SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – It might not get you all the way to Cardassia Prime, but NASA hopes its newly launched solar-sail Sunjammer program will lead to a future where propellantless space craft are used for a multitude of functions beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
“Once proven, solar sail technology could enable a host of versatile space missions, including flying an advanced space-weather warning system to more quickly and accurately alert satellite operators and utilities on Earth of geomagnetic storms caused by coronal mass ejections from the sun,” NASA said in a release.
Additionally, NASA sees the project as something that can work to help clean up the piles of floating space garbage in orbit.
“The technology also could provide an economical solution to removing some of the more than 8,000 pieces of orbital launch debris ringing the planet; conduct station-keeping operations, or hover at high latitudes above Earth for communications and observation; and could drive a variety of propellantless, deep-space exploration and supply ferrying missions.”
Solar sails work by capturing the sun’s rays and using that pressure to move forward in frictionless space. There are many benefits to a solar sail, specifically, that crafts that use them don’t need any propellant, or large amounts of fuel and that the sail itself, while large, is usually quite light.
This isn’t the first solar sail that NASA has deployed, there was a test called the NanoSail-D in 2011 that had an area of 100-square feet. The sail for the Sunjammer program will be 130 times larger than that at 13,000 square feet. However, NASA has said that the sail won’t be especially ungainly.
“[That's] a third of an acre…. But when collapsed, it’s the size of a dishwasher and weighs just 70 pounds. Attached to a 175-pound disposable support module, the Sunjammer is easily packed into a secondary payload on a rocket bound for low-Earth orbit,” the release says.
The Sunjammer name comes from a 1964 Arthur C. Clarke story about “solar sailing” where the sails were used to reach near-light speeds in a very short time frame. The real-life solar sails won’t be able to match that at all. Although there is no theoretical top speed for a solar sail device, the “sail will produce a maximum thrust of approximately 0.01 newton, which is roughly equivalent to the weight of a ‘pink packet’ of artificial sweetener,” so it won’t be accelerating anywhere especially fast. The trick is that once it starts moving it takes a lot to slow it down.-.www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A planet discovered outside our solar system is smaller than Mercury, the smallest planet orbiting our sun.
The planet, about the size of the Earth’s moon, is one of three orbiting a star designated Kepler-37 in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way.
Using nearly three years of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, astronomers determined Kepler-37’s mass is about 80 percent the mass of our sun. That’s the lowest mass star astronomers have been able to measure using oscillation data for an ordinary star.
Those measurements allowed the main research team to more accurately measure the three planets orbiting Kepler-37, including the tiny Kepler-37b.
Steve Kawaler, professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University, was part of a team of researchers who studied the oscillations of Kepler-37 to determine its size. “That’s basically listening to the star by measuring sound waves,” Kawaler says. “The bigger the star, the lower the frequency, or ‘pitch’ of its song.
“Owing to its extremely small size, similar to that of the Earth’s moon, and highly irradiated surface, Kepler-37b is very likely a rocky planet with no atmosphere or water, similar to Mercury,” the astronomers write in a summary of their findings, published in the journal Nature.
“The detection of such a small planet shows for the first time that stellar systems host planets much smaller as well as much larger than anything we see in our own solar system.”
The discovery is exciting because of what it says about the Kepler Mission’s capabilities to discover new planetary systems around other stars, Kawaler says.
The Kepler spacecraft is orbiting the sun carrying a photometer, or light meter, to measure changes in the brightness of thousands of stars. Its primary job is to detect tiny variations in the brightness of the stars within its view to indicate planets passing in front of the star. Astronomers with the Kepler team are looking for Earth-like planets that might be able to support life.
Kepler is sending astronomers photometry data that’s “probably the best we’ll see in our lifetimes,” Kawaler says. This latest discovery shows astronomers “we have a proven technology for finding small planets around other stars.”
That could have implications for some big-picture discoveries.
“While a sample of only one planet is too small to use for determination of occurrence rates,” the astronomers write, “it does lend weight to the belief that planet occurrence increases exponentially with decreasing planet size.”-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Iowa State University
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Iranian researchers have produced an indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which can be used for reconnaissance mission together with a domestically-designed and -developed solar car.
The aircraft, named ‘Afar’ and developed by Iranian technicians at the Qazvin Branch of the Islamic Azad University, has a wingspan of three meters (about 10 feet) and a hull length of 1.5 meters (about 5 feet).
The UAV is capable of taking photos while flying, and can be used to perform geophysical surveys, and to generate digital topographic maps of target sites.
The drone has a flying ceiling of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above the ground, and a flight range of 4,000 kilometers (2,486 miles).
The Iranian solar car, named Haavin-2, depends on photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity, and run its two motors.
Haavin-2 has an average speed of 90 kilometers (55 miles) per hour, and can reach a maximum speed of 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Earth has been getting warmer -- but how much of that heat is due to greenhouse gas emissions and how much is due to natural causes?
A leaked report by a United Nations’ group dedicated to climate studies says that heat from the sun may play a larger role than previously thought.
“[Results] do suggest the possibility of a much larger impact of solar variations on the stratosphere than previously thought, and some studies have suggested that this may lead to significant regional impacts on climate,” reads a draft copy of a major, upcoming report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The man who leaked the report, StopGreenSuicide blogger Alec Rawls, told FoxNews.com that the U.N.’s statements on solar activity were his main motivation for leaking the document.
“The public needs to know now how the main premises and conclusions of the IPCC story line have been undercut by the IPCC itself,” Rawls wrote on his website in December, when he first leaked the report.
Rawls blames the U.N. for burying its point about the effect of the sun in Chapter 11 of the report.
“Even after the IPCC acknowledges extensive evidence for ... solar forcing beyond what they included in their models, they still make no attempt to account for this omission in their predictions. ... It's insane,” he told FoxNews.com.
Some skeptical climatologists say that the statement in the U.N. draft report is important, but not game-changing.
“The solar component is real but not of sufficient magnitude to have driven most of the warming of the late 20th century,” Pat Michaels, the former president of the American Association of State Climatologists, and current director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, told FoxNews.com.
The U.N. report also says that the effect of solar activity will be “much smaller than the warming expected from increases in [man-made] greenhouse gases.”
An estimate from NASA said that solar variations caused 25 percent of the 1.1 degree Fahrenheit warming that has been observed over the past century.
But Michaels said that if the U.N. increases its estimates about how much the sun affects Earth’s temperatures, it might help the U.N. get its prediction models back on track. While the Earth warmed over the last two decades, it did so more slowly than the U.N. had predicted.
“Climate science has the problem of trying to explain why we are now in our 17th year without a significant warming trend. As a result, you are seeing many forecasts of warming for this century being ratcheted down,” he said.
Others say that the focus on solar activity distracts from the big picture -- the fact that the Earth is warming.
“I see climate contrarians try this trick almost every time a big new solar study comes out. They somehow tend to neglect mentioning that solar variation is smaller than the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide,” Aaron Huertas of the Union of Concerned Scientists told FoxNews.com.
To back that up, Huertas points to data that show that solar activity and temperature rose together from 1880 until 1960, but that then, solar activity stopped increasing -- even as temperatures continued going up.
“The basic evidence is that solar activity has varied a bit while global temperature keeps going up,” Huertas said.
But Rawls said that while solar activity has indeed stopped increasing, the important thing is that it remains at a historically high level.
“The simplest way to put it is: If you put a pot on the stove at the maximum temperature, and leave it on at that temperature -- are you telling me that the pot won’t keep warming?”
Rawls worries that if solar activity falls, the effects could be dire.
“Unlike warming, cooling really is dangerous, regularly dropping the planet into hundred-thousand-year-long glacial periods.”
NASA has said that there is evidence that the most recent “Little Ice Age” was caused by a dip in solar activity.
“Almost no sunspots were observed on the sun's surface during the period from 1650 to 1715. This extended absence of solar activity may have been partly responsible for the Little Ice Age in Europe,” during which temperatures were colder by about 1.8 degrees F than they are today, NASA has reported.
But Huertas said that’s not what we should worry about at a time when the effects of warming are already being felt.
“Climate change is affecting weather all across the planet and when it comes to extreme weather, the strongest links are to coastal flooding [and] heat waves,” Huertas said.
“While climate skeptics are arguing on the Internet about drafts of the report, states like New York and New Jersey are working to help people rebuild their homes in ways that have a better chance of surviving more destructive storms and flooding in the future,” he said.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Place this smartphone-sized charger in the sun for a day, and it will be able to charge your smartphone or tablet and give you eight hours of reading light, too. That's the claim of the makers of the Wakawaka Power Compact Solar Charger, a Kickstarter project that's far surpassed its original expectations. It's received more than $232,000 worth of pledges, blasting through its $50,000 goal with 8 days to go.
Wakawaka already has an impressive track record, launching the Wakawaka Solar Lamp on Kickstarter last year that's now in use in 50 countries all over the world. That unit, developed in the Netherlands, is currently being manufactured in China. The company calls it "the best solar lamp in the world."
This new product includes similar lighting technology, but its best attribute is its new compact solar charger that's even more efficient than its predecessor. Wakawaka says the device can charge smartphones and tablets -- from depleted to fully charged -- after collecting sunlight for one day. The company claims that's the case even if you live in latitudes as far north as New York (50 degrees latitude).
Wakawaka wants to do the right thing as far as manufacturing goes, too. If the company reaches its stretched $250,000 goal, it plans to manufacture parts of the compact solar charger in Haiti, which is still reeling from a devastating earthquake three years ago. To this day, 370,000 Haitians still live without lights, according to the company. So, the company plans to donate one of its Wakawaka Solar Lamps for every Wakawaka Power that's purchased.
For a pledge of $49 or more, investors can get the Wakawaka Power in either yellow or black, with an estimated delivery date of May, 2013. The device has been so successful, when the Wakawaka Power passed the $100,000 mark, the company decided to offer 25% extra battery capacity to everyone who invested in it.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – It’s cold and young and massive. And they call it the wanderer.
Astronomers recently discovered a new planet, named CFBDSIR2149, that is the closest planetary body to our solar system. It is also the first convincing evidence of an accepted but yet unsubstantiated theory of roaming planets.
Astronomers have theorized for the last decade about the presence of wandering planets that do not orbit stars, and they’ve found a number of objects that could potentially fit the bill. But without the ability to accurately date these objects, scientists couldn’t positively identify them as planets. They could just as easily have been failed stars called brown dwarfs.
Luckily for astronomers, CFBDSIR2149 has certain qualities that made identification possible. The wandering planet acts as a groupie to the AB Doradus Moving Group—a band of 30 young stars that travels through space together. These stars are all the same age, so astronomers were able to deduce the age of the planet traveling with them. At 50 to 120 million years old, CFBDSIR2149 is still pretty young.
For astronomers, another handy quality of the cosmic nomad’s starlessness is the resulting lack of light reflected from its atmosphere. This allows astronomers to study the planet’s atmosphere in detail using infrared telescopes, something that would not be possible with star-orbiting planets. Finding CFBDSIR2149 and identifying it as a planet was a coup in and of itself, and astronomers believe that observing this wandering planet will also help them better understand its more rooted counterparts.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - On an island whose stock in trade is sun, and lots of it, Lawrence and Cindy Lee figured they'd be foolish not to join their neighbors and put a few solar panels on the roof.
The Lees called one of the solar contractors racing around Hawaii these days, and put in their order. Eleven months later, in October — after endless consultations, emails and a $3,000 study required by Maui Electric Co. — they were still waiting for a permit.
"Instead of it being like they want to help you get your solar system in," Lawrence Lee said, "it's more like they don't want you to."
Solar power has grown increasingly popular across the U.S. Sun Belt, but hardly anywhere has it taken hold as it has in Hawaii. Friendly tax credits, the highest average electricity rates in the nation and the most aggressive renewable energy program adopted by any state have sent homeowners scrambling to install photovoltaic systems on their roofs.
The number of solar power systems across the island state has doubled every year since 2007, with nearly 20,000 units installed. But with homeowners and businesses now producing nearly 140 megawatts of their own power — the equivalent of a medium-size power plant — and solar tax credits biting seriously into the state budget, Hawaii legislators and electrical utilities are tapping the brakes.
Solar tax credits cost the state $173.8 million this year in foregone revenue, up from $34.7 million in 2010, prompting state tax authorities to announce this month that they will temporarily cut the tax credit in half, effective Jan. 1.
Hawaiian Electric Co. on Oahu, which oversees subsidiary utilities on Maui and the Big Island, has warned that the explosion of do-it-yourself solar could threaten parts of the power grid with the possibility of power fluctuations or sporadic blackouts as the power generated by homeowners — unpredictable and subject to sudden swings — exceeded output from power plants in some areas.
So rapid is the growth that Hawaiian Electric at one point proposed a moratorium on solar installations, a plan that met with immediate outrage and was quickly withdrawn. But utilities are requiring expensive "interconnection" studies, such as the one the Lees had to do, in solar-saturated areas to analyze what impact a new unit is going to have on the utility system before it can connect to the grid.
"The last three months are turning into a madhouse of solar here on Oahu," Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg said. "We're doing everything we can to get in as much solar as possible, but there's a strong sense that we're kind of at a crossroads here in trying to deal with these issues."
Hawaii has become a solar laboratory for the rest of the country. Many states are experiencing sun-power booms, but few have had their grids overwhelmed to the extent seen in Hawaii.
"No one knows exactly when this is going to take place, but we are approaching a red line…. We will reach a point where they will not accept any more generating capacity," said Marco Mangelsdorf, who runs a private solar company, ProVision Solar, and teaches energy politics at the University of Hawaii in Hilo.
Historically, power is supplied to homes and businesses from big central power plants, easily controlled by engineers who dial up the turbines when demand peaks, such as on hot afternoons when customers come home and turn on air conditioners. But the push for renewable energy has introduced into the equation "nonfirm" power — electricity generated by wind, which comes and goes, or sun, which can suddenly disappear behind a cloud.
As customers generate more than they need and feed the excess back into the grid for others to use, it makes managing the system much more complex. What happens when a cloud passes over and dozens of rooftop units suddenly grind to a halt? What's to be done on a sunny autumn day, when rooftop solar systems are producing way more power than the grid can use?
The problem is especially pronounced in Hawaii, where each island has its own isolated power grid and can't quickly compensate with power generated elsewhere. The result, if not carefully managed, can be computer-killing power surges (in cases of excess generation), flickering lights, isolated blackouts or worse.
"It can crash the entire system," said Robert Alm, executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric.
California, which has more than 120,000 solar energy systems online, doesn't have Hawaii's serious overload problems, but has recently faced its own debate over how much can be paid to solar-equipped homeowners for power they feed into the grid. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is studying Hawaii's operations to learn what happens when solar power inundates a power system.
"As an engineer, you always want to look at the worst-case scenario. Well, they have it," project manager Elaine Sison-Lebrilla said.
Hawaii finds itself pushing the envelope not just because of its abundant sunshine. A bigger driver has been the state's reliance on oil to fuel its power plants. Oil is always more expensive than natural gas, but prices shot up even higher last year when Japan's nuclear disaster sent demand, and soon prices, skyrocketing on the Asian markets where Hawaii buys its supplies.
The state has set a goal of obtaining 40% of its power from locally generated renewable sources by 2030. Already, the Big Island has jumped ahead and is producing 44% of its power from renewable sources, and it could hit 100% by the end of the decade.
Kauai announced earlier this month that it would build its third large-scale solar plant and expected to generate half the island's power by the sun soon. "Our understanding is that would be the highest penetration of any utility, certainly in the United States," said Jim Kelly, spokesman for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.
The state is studying a multibillion-dollar undersea cable that would connect outlying islands — the big generators of wind, geothermal and solar power — to Oahu, home to most of Hawaii's population. This would not only allow them to serve as energy farms for the state, but it would also allow the kind of interconnected grid that would alleviate wind and solar variability problems.
Over the last few months, new rules have liberalized the standards for allowing solar connections, and a week ago, the Lees completed their long journey through the energy bureaucracy: They had their rooftop unit installed. They're no longer worried about turning off the lights in empty rooms.
"I wish I hadn't had to go through all this," Lawrence Lee said. "But it was worth it."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –This week NASA announced its planet-hunter, the Kepler Space Telescope, just completed its primary mission. It’s far from retired--Kepler got a nice long extension back in April, so it will keep staring at distant stars for up to four more years--but it’s still a milestone for NASA and the planet-hunting community. To celebrate its next step, we’re taking a look at some of Kepler’s greatest hits so far.
Since its launch in early 2009, the space telescope has found a treasure trove of new worlds orbiting distant stars, suggesting that planets are plentiful in our galaxy and maybe the universe. It has found so many planets, they’re practically garden variety--really a shocking thing when you sit and think about it. But it should not be this way. Exoplanets are awesome!
The space telescope is orbiting the sun, trailing behind Earth. It was designed to look for other Earths, and it hasn’t found one yet--but it has come very close, as you can see in our slideshow.
“The initial discoveries of the Kepler mission indicate at least a third of the stars have planets and the number of planets in our galaxy must number in the billions,” said William Borucki, Kepler’s principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “The planets of greatest interest are other Earths, and these could already be in the data awaiting analysis. Kepler's most exciting results are yet to come.”— www.shafaqna.com/English