Tag Archive: Science



NASA scientists detected a pulse of melting ice and water travelling through a major glacier in Greenland that was so big that it warped the solid Earth – a surge equivalent in mass to 18,000 Empire State Buildings.

The wave – which occurred during the 2012 record melt year – traveled nearly 15 miles through the Rink Glacier in western Greenland over four months before reaching the sea, the researchers said.

“It’s a gigantic mass,” said Eric Larour, one of the study’s authors and a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It is able to bend the bedrock around it.”

Such a “wave” has never before been detected in a Greenland or Antarctic glacier. The total amount of mass carried in the wave – in the form of either water, ice, or some combination of both – was 1.67 billion tons per month, or 6.68 billion tons overall over four months, the study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, found.

The study was led by the lab’s Surendra Adhikari and was also co-authored by Erik Ivins.

“These solitary waves, they’re fairly well known in rivers,” said Ivins, also a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Rivers can have inundations upstream where a lot of water is collected, and the water gets bunched up as it’s going downstream, and doesn’t ever really flatten out, it just remains as this wave and continues down a river.”

However, the scientists don’t know what the wave actually looked like or precisely what caused it – much of it was occurring below the surface of the glacier. They also don’t know precisely what it was made of. “We are losing a combination of water and ice, we don’t know what fraction,” said Adhikari.

The researchers were only able to detect the wave because a GPS sensor, located in a rocky inland area a little over 12 miles, moved 15 millimeters as the wave went by, pushing down on the Earth’s crust and causing a deep indentation.

“The GPS can sense that,” explained Larour.

Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University who was not involved in the study, compared the effect something much more mundane and relatable in our everyday lives.

“Find a bed,” Alley said by email. “Put a little piece of tape on the sheet. Put your fist right next to the tape and push down, while watching the tape. The tape will move down as you push down, and also will move horizontally toward your fist just a little. Put your fist farther away and the tape won’t move as much. Push harder, and it will move more. While pushing down, slide your fist past the tape and you’ll see a pattern of vertical and horizontal motions of the tape.”

“A bed isn’t exactly the elastic earth, but that’s sort of what this team did,” Alley continued. “They saw a ‘fist’ of mass sliding down the glacier past their GPS station, caused by extra meltwater.”
The “wave” occurred in the wake of a 2012 summer melting event that saw most of the surface of Greenland become covered with liquid water, and that still has not been surpassed by subsequent warm years. The researchers suspect that some of that meltwater flooded beneath the ice sheet and then pulsed outward through Rink glacier.

“It’s really related to the deep interior of Greenland that’s full of melt and it’s trying to get rid of that melt through gravitational processes,” said Ivins.

The study also documented another, smaller “wave” at Rink Glacier in 2010, another major melt year.

Rink is far from the largest glacier in Greenland. It is about 3.4 miles wide at its front where it touches the ocean and a little over half a mile deep in the same location. Researchers have also shown that pulses of meltwater flow out from beneath the glacier in colorful silt-filled plumes, presumably through subterranean channels, which could be how some of this mass exited to the ocean in 2012.

The scale of the pulse, 6.68 billion tons, or gigatons, is still only a fraction of what Greenland contributes to the ocean every year in the form of water and ice. NASA has estimated that Greenland loses 287 billion tons annually at present (though it lost far more than that in the banner melt year of 2012).

Still, the research gives a sense of the tremendous magnitude of the changes now occurring on Greenland which is covered by enough ice to raise sea levels by over 20 feet if it were all to slide into the ocean.

And it pairs with other studies showing that the breaking off of large pieces from Greenland glaciers causes major earthquakes, and that enormous lakes atop the Greenland ice sheet can vanish within hours into its depths.

The study also raises questions about whether more huge ice and water pulses will be seen as the Arctic continues to warm, and Greenland to melt – and thus whether this is how a melting ice sheet exports its mass to the ocean.

But mostly, it’s just staggering to contemplate.

If the analogy of 18,000 Empire State buildings isn’t striking enough, the researchers offered another. The mass loss through Rink Glacier from the wave, they say, was equivalent to “150 million fully loaded 18 wheelers.”

 
Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


The operationalisation of India’s heavier rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk II (GSLV-Mk II) opens up more launch service revenue opportunity, said a top official of Antrix Corporation Ltd.


India on Thursday successfully put into orbit its Insat-3DR weather satellite using GSLV-Mk II rocket and in the process put the rocket, which has a carrying capacity of 2-2.5 ton to geo-transfer orbit, for commercial launches from its “developmental” stage.

“The global satellite launch services market is estimated at around $5 billion. It is not known the annual launch market size of satellites that would suit GSLV-Mk II,” S.Rakesh, Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Antrix told reporters here.

According to him, India’s lighter rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is consolidating its position in the small satellite launch market.

“The GSLV rocket will operate in a different satellite launch segment. We are looking at various avenues to earn foreign exchange using this rocket,” Rakesh said.

Adding to this, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) Chairman A.S.Kiran Kumar said: “Antrix is also looking at launching small satellites in low orbits. Several small satellites can be accommodated in one GSLV.”

India will also test launch a much heavier rocket GSLV-Mk III with four ton carrying capacity during this December or in January 2017.

“It is a new vehicle (rocket). The target launch date was December 2016 but there could be slight delay as large number of tests have to be carried out. We will also be taking the opportunity to launch a communication satellite atop the GSLV-Mk II that will be similar to GSAT 11 but slightly small in size,” said Kiran Kumar.

Officials of Indian space agency had earlier termed GSLV as the “naughty boy” as owing to its failure rate and tricky cryogenic engine technology.

However on the back of GSLV-Mk-II success for third consecutive time, S.Somanath, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) declared that “the cryogenic engine technology no more scares Isro”.

Queried about the impending launches, K.Sivan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) said India will be launching ScatSat – a weather monitoring and forecasting satellite — with polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) at the end of the month.

The Indian satellite will have as its co-passenger an Algerian Alsat satellite and six other satellites.

Both the satellites will be put into different orbits. Thus, the fourth stage/engine of the rocket will be switched off after first ejecting ScatSat. Then, after a gap of around 30 minutes, the engine will be restarted to put the Algerian satellite into its intended orbit.

About the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), Kiran Kumar said the service is being used by several entities.

He said an advertiser on autorickshaws use IRNSS to track the vehicles and pay the vehicle owners.

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Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


US-based Intel on Tuesday announced a deal to buy an artificial intelligence startup as the computer chip colossus looks to broaden its role in data centers and the expanding internet of things.

Intel did not disclose how much it is paying for Nervana Systems, but US media reports put the price at more than $350 million (roughly Rs. 2,333 crores).

“With this acquisition, Intel is formally committing to pushing the forefront of AI (artificial intelligence) technologies,” Nervana co-founder and chief executive Naveen Rao said in a blog post.

“We can now shatter the old paradigm and move into a new regime of computing.”

Founded two years ago in Southern California, Nervana has specialized in combining hardware and software to help machines think in ways similar to human brains, according to the companies.

Intel plans to put Nervana expertise to work in Xeon and Xeon Phi chips to better handle “deep learning” in the Internet cloud, Intel data center group executive vice president Diane Bryant said in an online post.

“While artificial intelligence is often equated with great science fiction, it isn’t relegated to novels and movies,” Bryant said.

 

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


Researchers from Facebook’s Connectivity Lab have developed a new technology that can one day make light-based wireless communications – a far superior technology than the ones based on radio frequencies or microwaves – a reality in the future.

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The new technology can pave the way for fast optical wireless networks capable of delivering Internet service to far-flung places.

“A large fraction of people don’t connect to the Internet because the wireless communications infrastructure is not available where they live, mostly in very rural areas of the world,” said Tobias Tiecke, who led the research team.

Light-based wireless communication, also called free-space optical communications, offers a promising way to bring the Internet to areas where optical fibres and cell towers can be challenging to deploy in a cost-effective way.

Using laser light to carry information across the atmosphere can potentially offer very high bandwidths and data capacity, but one of the primary challenges has been how to precisely point a very small laser beam carrying the data at a tiny light detector that is some distance away.

The Facebook researchers used fluorescent materials instead of traditional optics to collect light and concentrated it onto a small photodetector.

They combined this light collector, which featured 126 sq cm of surface that can collect light from any direction, with existing telecommunications technology to achieve data rates of more than 2 gigabits-per-second (Gbps).

“We demonstrated the use of fluorescent optical fibres that absorb one colour of light and emit another colour,” Tiecke said.

“The optical fibres absorb light coming from any direction over a large area, and the emitted light travels inside the optical fibre, which funnels the light to a small, very fast photodetector,” he added in a paper described in the journal Optica.

The new light collector uses plastic optical fibres containing organic dye molecules that absorb blue light and emit green light.

This setup replaces the classical optics and motion platform typically required to point the light to the collection area.

The fast speeds are possible because less than two nanoseconds lapse between the blue light absorption and the green light emission.

In addition, by incorporating a signal modulation method called orthogonal frequency division multiplexing, or OFDM, the researchers transmitted more than 2Gbps despite the system’s bandwidth of 100MHz.

 
Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


Twelve students from a Delhi school have been selected to participate in the finals of the prestigious International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) at Nasa.

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The Class X to XII students of Delhi Public School, R K Puram, were invited by Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space Jitendra Singh for an interactive session on the eve of their departure for Florida.

Hailing the achievement of the students, Singh said they not only deserve encouragement, but, in addition, their success story should be propagated among school children across the country, so that those with hidden talent for space experimentation are able to realise their passion.

At the same time, he said other students also become aware of the various options available across the world for developing their scientific skills.

Singh said it was no small achievement that the team was selected through a very rigorous and objective competition at continental level.

“Their names were finalised for the international finals only after they won the Asian regional round against teams from countries including Pakistan, China, Japan and Korea,” a statement quoting Singh said.

The selected students were Varun Arora, Dibyadarshi Dash, Aman Siddhant, Aditya Soni, Suryansh Garg, Hersh Aditya Singh, Aryan Gupta, Raj Bakshi, Arunim Gupta, Yash Khurana, Anhad Singh and Shashwat Goel.

 
Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


Scientists at the US space agency Nasa have discovered tridymite an unexpected silica mineral in a rock sample at Gale Crater on Mars that may alter our understanding of how the Red Planet evolved.

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Nasa’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has been exploring sedimentary rocks within Gale Crater since landing on Mars surface in August 2012.

On sol 1060 (the number of Martian days since landing), the rover collected powder drilled from rock at a location named “Buckskin”, Nasa found in a study.

Scientists in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston led the study and the paper on the team’s findings was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The detection was a surprise to the scientists because tridymite is generally associated with silicic volcanism, which is known on Earth but was not thought to be important or even present on Mars.

Tridymite requires high temperatures and high silica concentrations to form, conditions which most typically are found in association with silicic volcanism.

“On Earth, tridymite is formed at high temperatures in an explosive process called silicic volcanism. Mount St. Helens, the active volcano in Washington State and the Satsuma-Iwojima volcano in Japan are examples of such volcanoes,” said Richard Morris, Nasa planetary scientist at Johnson.

“The combination of high silica content and extremely high temperatures in the volcanoes creates tridymite. The tridymite was incorporated into ‘Lake Gale’ mudstone at Buckskin as sediment from erosion of silicic volcanic rocks,” Morris, who is also the lead author of the paper, added.

The discovery of tridymite might force scientists to rethink the volcanic history of Mars, suggesting that the planet once had explosive volcanoes that led to the presence of the mineral.

“I always tell fellow planetary scientists to expect the unexpected on Mars,” said Doug Ming, ARES chief scientist at Johnson and co-author of the paper.

“The discovery of tridymite was completely unexpected. This discovery now begs the question of whether Mars experienced a much more violent and explosive volcanic history during the early evolution of the planet than previously thought,” Ming added.

 
Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


The US space agency has released its popular Nasa app for a new platform – the fourth-generation Apple TV – that will provide you access to Nasa TV on your TV as well live views from the International Space Station (ISS).

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This version joins the app’s other versions available for iOS in iPhone and iPad versions, Android and Fire OS.

The Nasa app, available for free in the App Store on Apple TV, has been downloaded more than 17 million times across all platforms.

“The Nasa app has been a fantastic way for the public to experience the excitement of space exploration from their mobile devices,” said David Weaver, Nasa associate administrator for Communications.

“Now, users with the latest Apple TV can explore and enjoy our remarkable images, videos, mission information, Nasa Television and more on the big screen with the whole family,” he added in a statement.

The Nasa app for Apple TV offers several features for users.

You can watch live streaming Nasa TV and get a real-time view of the Earth from the space station.

The users can view more than 15,000 images individually or as a continuous slideshow and play “on demand” Nasa videos.

They can view other Nasa satellites pass overhead, based on their location and discover the latest Nasa mission information.

“The users can listen to Nasa’s online radio station “Third Rock” and view the Earth as art image gallery,” Nasa said.

 
Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


In a move that could immensely benefit private space technology companies, Nasa has released 56 formerly patented agency technologies into the public domain, making its government-developed technologies freely available for unrestricted commercial use.

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“By releasing this collection into the public domain, we are encouraging entrepreneurs to explore new ways to commercialise Nasa technologies,” Daniel Lockney, Nasa’s technology transfer programme executive, said in a statement.

In addition to the release of these technologies, a searchable database is now available that catalogues thousands of expired Nasa patents already in the public domain, the US space agency said.

These technologies were developed to advance Nasa missions but may have non-aerospace applications and be used by commercial space ventures and other companies free of charge, eliminating the time, expense and paperwork often associated with licensing intellectual property.

The technologies include advanced manufacturing processes, sensors, propulsion methods, rocket nozzles, thrusters, aircraft wing designs and improved rocket safety and performance concepts.

“By making these technologies available in the public domain, we are helping foster a new era of entrepreneurship that will again place America at the forefront of high-tech manufacturing and economic competitiveness,” Lockney said.

This patents release is the latest in Nasa’s long tradition of extending the benefits of its research and development into the public sector, where it may enhance the economy and quality of life for more Americans.

The release may also help familiarise commercial space companies with Nasa capabilities and result in new collaborations with private industry.

 

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


In a bad news for astronomers searching for extraterrestrial life in deep space, Nasa’s planet-hunting spacecraft Kepler has gone into an emergency mode 75 million miles from the Earth.

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The last regular contact with Kepler probe was on April 4. As Nasa engineers tried to manoeuvre the spacecraft to the centre of the Milky Way for a new task.

Unable to reach the probe till this weekend, Nasa has declared a mission emergency for Kepler which has switched itself into emergency mode.

The team still does not know what prompted Kepler to go into the emergency mode.

A team of Nasa engineers was working to fix the anomaly as communications signals take up to 13 minutes travelling at the speed of light to and from the Kepler spacecraft.

Kepler mission had confirmed the first near-Earth-sized planet in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star.

Kepler spotted nearly 5,000 exoplanets as part of its primary mission.

In July 2012, the probe experienced a failure in one of its four gyroscopic reaction wheels. It lost second wheel in May 2013.

But in 2014, Nasa engineers were able to extend Kepler’s life into what is called the K2 mission.

Since then, K2 has been spying on supernovas, and studying planets orbiting our star.

In 2014, it spent about 70 days observing Neptune, studying the ice giant’s extremely windy weather and would also attempt to spot planets that are wandering through the galaxy without stars of their own.

Among its notable discoveries, K2 has spotted strong evidence of a tiny, rocky object being torn apart as it spirals around a white dwarf star and discovered a new planet orbiting two stars and located within its host stars’ “habitable zone”, the area around the stars in which life could potentially exist.

It also collected data to reveal that our solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago and only eight percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed.

 
Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)


A group of Indian students is part of 80 teams that will participate in the US space agency’s “Human Exploration Rover Challenge” to help Nasa realise its goals for future exploration to Mars and beyond.

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Nearly 80 teams from the US, India, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Russia and Puerto Rico will compete in Nasa’s annual challenge to be held at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama on April 8 and 9.

The rover challenge requires student teams to design, construct, test and race human-powered rovers through an obstacle course that simulates the terrain potentially found on distant planets, asteroids or moons.

Teams race to finish the three-quarter-mile-long obstacle course in the fastest time, vying for prizes in various divisions, Nasa said in a statement.

This year’s event incorporates two new and important changes. Teams are required to design and fabricate their own wheels.

Any component contacting the course surface for traction and mobility, including, but not limited to wheels, tracks, treads or belts cannot be purchased or considered an off-the-shelf product.

The second new feature is an optional “Sample Return challenge”.

Teams competing in this separate competition will collect four samples – liquid, small pebbles, large rocks and soil samples – using a mechanical arm or grabber they design and build.

The event will conclude with a ceremony at the Davidson Centre for Space Exploration in Huntsville where the awards will be presented for best design, rookie team, pit crew award and other accomplishments.

Inspired by the lunar roving vehicles of the Apollo moon missions, the competition challenges students to solve engineering problems, while highlighting Nasa’s commitment to inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and explorers.

 

Source : (gadgets.ndtv.com)