If Earth Collided with a Black Hole

 

Worlds Collide

A new online tool calculates just how much cosmic destruction a run-in between the Earth and a black hole would cause.
The aptly-named Black Hole Collision Calculator determines how much a black hole would expand and the amount of energy it would release if it absorbed the Earth — or any other object, since the calculator is totally customizable, Space.com reports.
 

Big Kaboom

Particle physicist Álvaro Díez created the tool, which is hosted on the calculator database project Omni Calculator. Based on his calculations, a black hole swallowing the Earth would release some 55 quintillion times the planet’s annual energy consumption.
But even that destructive event would be a light snack for a supermassive black hole — its event horizon would only expand by a hundredth of a trillionth of a percent, per the calculator.
The main flaw with the calculator? The artistic rendering of a black hole obliterating the Earth that pops up next to the results doesn’t change to match any increasingly goofy collisions.
 

READ MORE: See What a Black Hole Would Do to Earth with Online ‘Collision Calculator’ [Space.com]
More on cosmic annihilation:Two Supermassive Black Holes Are on a Devastating Crash Course
 

Smallest Dwarf Planet in Solar System

 

Moving On Up

The asteroid Hygiea just got a promotion.

Using European Southern Observatory’s SPHERE instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers were able to get their most detailed look yet at Hygiea, an object in the asteroid belt.

And based on what they saw, they think the asteroid deserves reclassification as a dwarf planet — making it the smallest one yet identified in the entire solar system.

Four For Four

To be classified as a dwarf planet, an object must meet four requirements: it must be spherical, it must orbit the Sun, it can’t be a moon — and it must not have cleared the neighborhood around itself, which would make it a proper planet.

Astronomers already knew that Hygiea met the latter three requirements, and the new VLT data allowed them to confirm the first.

“Thanks to the unique capability of the SPHERE instrument on the VLT, which is one of the most powerful imaging systems in the world, we could resolve Hygiea’s shape, which turns out to be nearly spherical,” lead researcher Pierre Vernazza said in a news release. “Thanks to these images, Hygiea may be reclassified as a dwarf planet, so far the smallest in the Solar System.”

READ MORE: ESO Telescope Reveals What Could be the Smallest Dwarf Planet Yet in the Solar System [European Southern Observatory]
More on dwarf planets: Astronomers Just Found a Dwarf Planet Three Times As Far Away As Pluto

Crops in Martian Soil

 

Astronaut Farmer

Martian and Moon soil is surprisingly fertile, and new research suggests it may someday be possible to harvest crops grown at off-world colonies.

When Wageningen University scientists tried to grow ten different crops in soils developed by NASA to mimic that found on Mars and the Moon, nine of them grew edible parts and viable seeds, according to research published this month in the journal Open Agriculture.

While future off-world farmers will have to grapple with countless other problems — like, uh, the lack of an atmosphere — the experiment is still a tentative good sign for the future of off-world settlements.

First Steps

The plants grown in simulated Martian or lunar soil weren’t as successful as those grown in normal Earth conditions, and in most cases the mock Martian crops fared better than the Moon plants. Still, vegetables like tomatoes, radishes, rye, and quinoa grew in both types of space soil, with spinach as the lone casualty.

“We were thrilled when we saw the first tomatoes ever grown on Mars soil simulant turning red,” project leader Wieger Wamelink said in a press release. “It meant that the next step towards a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem had been taken.”

READ MORE: Soil on moon and Mars likely to support crops [De Gruyter via Phys.org]
More on Mars farming: Contaminating Mars With Microbes Could Kickstart Colonization
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Considering an Interstellar Mission

 

Going Interstellar

A group of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory are eager to send a probe into interstellar space, Wired reports. Pending NASA’s approval, they claim the project could launch as soon as 2030.

It could represent “humanity’s first explicit step into interstellar space,” as team member at the Applied Physics Laboratory Pontus Brandt told Wired, years after Voyager 1 became the first-ever human-built spacecraft to reach interstellar space.

Rocket Plan

The basic outline of their proposal, which arose out of a NASA supported interstellar probe study last year, is to launch a spacecraft that weighs less than 1,700 pounds on NASA’s upcoming — but much delayed and over budget — Space Launch System rocket.

It would then use gravity assist to sling it to speeds over 100,000 miles per hour — fast enough to leave the Solar System. The goal is to travel 92 billion miles from Earth in less than 15 years. In comparison, it took almost 40 years for Voyager 1 and 2 to get to just 13 billion miles.

Leaving the Heliosphere

While Voyager 1 and 2 were only outfitted with basic instruments, the proposed spacecraft will be have a host of sensors that could gain a better understanding of interstellar space — which remains largely mysterious to today’s scientists.

And leaving the heliosphere, the bubble-like region of space around the Sun, could provide additional opportunities.

“We’re sitting inside a bubble trying to figure out what shape it is, which is extremely hard,” Brandt told Wired. “The uniqueness of an interstellar probe is that we can go out and take a picture of our habitable little bubble in space.”

READ MORE: NASA Is Getting Serious About an Interstellar Mission [Wired]
More on interstellar space: After the Moon and Mars, NASA Wants to Head to Alpha Centauri in 2069

Human Extinction Is Extremely Likely

 

Forget nuclear weaponsbiological warfare, and the slew of other ways humanity could cause its own destruction for a moment.

If you take into account only naturally occurring phenomena — supervolcanic eruptionsasteroid impacts, and the like — researchers from the University of Oxford recently determined that the probability of our entire species going extinct in any given year is as high as one in 14,000.

Now consider this: In October, a separate team from Oxford published its own paper on human extinction in the journal Scientific Reports — and it found that people don’t seem to see the loss of humanity as uniquely tragic.

The second group of researchers asked more than 2,500 people in the United States and the United Kingdom to rank three possible scenarios from best to worst: no major catastrophe, a catastrophe that wipes out 80 percent of the human population, and a catastrophe that causes complete human extinction.

As you might expect, most people ranked no catastrophe as the best possibility and complete human extinction as the worst. But when asked to think about the difference in “badness” between the possibilities, most people were more bothered by the possibility of losing 80 percent of humanity than losing all of it.

“Thus, when asked in the most straightforward and unqualified way,” the researchers wrote, “participants do not find human extinction uniquely bad.”

When the researchers switched the whole scenario to focus on an animal species, though, survey respondents saw the loss of all zebras as worse than the loss of 80 percent of zebras.

The issue, it seems, is that survey respondents focused a lot on the individual human lives lost in scenario two — and how the deaths might affect those left behind — rather than on the loss of humanity as a whole.

In other words, we tend to think of a world without any zebras as more tragic than a world in which most zebras die. But for humankind, most people believe the reverse.

There was a way to get survey respondents to consider the loss of our entire species as uniquely bad, though: the researchers just had to tell them humanity would be missing out on a long future existence that was “better than today in every conceivable way.”

While there’s seemingly little we could do to prevent an asteroid impact or a volcanic eruption, humanity does have a say in whether we fall victim to nuclear war and the like — and knowing that people are more likely to care about our species’ potential downfall if they’re feeling optimistic about our future could play a role in making sure we don’t go down one of those self-destructive paths.

“People are going to have a lot of influence over what we’re going to do [about the threats of human extinction in our near future],” Stefan Schubert, co-author of the survey paper, recently told Vox. “So it’s important to find out how people think about them.”

READ MORE: Human extinction would be a uniquely awful tragedy. Why don’t we act like it? [Vox]
More on extinction:This Awful Tabloid Predicts a Killer Asteroid Almost Every Day

Nasa black hole visualization

 

Hungry Hungry

new trippy visualization by NASA researchers shows how a black hole distorts its appearance by skewing the matter around it and warping the light itself with its immense gravity.

Gigantic black holes often appear at the center of large galaxies, where they pack an immense amount of matter into a tiny space. The resulting gravitational field eats up everything, including light.

Warp Zone

In the visualization, the yellow highlights are twisting magnetic fields as they’re making their way through churning gas. The inside gas nearest to the hole itself orbits the hole at almost the speed of light, according to a NASA statement.

The reason it has separate rings jutting out of the bottom is because of intense gravitational forces bending the light emitted by the disk, thereby providing a view of the disk’s underside.

Warping Space And Time

A team of scientists used NASA’s Event Horizon Telescope to snap the first-ever image of a black hole to the world back in April. Scientists are already working on getting an even crisper, higher resolution shot using two or three satellites.

READ MORE: New NASA Visualisation of a Black Hole Is So Beautiful We Could Cry [ScienceAlert]
More on black holes: Uh Oh: The Milky Way’s Giant Black Hole Is “Getting Hungrier”

Ghost post!

 

Ghost post! Google creates world’s most powerful computer, NASA ‘accidentally reveals’ …and then publication vanishes

Google’s new Quantum Computer reportedly spends mere minutes on the tasks the world’s top supercomputers would need several millennia to perform. The media found out about this after NASA “accidentally” shared the firm’s research.

The software engineers at Google have built the world’s most powerful computer, the Financial Times and Fortune magazine reported on Friday, citing the company’s now-removed research paper. The paper is said to have been posted on a website hosted by NASA, which partners with Google, but later quietly taken down, without explanation.

Google and NASA have refused to comment on the matter. A source within the IT giant, however, told Fortune that NASA had “accidentally” published the paper before its team could verify its findings….

Mars Opportunity rover panorama

 


Mars sure is a lonely place

Recap:

Opportunity’s mission launched on July 7, 2003, and landed on the Red Planet on January 24, 2004. NASA hoped the rover would survive its 90-sols (Martian days) mission but to the surprise of everyone, it lasted 55 times longer than its designed lifespan (more than 14 years).

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover – B, better known as Opportunity, stopped responding to commands in August 2018, prompting NASA to officially declare the mission’s end last month.

This week, the space agency released the final 360-degree panorama snapped by the rover.

Comprised of 354 individual images captured between May 13 and June 10 of last year, the panorama has been stitched together to highlight Perseverance Valley, a system of shallow troughs on the inner slope of the western rim of the Endurance Crater.

Opportunity’s twin, Spirit, touched down on the opposite side of Mars roughly three weeks earlier. Spirit got hung up by the rocky terrain in 2009 and stopped communicating with NASA in 2010.

NASA sent more than 1,000 commands to Opportunity in an attempt to reestablish connection following a planetary dust storm in 2018 but was unsuccessful suggesting the rover either encountered a catastrophic failure or had its solar panels covered by dust.

Moon Water

 


futurism

Moving Water

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) just spotted “moving water molecules” on the near side of the Moon — which could be a big deal for future human missions to the Moon.

Scientists observed water molecules moving around as the lunar surface heated up during the Moon’s day cycle. Researchers had previously assumed that the main source of water — hydrogen ions from solar wind — would be cut off when the Earth travels between the Moon and the Sun. But the new findings didn’t see any decrease when the Earth cut off solar wind to the Moon, suggesting that it could harbor a more sustainable source of water than previously believed.

Hot Topic

The discovery is described in a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by researchers from the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA’s Goddard  Space Flight Center in Maryland. The data was collected by the LRO’s Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), an ultraviolet spectrograph that was built to map ultralight wavelength reflections on the lunar surface.

“This is an important new result about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation’s space program returns to a focus on lunar exploration,” said Kurt Retherford, principal investigator of the LAMP instrument from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said in a statement. “We recently converted the LAMP’s light collection mode to measure reflected signals on the lunar dayside with more precision, allowing us to track more accurately where the water is and how much is present.”

The Shape Of Water

A groundbreaking 2017 study from Brown University suggested that there may be substantial amounts of water inside lunar rocks. At the time, the discovery was a major shift from the consensus view that most water on the Moon is located near its poles.

This year’s results discovered by LAMP seem to underline that the lunar water cycle could make water far more accessible to us during future missions to the Moon than we previously thought — the more water already exists on the Moon, the less time and resources we have to spend in trying to get it there.

READ MORE: LRO sheds light on lunar water movement [NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center]

More on water on the Moon: New Study Challenges Previous Conclusions About Water on the Moon

The summer Perseids are here! 

 

The Perseid meteor shower is the best of the year! It peaks on a Moonless summer night from 4 p.m. EST on August 12 until 4 a.m. EST on August 13.

Because the new Moon falls near the peak night, the days before and after the peak will also provide nice, dark skies. Your best window of observation is from a few hours after twilight until dawn, on the days surrounding the peak.

Unlike most meteor showers, which have a short peak of high meteor rates, the Perseids have a very broad peak, as Earth takes more than three weeks to plow through the wide trail of cometary dust from comet Swift-Tuttle.

image

The Perseids appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, visible in the northern sky soon after sunset this time of year. Observers in mid-northern latitudes will have the best views.

You should be able to see some meteors from July 17 to August 24, with the rates increasing during the weeks before August 12 and decreasing after August 13.

Observers should be able to see between 60 and 70 per hour at the peak. Remember, you don’t have to look directly at the constellation to see them. You can look anywhere you want to-even directly overhead.

Meteor showers like the Perseids are caused by streams of meteoroids hitting Earth’s atmosphere. The particles were once part of their parent comet-or, in some cases, from an asteroid.

The parade of planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars–and the Milky Way continue to grace the evening sky, keeping you and the mosquitoes company while you hunt for meteors.

Watch the full.  What’s Up for August Video:

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(Source: nasa, Via sagansense)