamonds formed.
The pictures showed that the regular diamonds only form in the middle of Lonsdaleite veins under this new method.
“Seeing these little ‘rivers’ of Lonsdaleite and regular diamond for the first time was just amazing and really helps us understand how they might form,” Dougal McCulloch, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said.
According to the scientists, Lonsdaleite has the potential to be used for cutting through ultra-solid materials on mining sites. As such, they said that creating more of this rare diamond is the long-term aim of their work.
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