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Radio telescopes still operate under wartime conditions | Life | pentictonherald.ca – pentictonherald.ca

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Three times a day a measurement is transmitted from the National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory to a list of recipients around the world.

Some use it directly; others archive it and make it available on their websites, along with other data.

The measurements are made using two small radio telescopes, referred to as “flux monitors.” The data consists of measurements of the intensity of solar radio emission at a wavelength at 10.7 centimetres. It is used by those involved in activities where, one way or another, they are affected by what the sun is up to. These include communications services, space mission managers and various infrastructural services.

The data are known as “The 10.7 cm solar radio flux”, or simply, “F10.7.” This service has its roots in the Second World War.

In 1942, anti-aircraft radars which were sweeping the sky over Britain, searching for raiders, suddenly became unusable. Huge signals swamped any potential echoes. The display screens, which should have shown radar echoes, were filled with random dots and speckles.

This stuff is now referred to as “snow.” The radars were being jammed. The first fear was that Britain’s anti-aircraft defences were being affected by some secret weapon.

Then, one of the engineers shut off the transmitter on one of the radars, and waved the antenna around while looking at the display screen. Those jamming signals were coming from the sun. It was a relief to know that no secret weapon was involved, but since every time the sun did whatever it was doing, air defences were degraded; information about solar “attacks” was kept secret until after the war.

During that same war, warships at sea used their radars to sweep the horizon for any possible enemy ships. The operators soon noticed that when the radar antenna was pointed at the rising or setting sun, any echoes from that direction were swamped by the same sort of “snow.”

Since this phenomenon could be used by potential attackers, this too was kept as quiet as possible.

The Second World War was a high-tech war. It saw an explosion in the use of radar systems and advanced communication devices, along with efforts at making equipment to jam or spoof the enemy’s radars and communication devices.

When the war ended there were piles of this advanced electronics that were no longer needed.

Naturally occurring radio emissions from the Milky Way had been discovered in the 1930s, launching the embryo science of radio astronomy. The availability of unwanted military antennas and receiving systems provided a gold mine for making radio telescopes.

During the war, the National Research Council was a centre for the development of radar systems. After hostilities ended, the NRC scientists used bits of those radar systems to make Canada’s first radio telescope. They pointed the instrument at various objects in the sky, but the only thing they could detect was the sun, so they decided to accurately measure these solar radio emissions and how they varied.

Early in the war, Britain shared its military secrets with the United States and Canada. These included the resonant cavity magnetron. This device could generate high transmitter powers at centimetre wavelengths.

This was particularly needed for airborne radar systems; short wavelengths mean smaller antennas can be used. It is hard to accommodate large antennas on planes. The magnetrons operated at a wavelength of around 10.7 cm, so the radars did too.

So therefore did the NRC’s radio telescope. It turned out that measurements of solar radio emissions at this wavelength were a good indicator of the whole range of solar activity,

Which is why this service has continued to the present day.

—————

Venus is low in the dawn glow. To its right, lie Mars and Jupiter, close together, then Saturn. The moon will reach first quarter on Tuesday, and be full on June 14.

Ken Tapping is an astronomer with the National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, near Penticton

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Mars Express Is Getting a Long-Overdue Software Upgrade – PCMag

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The European Space Agency (ESA) is updating the software on a critical part of the Mars Express spacecraft for the first time since it was deployed to the Red Planet in 2003.

ESA says(Opens in a new window) the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument “is receiving a major software upgrade that will allow it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before.” And that is no small feat.

“We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS,” Enginium’s Carlo Nenna said in a statement. “Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!”

But Enginium and the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, which operates MARSIS, overcame those challenges. ESA says that it’s now implementing the updated MARSIS software on Mars Express to help it search for signs of liquid water deep beneath the planet’s surface.

“The new software will help us more quickly and extensively study these regions in high resolution and confirm whether they are home to new sources of water on Mars,” ESA Mars Express scientist Colin Wilson said in a statement. “It really is like having a brand new instrument on board Mars Express almost 20 years after launch.”

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All of which means that new software is being deployed to a nearly 20-year-old instrument, which was originally developed on Windows 98, on a planet that is typically about 140 million miles away. Keep that in mind the next time you’re prompted to install an update for your device.

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5 planets align in night sky for first time in years – CTV News

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A rare, five-planet alignment will peak on June 24, allowing a spectacular viewing of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as they line up in planetary order.

The event began at the beginning of June and has continued to get brighter and easier to see as the month has progressed, according to Diana Hannikainen, observing editor of Sky & Telescope.

A waning crescent moon will be joining the party between Venus and Mars on Friday, adding another celestial object to the lineup. The moon will represent the Earth’s relative position in the alignment, meaning this is where our planet will appear in the planetary order.

This rare phenomenon has not occurred since December 2004, and this year, the distance between Mercury and Saturn will be smaller, according to Sky & Telescope.

HOW TO VIEW THE ALIGNMENT

Stargazers will need to have a clear view of the eastern horizon to spot the incredible phenomenon, Hannikainen said. Humans can view the planetary show with the naked eye, but binoculars are recommended for an optimal viewing experience, she added.

The best time to view the five planets is in the one hour before sunrise, she said. The night before you plan to view the alignment, check when the sun will rise in your area.

Some stargazers are especially excited for the celestial event, including Hannikainen. She flew from her home west of Boston to a beachside town along the Atlantic Ocean to secure an optimal view of the alignment.

“I’ll be out there with my binoculars, looking towards the east and southeast and crossing all my fingers and toes that it is going to be clear,” Hannikainen said.

You don’t have to travel to catch a glimpse of the action because it will be visible to people around the globe.

Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere can see the planets from the eastern to southeastern horizon while those in the Southern Hemisphere should look along the eastern to northeastern horizon. The only requirement is a clear sky in the direction of the alignment.

By the next day, the moon will have continued its orbit around the Earth, moving it out of alignment with the planets, she said.

If you miss the five-planet alignment in sequential order, the next one will happen in 2040, according to Sky & Telescope.

There will be seven more full moons in 2022, according to The Old Farmers’ Almanac:

  • June 14: Strawberry moon
  • July 13: Buck moon
  • Aug. 11: Sturgeon moon
  • Sept. 10: Harvest moon
  • Oct. 9: Hunter’s moon
  • Nov. 8: Beaver moon
  • Dec. 7: Cold moon

These are the popularized names associated with the monthly full moons, but the significance of each one may vary across Native American tribes.

LUNAR AND SOLAR ECLIPSES

There will be one more total lunar eclipse and a partial solar eclipse in 2022, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Partial solar eclipses occur when the moon passes in front of the sun but only blocks some of its light. Be sure to wear proper eclipse glasses to safely view solar eclipses, as the sun’s light can be damaging to the eye.

A partial solar eclipse on Oct. 25 will be visible to those in Greenland, Iceland, Europe, northeastern Africa, the Middle East, western Asia, India and western China. Neither of the partial solar eclipses will be visible from North America.

A total lunar eclipse will also be on display for those in Asia, Australia, the Pacific, South America and North America on Nov. 8 between 3:01 a.m. ET and 8:58 a.m. ET — but the moon will be setting for those in eastern regions of North America.

METEOR SHOWERS

Check out the remaining 11 showers that will peak in 2022:

  • Southern delta Aquariids: July 29-30
  • Alpha Capricornids: July 30-31
  • Perseids: Aug. 11-12
  • Orionids: Oct. 20-21
  • Southern Taurids: Nov. 4-5
  • Northern Taurids: Nov. 11-12
  • Leonids: Nov. 17-18
  • Geminids: Dec. 13-14
  • Ursids: Dec. 21-22

If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights to get the best view.

Find an open area with a wide view of the sky. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look straight up. And give your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes — without looking at your phone or other electronics — to adjust to the darkness so the meteors will be easier to spot.

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June 25: The Quirks & Quarks listener question show – CBC.ca

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We end our season with our ever-popular, always riveting Quirks & Quarks Listener Question Show

Evelyn Campbell in Vancouver, British Columbia asks: If you were out in space and died, would your body decompose?

For the answer we reached out to Daryl Haggard, an astronomer in the Department of Physics at McGill University and the McGill Space Institute. She explained there aren’t any microbes in space that would act to decompose your body, although it would persist in a ‘freeze-dried’ state.

If you were to die in space, your body would not decompose, even inside a spacesuit. (NASA)

Bernie Buzik from Wainwright, Alberta asks: Why are there concentrations of metals in some areas and not others around the world? Basically — why is there not a concentration of gold in my backyard?

For the answer we turned to Peter Hollings, an NOHFC Industrial Research Chair in Mineral Exploration in the Department of Geology at Lakehead University. He says that where minerals get deposited depends on complex geological processes, and which metals collect in which places has to do with the physical and chemical conditions particular to those substances, which result in concentrations of different metals in different parts of the world.

A man with a metal pan standing in a rocky stream
An amateur gold digger pans for gold near Mercenac in France. (Georges Gobet/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Bob Ennenberg from Vancouver, B.C. asks: Why can’t the immune system get rid of the herpes viruses like it can with other viruses? 

According to Jennifer Corcoran, a virologist at the University of Calgary, herpes viruses have a unique ability to hide from the immune system, whether it’s the chickenpox virus that can later manifest as shingles or one of the herpes simplex viruses that cause recurring mouth or genital sores. Until some kind of stress triggers their reactivation, the viruses essentially remain invisible by not making viral proteins that would otherwise alert the immune system to their presence. 

A man with a rash on his back
The herpes virus family includes herpes simplex, which can cause cold sores, and varicella, which causes chickenpox and shingles. These viruses can hide from the immune system in nerve cells. (Shutterstock)

Bill Yates from Lethbridge, Alta. asks: If space is at absolute zero, and the Earth has been racing through it for millions of years, how does the centre of the Earth maintain its heat to remain molten?

There are two reasons why the Earth’s core remains molten under these conditions according to Jesse Rogerson, an astronomer and astrophysicist from York University in Toronto. One is that heat does not escape the planet because the geological plates that cover the surface act as a giant insulating blanket. And the other reason is that the decay  or radioactive elements within the Earth provides a constant source of heat.

A cutaway illustration of the Earth's layers down to the core
This illustration shows a cross-section of the varying layers of the Earth. (Goddard Media Studios/NASA)

Sheena Sharp in Toronto, Ontario asks: Why is poop brown in most animals, but white in birds?

For the answer we asked Emma Allen-Vercoe, a professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph. She says it comes down to how birds get rid of waste. They only have one waste oriface, called a cloaca, and their equivalent of pee is a white pasty substance. They mostly excrete their poop and pee at the same time, all mixed up in one gross mess.

A bird of prey standing on the bird-poop covered head of a statue
Bird poop includes a white pasty substance that is the equivalent of mammalian urine. (Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

Doug McDougall, an expat Canadian living in Newcastle, California asks: I watched [the documentary] “The Octopus Teacher” a while ago and I was just really curious: what possible evolutionary advantage can there be to having this animal only laying one batch of eggs before they self-destruct?

To find out why octopus mothers die soon after laying her eggs, we went to Stefan Linquist, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph who specializes in ecology and genomics and has an interest in octopuses. He said female octopuses stop hunting and eating in order to protecting their eggs from predators and give them best chance of surviving into adulthood, maximizing the chance that her lineage will survive.

A close up image of an octopus's eye
The Netflix documentary, The Octopus Teacher, tells the story of the year Craig Foster spent with a wild octopus. (Craig Foster/Sea Change Project/Netflix)

James Schoening from Vancouver, B.C. asks: Animations for the new James Webb Space Telescope show that it’s orbiting an empty point in space called the Lagrange 2 Point. How can it do this if there is no actual mass there to gravitationally attract it?

To help explain this far out question, we went to Nathalie Ouellette, an astrophysicist at the University of Montreal and the outreach scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope in Canada. She said to imagine spacetime in the solar system as a big rubber sheet with a big dip in the middle for the Sun and another for Earth that follows its groove all the way around the Sun. The Lagrange points are like flat areas on that rubber sheet where an object like the telescope can stay, like a parking spot in space. 

An animation of a space telescope circling around the sun.
Animation of the James Webb Space Telescope’s orbit at the Lagrange 2 point. (GSFC/NASA)

Bill Bean from Kitchener, Ont. asks: The lack of memory of our first years of life is explained, by some, as infantile amnesia. Yet many things learned in this period, like how to speak and how to walk, are not forgotten. Why are some toddler events wiped clean from memory?

We spoke with Myra Fernandes, a professor in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo. She says the main theory is that the hippocampus, which is where memories are stored, just isn’t developed enough to consolidate memories at that age. Also, at that age the brain is primed to learn through repetition, like how we learn to walk and talk, rather than preserving unique details from a single event. 

A toddler in a shopping cart
We don’t tend to remember things from our early childhood because the part of the brain where memories are consolidated isn’t fully formed yet. (Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock)

Elva Kellington from Salt Spring Island, B.C. asks: Is there any similarity in the spinning water around a drain when the plug is pulled, a hurricane and the rotating stars around the black hole in our Milky Way galaxy?

For this mind twister, we spoke with Hari Kunduri, a mathematician at Memorial University of Newfoundland who’s moving to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He said the angular momentum of each of these systems remains constant, so just as spinning figure skaters speed up when they pull in their arms, the material spinning around the central axis in these systems also speeds up the closer it gets to the point it’s spinning around.

whirlpools in the ocean off a coastline
Spinning whirlpools are seen following the 2011 tsunami and earthquake off the coast of Fukushima, Japan. (Yomiuri/Reuters)

Anna-Marie Weiler in Ottawa, Ont. asks: Humans have a coccyx, also known as a vestigial tail. Did we once have a tail, and if so, when did we lose it?

Caroline Parins-Fukuchi from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto explains that the coccyx is part of our tail bone, which is really a tail, just a short one. We need to go back at least 20 million years to find a common ancestor of all apes, including us, with traditional long tail. 

This photograph shows a piece from a 2021 exhibition in Madrid, “Body Worlds, el ritmo de la vida” by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens. You can see the small triangular-shaped bone known as a coccyx at the base of the spinal column through the skeleton’s pelvis bones. (Oscar Del Pozo/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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Jane Sly from Ottawa, Ont. asks: How much protection from concussions can we get from helmets? 

For the answer, we went to Blaine Hoshizaki, the director of the University of Ottawa’s Neurotrauma Impact Science Laboratory. He says traditional rigid foam cycling helmets were only designed to break apart upon impact to prevent catastrophic brain injuries, not concussions, unlike today’s hockey and football helmets that tend to have softer interior materials with some degree of concussion protection. 

Miami Dolphin players perform practice drills while wearing extra helmet protection to prevent concussion injuries during their 2021 training camp in Miami. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)

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