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Researchers capture the world's first 3,200-megapixel digital photo – Engadget

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Jacqueline Orrell

Stanford researchers have taken 3,200-megapixel photos, the largest-ever, using sensors that will be part of the world’s largest digital camera, according to a SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory blog post. The camera will be installed in the university’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) telescope in Chile, which will study dark energy, dark matter and create the “largest astronomical movie of all time.”

The photos are so large, in fact, that it would take 378 4K ultra-high-definition TV screens to display one of them in full size. You can also see small, dim objects other cameras can’t capture — the resolution is so high that you could see a golf ball from 15 miles away, and the sensors can spot objects 100 million times dimmer than visible with the naked eye.

This staggering performance is made possible through 189 sensors, known as charge-coupled devices (CCDs) that each measure 16 megapixels. The CCDs are packaged into units called “rafts,” which make up the camera’s focal plane. There are 21 rafts, plus four specialty rafts not used for imaging. Altogether, the focal plane contains 3.2 billion pixels. Each of the rafts, worth up to $3 million apiece, were inserted into a grid for the focal plane over six “nerve-wracking” months. 

Thankfully, the 3,200 megapixel images are the result of the sensors passing an important first test. While some higher-stakes phases of the project are behind them, the team still has challenging work to do in building the rest of the camera. Final testing is expected to start mid-2021.

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China's Chang'e-4 detects hazardous radiation levels on the Moon – CGTN

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Space radiation on the moon is two to three times higher than that on the International Space Station (ISS). This could be one of the biggest dangers for future moon explorers, the Chinese moon probe discovered.  

A Chinese-German team reported on the radiation data collected by the moon lander – named Chang’e-4 for the Chinese moon goddess – in the U.S. journal Science Advances. Chang’e-4 made the first ever soft-landing on the far side of the Moon in January, 2019.  

Read more:  China’s Chang’e-4 lunar probe completes 22nd lunar day with latest findings

The discovery provides the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted. 

“This is an immense achievement in the sense that now we have a data set which we can use to benchmark our radiation” and better understand the potential risk to people on the moon, said Thomas Berger, a physicist with the German Space Agency’s medicine institute. 

Though Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s proved it was safe for people to spend a few days on the lunar surface, NASA did not take daily radiation measurements that would help scientists quantify just how long crews could stay. 

The question is now answered.  

Astronauts would get 200 to 1,000 times more radiation on the moon than what we experience on Earth – or five to 10 times more than passengers on a trans-Atlantic airline flight, noted Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber of Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany. 

“The radiation levels we measured on the Moon are about 200 times higher than on the surface of the Earth and five to 10 times higher than on a flight from New York to Frankfurt,” added Wimmer-Schweingruber. 

That means humans can stay at most two months on the surface of the Moon without special protection measures, according to Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, an astrophysicist at the University of Kiel. 

Sources of radiation

There are several sources of radiation exposure: galactic cosmic rays, sporadic solar particle events (for example from solar flares), and neutrons and gamma rays from interactions between space radiation and the lunar soil. 

Radiation is measured using the unit sievert, which quantifies the amount absorbed by human tissues. 

The team found that the radiation exposure on the Moon is 1,369 microsieverts per day – about 2.6 times higher than the International Space Station crew’s daily dose. 

The reason for this is that the ISS is still partly shielded by the Earth’s protective magnetic bubble, called the magnetosphere, which deflects most radiation from space. 

Earth’s atmosphere provides additional protection for humans on the surface, but we are more exposed the higher up we go.

NASA is planning to bring humans to the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis mission and has said it has plans for a long term presence that would include astronauts working and living on the surface. 

For Wimmer-Schweingruber there is one work-around if we want humans to spend more than two or three months: build habitats that are shielded from radiation by coating them with 80 centimeters (30 inches) of lunar soil. 

(With input from agencies)

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NASA Is Using Its Astronauts to Help Promote a Cosmetics Company – Futurism

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Later this month, NASA is scheduled to launch an unusual payload — 10 bottles of a face cream by cosmetics company Estée Lauder.

The idea is that NASA astronauts will take pictures of the bougie cream, which Estée Lauder will then use in a social media campaign, in a strange echo of the way influencers like the Kardashians take payments from brands in exchange for exposure on Instagram. As SpaceNews reports, the arrangement is prompting questions about whether it’s an appropriate use of NASA’s resources.

On Wednesday, for instance, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen grilled NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine about the project.

“I’m a fan of Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, like anybody else who might want to benefit from its antigravity properties,” she said, according to SpaceNews. “I guess I’m having trouble understanding how Estée Lauder’s effort is going to support the commercialization efforts of NASA.”

“Can you talk about how shooting a cosmetics commercial advances NASA’s mission?” she asked.

Bridenstine, awkwardly, said he wasn’t aware of the project, but defended it anyway.

“I don’t think that shooting a cosmetics commercial is the intent of that particular mission,” he said.

Furthering the questions around the launch is that Estée Lauder is only paying NASA $128,000 for the launch, according to SpaceNews — chump change by the standards of space travel, and an amount that Shaheen said wouldn’t even cover the costs associated with it.

Astronauts won’t appear in the photos, and they won’t be paid extra for their participation in the stunt, but they will take the photos of the product.

The launch is taking place against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s edict for NASA to develop an economy in space. In one initiative, it’s offering payments to any private companies that can bag up Moon dirt. It’s also involved in a deal in which SpaceX will fly film star Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman to the International Space Station next year, where they’ll reportedly film scenes for an upcoming movie.

But those projects have at least some potential to break new ground or develop new technology. It’s less obvious how the Estée Lauder face cream will do that.

NASA director f commercial spaceflight development Phil McAlister, though, defended the project to SpaceNews.

“In order for those destinations to be sustainable,” he told the site, “they’re going to need customers other than NASA to support their operation. This Estée Lauder payload is one part of NASA’s overall strategy to help making that transition and to help commercial LEO development.”

READ MORE: NASA working with cosmetics company on space station commercialization [SpaceNews]

More on NASA: NASA Says It’s Almost Found the Leak on the International Space Station

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Is there really life on Venus? How do we find out? – KitchenerToday.com

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Last week, an unlikely research project made a startling discovery: Phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus. That’s something that, as far as we know, is created by living organisms. Our efforts to find signs of life on other worlds, and a lot of our space dreaming in general, tend to focus on Mars. But all of a sudden we need to take a closer look at our other planetary neighbour.

So how can we find out if there’s really life right next door? What do we know about Venus and why has it been so hard to figure out so far? What else could possibly cause the presence of Phosphine and what would it mean, to space exploration and everything else, if this is really true?

GUEST: Neel Patel, space reporter, MIT Technology Review

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