Monday, April 27, 2015

Vostochny Report, Part 3: Hunger Games

"Four months without pay", "we want to work" written by workers on the roofs at the Vostochny Cosmodrome construction site. Credit:

“We have worked four months without a pay check! Save the workers! We want to work!” More than 500 people including fitters, welders, and crane operators claim they have not received any money for four months. That was two weeks ago, but earlier in April, 100 workers went on a strike and 26 started a hunger strike. The Vostochny Hunger Games are on and Russia’s space future is at stake here.

Is the Universe a Hologram?


Describing the universe requires fewer dimensions than we might think. New calculations show that this may not just be a mathematical trick, but a fundamental feature of space itself. At first glance, there is not the slightest doubt: to us, the universe looks three dimensional. But one of the most fruitful theories of theoretical physics in the last two decades is challenging this assumption. The "holographic principle” asserts that a mathematical description of the universe actually requires one fewer dimension than it seems. What we perceive as three dimensional may just be the image of two dimensional processes on a huge cosmic horizon. Up until now, this principle has only been studied in exotic spaces with negative curvature. This is interesting from a theoretical point of view, but such spaces are quite different from the space in our own universe. Results obtained by scientists at Technische Universität Wien (Vienna) now suggest that the holographic principle even holds in a flat spacetime.

Strange Supernova Is 'Missing Link' in Gamma-Ray Burst Connection

In an ordinary core-collapse supernova with no "central engine," ejected material expands outward nearly spherically, left. At right, a strong central engine propels jets of material at nearly the speed of light and generates a gamma-ray burst (GRB). The center panel shows an intermediate supernova like SN 2012ap, with a weak central engine, weak jets, and no GRB. CREDIT: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) have found a long-sought "missing link" between supernova explosions that generate gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and those that don't. The scientists found that a stellar explosion seen in 2012 has many characteristics expected of one that generates a powerful burst of gamma rays, yet no such burst occurred. "This is a striking result that provides a key insight about the mechanism underlying these explosions," said Sayan Chakraborti, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "This object fills in a gap between GRBs and other supernovae of this type, showing us that a wide range of activity is possible in such blasts," he added.

20 ExoWorlds Now Available for Naming Proposals

Marked in this Milky Way panorama are the 20 ExoWorlds that are available for naming proposals. Credit: IAU/ESO/S. Brunier

The NameExoWorlds contest, organised by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Zooniverse, is now entering its next stage. The 20 most popular ExoWorlds have been made available for naming proposals from registered clubs and non-profit organisations. Although people have been naming celestial objects for millennia, the IAU has the task of assigning scientifically recognised names to newly discovered celestial bodies by its member countries. The NameExoWorlds contest provides not only the first opportunity for the public to name exoplanets, but also, for the first time in centuries, to give popular names to some stars — those that have known exoplanets in orbit around them.

Astrophysicists Draw Most Comprehensive Map of the Universe

A slice through the 3D map of the nearby universe. Our Milky Way galaxy is in the centre, marked by a cross.  The map spans nearly two billion light years from side to side. Regions with many galaxies are shown in white or red, whereas regions with fewer galaxies are dark blue. Credit:

Astrophysicists have created a 3D map of the universe that spans nearly two billion light years and is the most complete picture of our cosmic neighbourhood to date. The spherical map of galaxy superclusters will lead to a greater understanding of how matter is distributed in the universe and provide key insights into dark matter, one of physics’ greatest mysteries. Professor Mike Hudson, Jonathan Carrick and Stephen Turnbull, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and Guilhem Lavaux the Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique of France, created the map. Professor Hudson is also an affiliate member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. “The galaxy distribution isn’t uniform and has no pattern. It has peaks and valleys much like a mountain range. This is what we expect if the large-scale structure originates from quantum fluctuations in the early universe,” said Hudson, also associate dean of science, computing.

The Days Dwindle Down to a Precious Few

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

MESSENGER's days are indeed down to a precious few. This image was obtained on the day following MESSENGER's final orbital correction maneuver. The image is located just inside the southern rim of Chong Chol crater on Mercury, named for a Korean poet of the 1500s. It is challenging to obtain good images when the spacecraft is very low above the planet, because of the high speed at which the camera's field of view is moving across the surface.

Arianespace Launches Thor 7 and Sicral 2 Satellites

Arianespace’s workhorse Ariane 5 launcher lifts off from French Guiana on its 64th consecutive successful mission, which deployed the THOR 7 and SICRAL 2 satellites. Credit: Arianespace

Arianespace has successfully launched two telecommunications satellites: Thor 7 for the private Norwegian operator Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSBc), and Sicral 2 for the operator Telespazio, on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Defense and the French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction Générale de l'Armement, part of the Ministry of Defense). Sunday's launch, the third of the year for Arianespace and the 64th successful launch in a row by Ariane 5, took place at 5:00 pm local time from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana. "Arianespace is very proud of having successfully carried out this dual mission today: launching the Thor 7 satellite for the private operator Telenor Satellite Broadcasting, to bolster its position in maritime and offshore communications, and also launching the Sicral 2 satellite for French and Italian armed forces, who will use it to increase their secure communications capacity with theaters of operation," said Stéphane Israël, Arianespace Chairman and CEO.