December 5, 2016

Astronomers Find a Exoplanet Through a Never-Before-Used Method (Source: Astronomy)
Astronomers find most exoplanets from indirect signals, noticing changes in the light of the planet’s host star instead of by seeing the planet itself. But some stars’ light changes all on its own, making these methods tricky at best. KIC 7917485b is the first exoplanet identified around a main sequence A-type star from its orbital motion, and the first found near an A -typestar’s habitable zone.

A-type stars are bigger and hotter than most stars in the Kepler catalog and tend to be noisy, changing brightness at regular intervals. This dimming and brightening can be hard to untangle from, for instance, a planet transiting and dimming its light. As such, while there’s no reason for A-type stars not to have planets, it’s been difficult for astronomers to identify them. So far, the few exoplanets found around A-type stars are either from direct imaging (which can only, where the planets are very far from their star, or from transits where the planets are very close to the star, where the signal is strong.

But astronomers came up with a novel idea to use the variability of the star itself as a way to look for exoplanets. The star pulses because of helium changes in its lower layers. It puffs up, cools and dims, shrinks, heats and brightens, and then repeats the process multiple times in a day. In a Kepler light curve, this shows up as a periodic dimming and brightening, like clockwork. But this clock shows a delay. The pulsations appear a little early or late, and by calculating this delay, astronomers can measure that the star is actually moving in a back-and-forth, orbital motion. And this movement is due to the gravitational tug of a nearby planet. (12/4)

Pentagon Says Raytheon Making Progress on GPS Satellite Control System (Source: Reuters)
Raytheon Co is making progress on a long-delayed program for new ground control stations for next-generation GPS satellites, although it is lagging a remedial schedule agreed with military officials, the Pentagon's chief arms buyer said. "It's actually making progress," said Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall. (12/4)

Delaware Suit Targets $6.4B B/E Aerospace-Rockwell Merger (Source: Law360)
B/E Aerospace Inc. stockholders on Thursday asked Delaware’s Chancery Court to block or order reversal of the company’s $6.4 billion merger with Rockwell Collins Inc., saying in a putative class claim that inadequate disclosures about finances and insider benefits hobbled efforts to judge the deal. (12/2)

If You're Looking For Alien Life, How Will You Know If You've Found It? (Source: NPR)
When a robotic probe finally lands on a watery world like Jupiter's moon Europa, what do scientists have to see to definitively say whether the place has any life? That's the question retired astronaut John Grunsfeld posed to some colleagues at NASA when he was in charge of the agency's science missions.

"We looked at him with blank faces," recalls Jim Green, head of NASA's planetary sciences division. "What do we need to build to really find life? What are the instruments, what are the techniques, what are the things that we should be looking for?" Click here. (12/5)

Why Tech’s Biggest Billionaires Want Their Place in Space (Source: Guardian)
a small band of billionaire technocrats have spent the past few years investing hundreds of millions of dollars into space ventures. Forget gilded mansions and super yachts; among the tech elite, space exploration is the ultimate status symbol. Click here. (12/5)

U.S. Posturing To Protect Space Presence (Source: Aviation Week)
Classified space wargames have been used to pit U.S. forces against what is called a “near-peer” competitor. But in the most recent Schriever Wargame, which looks out 10 years into the future, the exercise sees adversaries catching up. “We have realized that there could be peers,” says Jason Altchek, executive director of the exercise.

The endeavor bolsters a shift in how the military and intelligence community are organized and how they buy the assets they use to operate. To defend space assets, President Barack Obama’s administration is building “resilience” into future constellations through increased outreach with allies and the private sector. And the administration’s framework for resilience in space, grounded in deterrence theory, is likely to outlast this presidency, said Winston Beauchamp, the Pentagon’s principal space advisor, at a Defense One Summit in November.  (12/2)

How NASA and FEMA Will Deal with a Killer Asteroid (Source: Mashable)
In the NASA plan to deal with a killer asteroid destroying the world, the first people to learn about it likely find out via text message. Seriously. If a killer asteroid on a path to striking Earth were discovered, the first word of its existence would likely come in the form of a text or an email—preliminary information about the space rock, sent out to a group of less than 12 scientists.

At that stage, researchers wouldn't know much about the size and trajectory of the errant space rock, but that'd change quickly. They'd start hurriedly gathering observations of the object, likely first spotted by one of the large survey telescopes constantly looking out for this kind of thing. And then, they'd get to work. Click here. (12/4)

Netflix A.I. Could Help NASA Search for Exoplanets (Source: Inverse)
What do NASA and Netflix have in common? Probably more than you would think. Researchers have developed a technique that uses artificial intelligence to help them search for and identify stable planetary systems. The technique is based on learning algorithms used by the streaming giant to offer online recommendations. This new tool will be used in tandem with NASA’s fleet of planet-hunting telescopes to identify planets that could potentially support life.

“Machine learning offers a powerful way to tackle a problem in astrophysics, and that’s predicting whether planetary systems are stable,” Dan Tamayo, lead author of the research and a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Planetary Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, explained in a news release.

As a form of artificial intelligence, machine learning enables computers to learn on their own, without having to be constantly fed data or programmed for a specific task. These types of advanced systems are specifically designed to learn and adapt on their own when exposed to different data. Tamayo says the team’s technique is 1,000 times faster than traditional methods in predicting stability. (12/4)

Plans to Restore NASA Mission Control Room Remain in Limbo (Source: Waco Tribune)
Plans to restore the NASA mission control room that served as the nerve center for the Apollo missions, when man first reached the moon, have been discussed for more than 20 years, but its restoration and preservation remain in limbo with no set date for work to begin.

Officials at Johnson Space Center in Houston say the restoration of Mission Operation Control Room 2 is a priority, but note that NASA has other priorities, too — including the space flights managed in the large, active building where the control room is located. The room was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and retired seven years later. (12/4)

Two More Fragments of Progress Cargo Spacecraft Found in Siberia (Source: Tass)
Two more fragments of the Progress MS-04 cargo spacecraft have been found in the Republic of Tyva in south Siberia, the republican government’s press office told TASS on Monday. "Another small fragment was found in the courtyard of a house in the village of Eilig-Khem," the press office quoted Tyva Head Sholban Kara-ool as saying.

According to him, another fragment was found in the same terrain near a shepherd station. The faulty spacecraft’s first fragment was found on Saturday 15 km from the village of Eilig-Khem in the area of Tos-Tevek of the Ulug-Khemsky district. (12/5)

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