Moon

China Launches Satellite To Explore Dark Side of Moon (reuters.com) 110

China launched a relay satellite early on Monday designed to establish a communication link between earth and a planned lunar probe that will explore the dark side of the moon, the official Xinhua news agency said. From a report: Citing the China National Space Administration, Xinhua said the satellite was launched at 5:28 a.m. (2128 GMT Sunday) on a Long March-4C rocket from the Xichang launch center in the southwest of the country. "The launch is a key step for China to realize its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the moon," Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, manager of the relay satellite project, as saying.
Space

Astronomers Discovered the Fastest-Growing Black Hole Ever Seen (wral.com) 69

Long-time Slashdot reader Yhcrana shares "some good old fashioned astronomy news." Astronomers have discovered "a black hole 20 billion times the mass of the sun eating the equivalent of a star every two days," reports the New York Times. The black hole is growing so rapidly, said Christian Wolf, of the Australian National University, who led the team that found it in the depths of time, "that it is probably 10,000 times brighter than the galaxy it lives in." So bright, that it is dazzling our view and we can't see the galaxy itself. He and his colleagues announced the discovery in a paper to be published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia...

The blaze from material swirling around this newly observed drainpipe into eternity -- known officially as SMSS J215728.21-360215.1 -- is as luminous as 700 trillion suns, according to Wolf and his collaborators. If it were at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, it would be 10 times brighter than the moon and bathe the Earth in so many X-rays that life would be impossible. Luckily it's not anywhere nearby. It is in fact 12 billion light years away, which means it took that long for its light to reach us, so we are glimpsing this cataclysm as it appeared at the dawn of time, only 2 billion years after the Big Bang, when stars and galaxies were furiously forming.

NASA

Moon of Jupiter Prime Candidate For Alien Life After Water Blast Found (theguardian.com) 133

A NASA probe that explored Jupiter's moon Europa flew through a giant plume of water vapour that erupted from the icy surface and reached a hundred miles high, according to a fresh analysis of the spacecraft's data. An anonymous reader shares a The Guardian report: The discovery has cemented the view among some scientists that the Jovian moon, one of four first spotted by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610, is the most promising place in the solar system to hunt for alien life. If such geysers are common on Europa, NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) missions that are already in the pipeline could fly through and look for signs of life in the brine, which comes from a vast subsurface ocean containing twice as much water as all the oceans on Earth.

NASA's Galileo spacecraft spent eight years in orbit around Jupiter and made its closest pass over Europa, a moon about the size of our own, on 16 December 1997. As the probe dropped beneath an altitude of 250 miles, its sensors twitched with unexpected signals that scientists were unable to explain at the time. Now, in a new study, the researchers describe how they went back to the Galileo data after grainy images beamed home from the Hubble space telescope in 2016 showed what appeared to be plumes of water blasting from Europa's surface.

Science

Reporter Shares Experience of Visiting a Flat Earth Convention (vice.com) 356

Tom Usher, reporting for Vice: I arrived at the venue -- a Jurys Inn hotel -- on a wet Saturday morning, to discover that the event was essentially a small carpeted convention room boasting a few cameras, some stalls selling merchandise, and 70 or so attendees watching PowerPoint presentations beamed onto a wall. As I entered, I was offered a gift of "fluoride-free" toothpaste. This made perfect sense, given the location. A popular conspiracy theory states that governments across the world have been putting fluoride in our water supply to tranquilize the masses, despite the fact the only piece of "evidence" for this theory -- which involves both the Nazis and the Communists -- has been widely discredited. With the tone set for the day, I sat down to watch some speeches.

The speakers all seemed well aware of how "globe-earthers" view the idea of a flat Earth, i.e. ludicrous, and their talk of the current scientific establishment felt very "us versus them" -- a nice bit of truther tribalism. One speaker talked at length about the moon, and how its orbit proved the Earth couldn't be spherical, which seemed a little counterintuitive. Another talked about how the Egyptian pyramid structure points toward clues that the Earth is a flat diamond shape, supported by pillars. Between sounding off about the Vatican and the fact that the establishment has indoctrinated us to believe all sorts of things, including that the Earth is a sphere, a third speaker suggested that cancer is caused by negative emotions and argued that dinosaurs didn't exist.
The story also explores why some people still believe these long-debunked theories. Further reading: The bizarre tale of the flat-Earth convention that fell apart (CNET).
Communications

NASA Successfully Tests New Nuclear Reactor For Future Space Travelers (npr.org) 178

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy say they have successfully tested a new type of nuclear reactor that could one day provide juice to colonies on other worlds. The reactor can power several homes and appears able to operate in harsh environments. The new reactor uses more-conventional uranium fuel. Using a "core" about the size of a paper towel roll, the reactor can turn pistons that can run a generator. The generator can put out about 10 kilowatts of electrical power -- enough to run a few small homes. Scientists believe it could run continuously for a decade or so, making deep space travel a lot simpler. They also gave it a catchy acronym: KRUSTY, which stands for Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling TechnologY.

To see if it actually worked, scientists tested KRUSTY out in the Nevada desert on America's old nuclear test range. They put KRUSTY through its paces, culminating in a 28-hour test at full power. The team also simulated failures in KRUSTY's reactor components to show it wouldn't result in a meltdown on Mars. KRUSTY may find its way onto future space probes. Researchers say they might use an ensemble of four or five of the reactors to power colonies on the moon (which has 14-day nights, when the sun isn't available) or Mars.

Government

North Korea's Leader Kim Jong-un Says He'll Give Up Weapons if US Promises Not to Invade (nytimes.com) 406

Several readers have shared a report: North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, told President Moon Jae-in of South Korea when they met that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States would agree to formally end the Korean War and promise that it would not invade his country, a South Korean government spokesman said Sunday. In a faith-building gesture ahead of a summit meeting with President Trump, Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country's only known underground nuclear test site.

The comments by Mr. Kim were made on Friday when the leaders of the two Koreas met at Panmunjom, a village on their shared border, the spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, said on Sunday, providing additional details of the meeting. "I know the Americans are inherently disposed against us, but when they talk with us, they will see that I am not the kind of person who would shoot nuclear weapons to the south, over the Pacific or at the United States," Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Yoon's account of the meeting. It was another dramatically conciliatory statement by Mr. Kim, whose country threatened to do exactly those things during the height of nuclear tensions last year.

The Military

Two Koreas Agree To End War This Year, Pursue Denuclearization (bloomberg.com) 368

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed Friday to finally end a seven-decade war this year, and pursue the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula. Kim and Moon embraced after signing the deal during a historic meeting on their militarized border, the first time a North Korean leader set foot on the southern side. They announced plans to replace the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities with a peace treaty by year's end. Their statement on a "common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula," stopped short of the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" long sought by the U.S. and its allies. The statement didn't elaborate on what the term meant and Kim didn't personally utter the word during remarks Friday. "We have agreed to share a firm determination to open a new era in which all Korean people enjoy prosperity and happiness on a peaceful land without war," Kim told reporters, without taking questions. President Trump hailed the move, declaring "KOREAN WAR TO END!" on Twitter. He has agreed to meet with Kim at a time and place yet to be determined.
NASA

NASA To Cancel Lunar Resource Prospector Mission (theverge.com) 95

New submitter XXongo writes: NASA has told the Lunar Resource Prospector Mission team to cease work on developing the mission by the end of May. The proposed mission was in development to send a rover to the lunar pole in 2022, with the objective to drill into ice frozen in permanently shadowed craters. Use of such ice has been proposed as a resource that could be processd into rocket fuel, oxygen, and water for life support systems.

The cancellation apparently is partly due to the mission having been shifted from the Human Exploration directorate of NASA, which is excited by the possibility of lunar resources supporting exploration, to the Science Mission directorate, which does not consider lunar ice a high priority for science. The cancellation of the mission has gotten some controversy from the lunar science community, with the members of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) writing an open letter to new administrator Bridenstine protesting the cancellation.

NASA

SpaceX Launches NASA's Planet-Hunting Satellite, Successfully Lands Its Falcon 9 Rocket (theverge.com) 37

SpaceX launched NASA's TESS spacecraft Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship following takeoff. This marks 24 successful landings for SpaceX now, notes The Verge. We will update this post once TESS is deployed into orbit. From the report: TESS is NASA's newest exoplanet hunter. The probe is tasked with staring at stars tens to hundreds of light-years from Earth, watching to see if they blink. When a planet passes in front of a distant star, it dims the star's light ever so slightly. TESS will measure these twinkles from a 13.7-day orbit that extends as far out as the distance of the Moon. The satellite won't get to its final orbit on this launch. Instead, the Falcon 9 will put TESS into a highly elliptical path around Earth first. From there, TESS will slowly adjust its orbit over the next couple of months by igniting its onboard engine multiple times. The spacecraft will even do a flyby of the Moon next month, getting a gravitational boost that will help get the vehicle to its final path around Earth. Overall, it will take about 60 days after launch for TESS to get to its intended orbit; science observations are scheduled to begin in June.
NASA

NASA's Got a Plan For a 'Galactic Positioning System' To Save Astronauts Lost in Space (space.com) 102

From a report: Outer space glows with a bright fog of X-ray light, coming from everywhere at once. But peer carefully into that fog, and faint, regular blips become visible. These are millisecond pulsars, city-sized neutron stars rotating incredibly quickly, and firing X-rays into the universe with more regularity than even the most precise atomic clocks. And NASA wants to use them to navigate probes and crewed ships through deep space. A telescope mounted on the International Space Station (ISS), the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), has been used to develop a brand new technology with near-term, practical applications: a galactic positioning system, NASA scientist Zaven Arzoumanian told physicists Sunday (April 15) at the April meeting of the American Physical Society.

With this technology, "You could thread a needle to get into orbit around the moon of a disant planet instead of doing a flyby," Arzoumian told Live Science. A galactic positioning system could also provide "a fallback, so that if a crewed mission loses contact with the Earth, they'd still have navigation systems on board that are autonomous." Right now, the kind of maneuvers that navigators would need to put a probe in orbit around distant moons are borderline impossible.

Earth

Diamonds in Sudan Meteorite 'Are Remnants of Lost Planet' (theguardian.com) 43

Diamonds found in a meteorite that exploded over the Nubian desert in Sudan a decade ago were formed deep inside a "lost planet" that once circled the sun in the early solar system, scientists say. From a report: Microscopic analyses of the meteorite's tiny diamonds revealed they contain compounds that are produced under intense pressure, suggesting the diamonds formed far beneath the surface of a planet. In this case, the mysterious world was calculated to be somewhere between Mercury and Mars in size. Astronomers have long hypothesised that dozens of fledgling planets, ranging in size from the moon to Mars, formed in the first 10m years of the solar system and were broken apart and repackaged in violent collisions that ultimately created the terrestrial planets that orbit the sun today.
The Almighty Buck

NASA May Fly Humans On the Less Powerful Version of Its Deep-Space Rocket (theverge.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: NASA may make some big changes to the first couple flights of its future deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, after getting a recent funding boost from Congress to build a new launch platform. When humans fly on the rocket for the first time in the 2020s, they might ride on a less powerful version of the vehicle than NASA had expected. If the changes move forward, it could scale down the first crewed mission into deep space in more than 45 years. The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA's main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew -- a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won't be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. "If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can't do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS]," Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday. NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. "The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS," a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

The Internet

IETF Approves TLS 1.3 As Internet Standard (bleepingcomputer.com) 84

An anonymous reader writes: The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the organization that approves proposed Internet standards and protocols, has formally approved TLS 1.3 as the next major version of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. The decision comes after four years of discussions and 28 protocol drafts, with the 28th being selected as the final version. TLS 1.3 is now expected to become the standard method in which a client and server establish an encrypted communications channel across the Internet -- aka HTTPS connections.

The protocol has several advantages over its previous version -- TLS 1.2. The biggest feature is that TLS 1.3 ditches older encryption and hashing algorithms (such as MD5 and SHA-224) for newer and harder to crack alternatives (such as ChaCha20, Poly1305, Ed25519, x25519, and x448). Second, TLS 1.3 is also much faster at negotiating the initial handshake between the client and the server, reducing the connection latency that many companies cited when justifying not supporting HTTPS over HTTP.

Browsers like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Pale Moon have already rolled out support for earlier versions of the TLS 1.3 draft, and are now expected to update this support to the official standard.

Data Storage

Sex Workers Say Porn On Google Drive Is Suddenly Disappearing (vice.com) 356

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Porn performer Avey Moon was trying to send the lucky winner of her Chaturbate contest his prize -- one of her videos, titled "POV Blowjob" -- through her Google Drive account. But it wouldn't send, and Google wasn't telling her why. "I thought there was something wrong with my file and I got rather worried," Moon told me in a Twitter message. "I had promised this guy his content and he was so good to me. I was panicked because I thought if I couldn't give him his prize, he would feel like he got ripped off and never come back again or worse, he could actually file a complaint with Chaturbate about me and they can take money from me." She's not alone. Six porn performers I talked to and more on social media said that they suddenly can't download adult content they keep on Google Drive. They also said they can't a share that content with other accounts or send to clients. In some cases, the adult content is disappearing from Drive without warning or explanation. The porn performers I talked to started sounding the alarm on Twitter last week. They said that Google Drive no longer seemed sex-trade friendly, detailing error messages and sharing cloud storage alternatives with each other.

When I asked about sexual content being blocked on Drive, a spokesperson for Google directed me to the Drive policy page -- specifically the section on sexually explicit material, which says, "Do not publish sexually explicit or pornographic images or videos.... Additionally, we do not allow content that drives traffic to commercial pornography." Writing about porn and sex is permitted, the policy states, as long as it's not accompanied by sexually explicit images or videos. According to Google, Drive uses a combination of automated systems and manual review to decide what's in violation.
One worker said they've been using Google Drive for most of the last five and a half years but just recently received an error message when sending a video, saying that the item may violate Google's Terms of Service, with a link to request a review. In this case, the video title was explicit, but other adult performers report similar messages when sending content with non-explicit titles. "Some sex workers are wondering if this has something to do with the impending vote on the SESTA-FOSTA bill," reports Motherboard. We now have learned that the Senate has passed the bill.
Youtube

YouTube Kids Has Videos on How Reptilians Rule the World, Moon Landing Was Fake (gizmodo.com) 258

An anonymous reader shares a report: YouTube Kids, the supposedly child-friendly version of YouTube that's been shown to often play host to troves of slop content and disturbing videos, apparently was showing videos from British conspiracy theorist David Icke, a guy who believes reptilian aliens secretly control the world and are responsible for the Holocaust. According to a Saturday report in Business Insider, searching for the term "UFO" on YouTube kids turned up a video purporting "to show a UFO shooting at a chemtrail." The suggested followups for that video featured a number of Icke's clips, including a nearly five-hour lecture on how aliens built the pyramids and secretly run the planet through a ruling class extraterrestrial-human hybrids. The video also delves into a number of other conspiracy theories, including claims Freemasons indulge in human sacrifice and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by his own government.

According to Business Insider, "Two other conspiracy theory videos by Icke appeared in the related videos, meaning it was easy for children to quickly go from watching relatively innocent videos about toys to conspiracy content." Searching for the term "moon landing" also resulted in a number of conspiratorial videos emerging, including one making the claim that CERN's Large Hadron Collider had opened a portal to another world that an unfortunate employee then vanished in.

Wikipedia

YouTube Will Add Information From Wikipedia To Videos About Conspiracies (theverge.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: YouTube will add information from Wikipedia to videos about popular conspiracy theories to provide alternative viewpoints on controversial subjects, its CEO said today. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that these text boxes, which the company is calling "information cues," would begin appearing on conspiracy-related videos within the next couple of weeks. Wojcicki, who spoke Tuesday evening at a panel at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, showed examples of information cues for videos about the moon landing and chemtrails. "When there are videos that are focused around something that's a conspiracy -- and we're using a list of well-known internet conspiracies from Wikipedia -- then we will show a companion unit of information from Wikipedia showing that here is information about the event," Wojcicki said. The information cues that Wojcicki demonstrated appeared directly below the video as a short block of text, with a link to Wikipedia for more information. Wikipedia -- a crowdsourced encyclopedia written by volunteers -- is an imperfect source of information, one which most college students are still forbidden from citing in their papers. But it generally provides a more neutral, empirical approach to understanding conspiracies than the more sensationalist videos that appear on YouTube.
Moon

Nokia, Vodafone To Bring 4G To the Moon (reuters.com) 80

According to Reuters, the moon will get its first mobile phone network next year, enabling high-definition streaming from the landscape back to earth. "Vodafone Germany, network equipment maker Nokia and carmaker Audi said on Tuesday they were working together to support the mission, 50 years after the first NASA astronauts walked on the moon." From the report: Vodafone said it had appointed Nokia as its technology partner to develop a space-grade network which would be a small piece of hardware weighing less than a bag of sugar. The companies are working with Berlin-based company PTScientists on the project, with a launch scheduled in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Vodafone said. One executive involved said the decision to build a 4G network rather than a state-of-the-art 5G network was taken because the next generation networks remain in the testing and trial stage and are not stable enough to ensure they would work from the lunar surface.
Space

Microbes Found in Earth's Deep Ocean Might Grow on Saturn's Moon Enceladus (theverge.com) 69

Life as we know it needs three things: energy, water and chemistry. Saturn's icy moon Enceladus has them all, as NASA spacecraft Cassini confirmed in the final years of its mission to that planet. From a report: Scientists have successfully cultivated a few of these tiny organisms in the lab under the same conditions that are thought to exist on the distant moon, opening up the possibility that life might be lurking under the world's surface. Enceladus is one of the most intriguing places in the Solar System since it has many crucial ingredients needed for life to thrive. For one, it has lots of water. NASA's Cassini spacecraft -- which explored the Saturn system from 2004 to 2017 -- found that plumes of gas and particles erupt from the south pole of Enceladus, and these geysers stem from a global liquid water ocean underneath the moon's crust. Scientists think that there may be hot vents in this ocean, too -- cracks in the sea floor where heated rock mingles with the frigid waters. This mixing of hot and cold material seems to be creating a soup of chemical compounds that might support life.
Space

SpaceX Successfully Lands Two Falcon Heavy Boosters Simultaneously After Rocket Launch [Update] (spaceflightnow.com) 446

After nearly a decade of development, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully launched from pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida today. After reaching orbit, the two side boosters simultaneously landed at Landing Zone One. We do not know the status of the central core of the rocket, which was destined to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship roughly 8:19 minutes into the flight.

According to Space.com, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket to launch since NASA's Saturn V -- the iconic vessel that, with 7.5 million pounds of thrust, accomplished the definitive Apollo-era feat of putting astronauts on the moon. Elon Musk says that Falcon Heavy is "twice as powerful as any other booster operating today." As for the payload, it includes a Tesla Roadster electric car. "The Falcon Heavy will send the vehicle around the sun in an elliptical orbit that will extend farther than Mars' orbit," reports Space.com.

UPDATE: SpaceX has confirmed The Verge's reporting that the middle core of SpaceX's Heavy Rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land. "The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour," reports The Verge. "Two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. It's a small hiccup in an otherwise successful first flight."
Space

Scientists May Have Discovered the First Planets Outside the Milky Way (washingtonpost.com) 74

Using data from a NASA X-ray laboratory in space, Xinyu Dai, an astrophysicist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, detected a population of planets beyond the Milky Way galaxy (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The planets range in size from Earth's moon to the massive Jupiter. From the report: There are few methods to determine the existence of distant planets. They are so far away that no telescope can observe them, Dai told The Washington Post. So Dai and postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras relied on a scientific principle to make the discovery: Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Einstein's theory suggests light bends when tugged by the force of gravity. In this case, the light is coming from a quasar -- the nucleus of a galaxy with a swirling black hole -- that emits powerful radiation in the distance. Between that quasar and the space-based laboratory is the galaxy of newly discovered planets. The gravitational force of the galaxy bends the light heading toward the Milky Way, illuminating the galaxy in an effect called microlensing. In that way, the galaxy acts as a magnifying glass of sorts, bringing a previously unseen celestial body into X-ray view. In a university news release, Guerras had a less formal way to describe the complicated process: "This is very cool science."

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