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Motion Activated Alarm for your Bag

Many of us carry around a bag with our expensive personal belongings. It can be a pain to carry a bag around with you all day though. If you want to set it down for a while, you often have to try to keep an eye on it to ensure that no one steals it. [Micamelnyk] decided to build a solution to this problem in the form of a motion sensing alarm.

The device is built around a Trinket Pro. The Trinket Pro is a sort of break out board for the ATMega328. It’s compatible with the Arduino IDE and also contains a USB port for easy programming. The Trinket is hooked up to a GY-521 accelerometer, which allows it to detect motion. When the Trinket senses that the device has been moved, it emits a loud high-pitched whine from a piezo speaker.

To arm the device, the user first holds the power button for 3 seconds. Then the user has ten seconds to enter their secret code. This ensures that the device is never armed accidentally and that the user always remembers the code before arming the device. The code is entered via four push buttons mounted to a PCB. The code and code length can both be easily modified in the Trinket software.

Once the code is entered, the status LED will turn solid. This indicates to the user that the device must be placed stationary. The LED will turn off after 20 seconds, indicating that the alarm is now armed. If the bag is moved for more than five seconds at a time, the alarm will sound. The slight delay gives the user just enough time to disarm the alarm. This parameter can also be easily configured via software.

Filed under: security hacks

Stopping the Clock? Scientists Find Lengthening Telomeres Reverses Aging In Human Cells

Image credit:

Image credit:

We all know that, inside the nucleus of a cell, our genes are arranged along twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA (these are called “chromosomes”). The ends of the chromosomes contain bits of DNA that are called “telomeres.” These telomeres play a vital role in maintaining our health. Not only do they protect our genetic data, they make it possible for cells to divide, and may hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.

When chromosomes replicate, a mechanism in the enzymes involved with the process prevents duplication to the extremes of the chromosomes. Therefore, each duplicated chromosome is shorter than its predecessor. This shortening is notable, as the telomeres function as disposable buffers that prevents duplication of mutated DNA (and these telomeres are ultimately what are being shortened). These duplicated, shortened telomeres should, over time, be replenished by the enzyme telomerase reverse transcriptase, an enzyme expressed by human stem cells.

However, the replenishing process slows over time, and as a result, the telomeres are shortened and weakened over the course of one’s life. It is this process that limits cell division activity, and leads to both cellular ageing and the ability for disease and DNA mutation to take place as (for further clarification, see the graph below).

The New Findings:

Scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine say that they have discovered a way to replenish the length of telomeres, thereby opening up great possibilities in the treatment of ageing linked genetic diseases. And we might even be able to reverse ageing itself.

The researchers claim to have used a modified RNA containing the exact nucleotide sequence of telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT). They call this new RNA “modified TERT mRNA.” They assert that just three applications of this, over a few days, caused an increase in telomere length of as much as 10%, representing approximately 1,000 nucleotides.

Applying the technique to human muscle cells increased cell division approximately three-fold. The truly exciting and ground breaking discovery came when the same routine was used with human skin cells. These cells divided around 28 times more than the placebo.

Experiments with TERT therapies have been attempted before, and with some success, but brought about an immune response to the modified enzyme in each case. The new technique employed by the team at Stanford has produced no such response, Also, the rate at which division was increased suggests that any side effects could be limited for patients, due to the need for only short, infrequent applications.

The Potential Benefits

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a disorder affecting approximately 1 in every 3,600 males. It is a recessive, X-linked form of regular muscular dystrophy. Duchennes is an extremely aggressive form of the disease, which leads to rapid muscular breakdown and eventual imminent death.  The disease usually presents in infancy, but  it can be tested for at birth if susceptibility is suspected. This new technique, while not providing a cure, could lead to doctors being able to slow or even halt muscular atrophy in sufferers by application directly to the affected muscle groups.

Other age-related conditions, indeed virtually all age-related conditions, such as heart disease, could benefit from this amazing new leap in modified RNA treatments. Those with certain  hereditary cancers may also be able to benefit from this discovery in the near future, as the replenishment of the telomeres of vulnerable cells may lead to the slowing or even prevention of carcinogenic mutations.

The implications of these findings, which have  blossomed from over 50 years of study and research, are simply mind-blowing. Slowing, or even halting of the ageing process has, up to now, sat firmly in the realms of science fiction.  One thing is for sure, cosmetic surgery departments worldwide will be watching this one closely as, if successful, the hordes of people seeking eternally young skin will be banging at their doors.



Image credit:

Image credit:


Provided by FQTQ contributor Robert Langley

The post Stopping the Clock? Scientists Find Lengthening Telomeres Reverses Aging In Human Cells appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Twenty-eight percent of security spending wasted on shelfware

The average organization spent $115 per user on security-related software last year, but $33 of it, or 28 percent, was underutilized or not used at all, according to a new report from Osterman Research.

"As much as 60 percent of security software remains completely unused in some organizations," the report said.

Almost all of this wasted spending was on traditional packaged software, because cloud services are typically billed based on use and need little or no additional configuration or customization.

Specifically, 81 percent of security software was still delivered in the traditional way, compared to 19 percent that was cloud-based, according to the survey of IT decision makers in large and small companies.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Massive Snowstorm Blows Into Northeast

Esri's Severe Weather Public Information map tracks the snowstorm in the northeast in real time.

Dollar Tree vs Family Dollar, in color (MAP)

Esri map shows where The Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores are located in Philadelphia. Aims at Better Component Discovery

Online parts search and ordering is a godsend compared to the paper-catalog days of yore. This is fact, there is no argument otherwise (despite [Dave Jones’] assertion that sourcing connectors is so much simpler if you have pages full of images). Just being able to search was a game changer. But how far do you think the concept has come since the transition online? [Chris Gammell] plans to spark a leap forward with, an electronic component info delivery system that spans both manufacturers and distributors.

So what’s wrong with what we’re doing now? Nothing… unless you hate wasting time. Sourcing parts is time consuming. Certainly the parametric search on distributors’ sites like Mouser and Digikey have improved. Plus we’ve seen hacks that do things like automatically pull in stock data to a spreadsheet. But the real issue isn’t figuring out how to buy stuff, it’s figuring out what to use in a design. Surely there is opportunity for improvement. has its sights set on a better path to part discovery. Yes, this is parametric search but it will return data for all parts from all manufacturers. The distinction may not be completely obvious, but for example if you are searching on Element14 you’re only getting data on the parts that Element14 carries. Once you have drilled down to a reasonably manageable pool of components you get what you would expect: one-click datasheets and a roundup of pricing and availability from worldwide distributors. The presentation of the parts is grouped into families that differ in trailing parts designators, and I must say I am impressed at the interface’s ability to roll with you. It feels easier to find alternative parts after the drilldown where in my past searches I would have started completely over again.

The service started in private alpha in October but is now available for public use. You can search for a part without logging in, but a few features have been held back for those that sign up for a free account. Most notably this includes the ability to upload your BOM, add parts as favorites, and access their forums.

Is this a game changer? That’s for you to decide. You can give it a try yourself or watch [Chris’] feature walkthrough video found after the break.

Full Disclosure: is produced by Supplyframe Inc. Hackaday is an Editorially Independent part of Supplyframe.

Filed under: tool hacks

DIY Phone Charger Born From Cyclone Disaster

As convenient as cell phones are, sometimes these power-hungry devices let us down right at the worst time. We’re talking about battery life and how short it is in modern cell phones. Sure that’s totally inconvenient sometimes but it could be way worse. For example: during a natural disaster. A cyclone hit [Ganesh’s] home city and the entire area had lost power for 10 days. He couldn’t plug in his phone to charge it even if he wanted to. After realizing how dependent we are on the electrical grid, he did something about and built a phone charger out of parts he had kicking around.

The charger is quite simple. The user cranks on a DC motor and the output power goes into a LM2596-based step-down voltage regulator. The output of the regulator is then connected to a female USB connector so that any USB cord can be plugged in. As long as the motor is cranked fast enough to put out at least 8vdc, a steady stream of 5v will be available at the USB connector. Max current output of the system has been measured at 550mA.

[Ganesh] admits this isn’t a practical every-day charger but in a pinch it will certainly do the trick. It is even possible to build a makeshift charger out of a cordless drill.

Filed under: Cellphone Hacks

The Fight For Space Needs You

value of space exploration

On July 20, 1969, As Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Apollo 11 spacecraft and stood on the Moon, the boundaries previously acknowledged by humanity were shattered. No longer were we a species bound by low-Earth orbit; we had officially started our journey to trek across the cosmos.

And then we stopped.

It is now 2015, and in the 46 years since Apollo 11’s landing, America’s interest in space has evaporated. In fact, it was by this year (2015) that George W. Bush claimed we would have taken extended human missions to the Moon. That never happened. Most people – especially politicians – simply do not believe that space is worth it. Mitt Romney said in 2012, “If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired,'” and many Americans agree with Romney’s sentiments. As Bill Nye has said of the United States’ space program, “it is no longer ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’; now it’s ‘to timidly go where 600 people have already been.’”

Fortunately, some people are working to get America – and the world – back on the launchpad. Director Paul Hildebrandt and his team have put together Fight For Space, a documentary that discusses the history of American space exploration, explains the economic and cultural benefits of human space exploration, and examines the political events that have led to the decline in space exploration by America. Clips from the film can be found on the film’s website, YouTube page, and Tumblr. They feature scientists like Bill Nye, Michio Kaku, and Lawrence Krauss; entrepreneurs like Rick Tumlinson; former NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, and many more amazing interviewees – all talking about space exploration and its importance.

As Mark Zubrin, President of the Mars Society, points out in the film, “we doubled the number of science graduates in [the United States] during Apollo. At every level: High-school, college, PhD.” When juxtaposed with the fact that students in the United States score near-dead-last among the developed nations in terms of Mathematics and scientific literacy, which Michio Kaku points out in the film, it is evident that at some point in the past 46 years, we have done something wrong.

The film is currently in post-production, and the team is asking for Kickstarter donations to help fund this final step. If the Kickstarter campaign reaches its goal, every member of Congress will receive a copy of the film. The film has 4 days left in its campaign.

This is the Fight For Space, and it is a fight we need to win.

The post The Fight For Space Needs You appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

ArcGIS 10.3 and ArcGIS Pro Modernize GIS for Organizations and Enterprises

Esri announced that ArcGIS 10.3 is now available with the release of ArcGIS Pro. ArcGIS 10.3 realizes the vision of web GIS, which empowers customers to use information anywhere and on any device.

Will Microsoft’s HoloLens Revolutionize The World With Holograms?

Image credit: Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft

It’s not exactly the holodeck from the Enterprise, but these glasses could plant holograms everywhere you look. It’s called the Hololens, and it is set to be released at the same time as Windows 10. It should also be able to run any app that a Windows 10 PC or phone will be able to, so long as there’s some holomagic UI programmed in. According to Miscrosoft, the product “seamlessly blends high-definition holograms with your real world.”

What’s this mean? The device will be easier to use around other people because you can interact with others and still utilize the HoloLens.

These gadgets will also be able to do a few things that smartphones and PCs can’t. One of Microsoft’s demos shows how these could be used as real world tools. Here, you see a father walking his daughter through a plumbing project over Skype. The key here is that the HoloLens allows you to use a tablet to “draw” arrows in three dimension, creating diagrams to allow people to easily see what you are saying.


The device could also make televisions obsolete. Seriously. You could just project a movie or show wherever you want, and the virtual television projected by 3D glasses will be able to display 3D images. Perhaps most importantly, you will still be able to see the people around you, so you won’t be closed off in your own little bubble. Of course, this could completely revolutionize gaming.


And if that’s not impressive enough, there is great potential for the future. For starters, Microsoft is already working with NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in order to use the Hololens to drive the rovers that we have roaming about on Mars. Microsoft has recreated a 360 degree view of the Martian surface. One of the NASA employee’s desks appeared to be sitting in the middle of the Martian landscape (and again, you can still see and interact with the desk).

One major drawback for the public is that there is no price listed yet, which means that it will probably come with a relatively hefty price tag. And of course, like the Google Glasses, there is no guarantee that this will really transform the technological landscape (or our everyday lives). But time will tell.

The post Will Microsoft’s HoloLens Revolutionize The World With Holograms? appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Reading the ENISA Threat Landscape 2014 report

The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security has published the annual report on the cyber threat landscape “ENISA Threat Landscape 2014.”

The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) has published the annual report on the cyber threat landscape “ENISA Threat Landscape 2014.”

This ENISA Threat Landscape 2014 report (ETL 2014) was prepared by collecting and analyzing threat data of the last 12 months (December 2013 – December 2014).

The document is composed of the following sections:

  • “Purpose, Scope and Method” provides some information regarding the threat analysis process.
  • “ETL 2014: Current Threat Landscape” contains top 15 cyber-threats assessed in 2014 and related information.
  • “Threat Agents” contains the profiling of threat agents.
  • “Attack Vectors” contains information on typical attack scenarios.
  • “The Emerging Threat Landscape” indicates assessedtechnology areas that will impact the
  • “The Emerging Threat Landscape” reports the areas that will impact the threat landscapes in the middle-term.
  • “Food for thought: Lessons Learned and Conclusions”

This year the threat landscape is characterized by significant upheavals, the number of cyber attacks has grown rapidly as well as their complexity despite the excellent action of law enforcement, which influenced the evolution of the criminal ecosystem.

“In the ETL 2014, details of these developments are consolidated by means of top cyber threats and
emerging threat trends in various technological and application areas. References to over 400 relevant
sources on threats will help decision makers, security experts and interested individuals to navigate
through the threat landscape.” reads the ENISA Threat Landscape 2014,

The take down of GameOver Zeus botnet which was conducted by the DoJ and the FBI in a multinational effort has dealt a blow to cyber crime sindacate, the arrest of the author of the popular Blackhole and the seizure of numerous underground black markets on Tor as part of the Onymous Operation, are just a few example of successfully action operated by law enforcement.

2014 was also characterized by significant threats to the overall Internet infrastructure, let’s consider the increase of the DDoS amplification attacks (i.e. NTP-based reflection DDoS attacks) or the numerous flaws affecting popular encryption libraries like the Heartbleed and the Poddle bugs.

2014 is considered the year of data breaches, the number of incidents is dramatically increased, in frequency and severity, exposing hundreds of millions of records of unsuspecting users.

“The massive data breaches that have been identified demonstrate how effectively cyber threat agents abuse security weaknesses of businesses and governments.” states the report.

Analyzing the attacks against websites, experts noticed that SQL injection, which is still one of the most effective attack techniques, is on the decline due to information sharing on the threat.

Privacy is the topic that most of all interested Internet community, netizens fear numerous surveillance program run by governments and have fueled mistrust in the network.

The cyberspace is the new battlefield, a growing number of targeted campaigns were characterized sophisticated attack schemes that benefiting efficient evasion techniques.

ENISA Threat Landscape 2014

The report provides useful information to reduce the surface of attack and exposure to cyber threats. The Agency will continue to collect information on cyber threats and will improve critical operation like information sharing.

This report is a must read for cyber-security specialists and anyone who is interested in the development of cyber threats.

Let me personally thanks for the support all the members of the Threat Landscape Stakeholder Group, in particular the author of the report Louis Marinos, that coordinated us during the last year and that made possible the publishing of a so precious document.

Enjoy the report!

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – ENISA Threat Landscape 2014, cyber threats)

The post Reading the ENISA Threat Landscape 2014 report appeared first on Security Affairs.

10 tips to secure your iPhone

Report: Organizations concerned about risk from insider attacks

It’s an unfortunate reality that cybercriminals and malware exploits are pervasive on the Internet. Organizations have to employ security best practices to adequately protect against those attacks, but insider attacks are actually a much greater threat. Thankfully, it seems that businesses recognize that the authorized users on their networks are a risk, and they’re taking steps to minimize that risk.

Vormetric, a data security vendor, commissioned Harris Poll to conduct a survey of its customers. The Vormetric 2015 Insider Threat Report was compiled from survey results gathered from 818 IT professionals in September and October of 2014. The respondents represent companies around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and more. The results highlight the significant risk from insider threats but also indicate that the issue is getting the attention it deserves.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

‘Mastermind’ hacker steals 20 million credentials from dating website

The user names and email addresses of 20 million visitors to Russian online dating website Topface have reportedly been put up for sale on a crime forum, according to anti-fraud firm Easy Solutions.

According to the US firm, a criminal using the alias 'Mastermind' had posted news of the apparent hack, fifty percent of which were of Russian citizens and 40 percent from the EU. Seven million logins were Hotmail accounts, 2.5 million were from Yahoo and 2.3 million were from Gmail.

If the claim is verified, it will have happened behind the backs of the site's owners which later released a statement saying that it did not "have any proven information that any data was stolen from Topface."

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Retrotechtacular: The Gossamer Condor

For centuries, human-powered flight eluded mankind. Many thought it was just an impossible dream. But several great inventions have been born from competition. Challenge man to do something extraordinary, offer him a handsome cash incentive, and he may surprise you.

In 1959, London’s Aeronautical Society established the Kremer Prize in search of human-powered flight. The rules of the Kremer Prize are simple: a human-powered plane must take off by itself and climb to an altitude of ten feet. The plane must make a complete, 180° left turn, travel to a marker one-half mile away, and execute a 180° right turn. Finally, it must clear the same ten-foot marker. While many tried to design crafts that realized this dream, man is, at his strongest, a weak engine capable of about half a horsepower on a good day.

kremer-prize-courseBy 1973, no one had claimed the Kremer Prize, and the incentive was raised to £50,000. This was enough to catch the interest of [Paul MacCready], an aeronautical engineer living in California with his wife and two sons. [MacCready] was an avid gilder pilot who devised the theory behind the MacCready speed-to-fly ring. He also enjoyed hang gliding with his family, and while driving around sometime after one of these trips, he daydreamed about a design based on a hang glider that could win the Kremer Prize.

[MacCready] assembled a team of friends to help build what he called the Gossamer Condor. Constructed out of thin aluminium tubing, piano wire, Mylar sheeting, and tape, the Condor weighed just 55 lbs. and was easy to repair or alter in a matter of minutes. It was designed to have a 96-foot wingspan with a second, smaller wing for stability. One of [MacCready]’s sons, [Tyler] was chosen as the pilot due to his size and hang gliding experience. By Christmas of 1976, the Condor had taken many test flights and [MacCready] was confident he could win the Kremer Prize.

Around that time, he and the team got wind of a group of students in Tokyo who had built a plane out of balsa wood and handmade paper. It had already made a straight, mile-long flight in under five minutes. But [MacCready & Co.] didn’t know if it could turn. For that matter, they didn’t know if the Condor could turn, either. It was time to get serious.

paul-mccready-changes-condor[MacCready] hired [Greg Miller], a professional cyclist, to take over as pilot. He also made some changes to the Condor, loosening the strings a bit, tightening the Mylar sheeting, and embiggening the propeller with a manila folder. For all of [Greg]’s cycling prowess, the lack of control over the Condor was out of his . . . control. The Condor must be able to turn in both directions, or there was no hope of winning the Kremer Prize. The team added rudders and flaps here and there, but nothing worked. [MacCready] went so far as to make a mini model of the Condor, which he flew around in a swimming pool in order to better understand the effects of air mass on the square wing with respect to making turns. It was about this time that he decided to go back to the drawing board.

Three weeks later, they had completely re-imagined the craft and moved to a different airport with less wind. Now the pilot would be completely enclosed in Mylar. The new wing was stiffened with Styrofoam and had a new, more aerodynamic V shape. The changes paid off: in March of 1977, the Condor set the record for man-powered flight in a trip lasting just over five minutes. They tested it on a mock-up of the Kremer course, but the trial ended with a crash that bent some poles and tore some Mylar.

Repairs were complete in under 24 hours, but it didn’t fly as well as it had before the crash. [Greg] had to leave for Belgium to do professional cyclist stuff, and so [MacCready] found the Condor’s third and final pilot in [Bryan Allen], who was skilled in both cycling and hang gliding. As [MacCready] pondered the crash that twisted one side of the wing, he wondered how a twist could be advantageous. The final design contained a lever that the pilot could use to pull the wires going to one end of the wing, which aided turning control tremendously.

After several redesigns and over 400 test flights, the Gossamer Condor claimed the Kremer Prize on August 23, 1977. It currently hangs from the ceiling of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, right next to the Wright Brothers’ plane and the Apollo 11 capsule. As for [Paul MacCready], his company, AeroVironment went on to capture the second Kremer Prize in June 1979 for crossing the English Channel with his second human-powered aircraft, the Gossamer Albatross.

[Thanks for the tip, Josuel]

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular

Python Scripting for ArcGIS Now Available

Python Scripting for ArcGIS teaches users how to write Python code that works with spatial data to automate geoprocessing tasks in ArcGIS.

The Asteroid With Its Own Natural Satellite

(Credit: NASA)

(Credit: NASA)

Scientists working with NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86. The images show the asteroid, which made its closest approach on Jan. 26, 2015 at 8:19 a.m. PST (11:19 a.m. EST) at a distance of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon), has its own small moon.

The 20 individual images used in the movie were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Jan. 26, 2015. They show the primary body is approximately 1,100 feet (325 meters) across and has a small moon approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across. In the near-Earth population, about 16 percent of asteroids that are about 655 feet (200 meters) or larger are a binary (the primary asteroid with a smaller asteroid moon orbiting it) or even triple systems (two moons). The resolution on the radar images is 13 feet (4 meters) per pixel.

The trajectory of asteroid 2004 BL86 is well understood. Monday’s flyby was the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for at least the next two centuries. It is also the closest a known asteroid this size will come to Earth until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past our planet in 2027.

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon on Jan. 26, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26, the space rock's changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere. Image (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon on Jan. 26, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26, the space rock’s changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere. Image (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Asteroid 2004 BL86 was discovered on Jan. 30, 2004, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.

Radar is a powerful technique for studying an asteroid’s size, shape, rotation state, surface features and surface roughness, and for improving the calculation of asteroid orbits. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than if radar observations weren’t available.

NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the U.S. has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). To date, U.S. assets have discovered over 98 percent of the known NEOs.

In addition to the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids, it also partners with other U.S. government agencies, university-based astronomers, and space science institutes across the country, often with grants, interagency transfers and other contracts from NASA, and also with international space agencies and institutions that are working to track and better understand these objects.

NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, manages and funds the search, study and monitoring of asteroids and comets whose orbits periodically bring them close to Earth. JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

In 2016, NASA will launch a robotic probe to one of the most potentially hazardous of the known NEOs. The OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid (101955) Bennu will be a pathfinder for future spacecraft designed to perform reconnaissance on any newly discovered threatening objects. Aside from monitoring potential threats, the study of asteroids and comets enables a valuable opportunity to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the source of water on Earth, and even the origin of organic molecules that led to the development of life.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Artist rendering of landing on an asteroid (Image Credit: NASA/AMA)

Artist rendering of landing on an asteroid (Image Credit: NASA/AMA)

NASA also continues to advance the journey to Mars through progress on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. This includes advanced Solar Electric Propulsion — an efficient way to move heavy cargo using solar power, which could help pre-position cargo for future human missions to the Red Planet. As part of ARM, a robotic spacecraft will rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid and redirect an asteroid mass to a stable orbit around the moon. Astronauts will explore the asteroid mass in the 2020’s, helping test modern spaceflight capabilities like new spacesuits and sample return techniques. Astronauts at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston have already begun to practice the capabilities needed for the mission.

(via NASA) (Learn more here)

The post The Asteroid With Its Own Natural Satellite appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

ArcGIS 10.3 Now Certified OGC Compliant

As part of Esri's ongoing support of GIS interoperability, the latest ArcGIS 10.3 release is now certified as Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC), compliant.

Mapping Where the College Graduates are Going

TweetAn interesting report has surfaced recently revealing just where College students are heading after they graduate. Interesting to see that the so called “Other” cities are increasing their share of these valuable residents at an even higher rate and have … Continue reading

NASA’s Dawn Detects Evidence of Water on Vesta; Reveals Best Image Yet of Ceres

Animated gif of Ceres as seen by the Dawn spacecraft on Jan. 13, 2015, from a distance of 238,000 miles  A little more than half of its surface was observed and you can see both light and dark features.

Animated gif of Ceres as seen by the Dawn spacecraft on Jan. 13, 2015, from a distance of 238,000 miles A little more than half of its surface was observed and you can see both light and dark features.

Cheer up Ceres! Dawn is on its way… (Sidenote: I’m sure Ceres doesn’t really have a face on its surface, just commenting on what appears to be a white eye and a frown in this particular view of it). Over the next several weeks, as NASA’s Dawn spacecraft closes in on Ceres before officially inserting itself into orbit on March 6, our view will continue to improve. Until then, researchers are trying to predict what sort of surface features would produce the white “eye” we see in this gif.

The latest image from shows the dwarf planet 27 pixels across, about three times better than the calibration images taken in early Dec, and about 80 percent as clear as Hubble’s images. These preliminary images of Ceres are the first in a series that will be used to help navigate the probe prior to orbital insertion, whereby Dawn will spend a total of 16 months orbiting Ceres — the largest body in the main asteroid belt

Previously, Dawn orbited Vesta — an object roughly 326 miles (525 kilometers) across — from 2011 to 2012. As the second largest object in the asteroid belt, Vesta was classified as an “asteroid”, until Dawn came along. Thanks to the observations made possible by the Dawn mission, researchers realized that Vesta is unlike any other asteroid we’ve encountered. It is in fact, not even an asteroid at all, but perhaps a protoplanet.

Graphic showing the size of Vesta compared to other bodies in the asteroid belt. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Graphic showing the size of Vesta compared to other bodies in the asteroid belt. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Protoplanets are essentially “baby” planets that have not fully developed yet. In the case of Vesta, its development was interrupted and it was unable to grow any larger. In fact, the Vesta we see today is likely smaller due to the number of impacts it has endured. Vesta’s cessation in development is likely due to the neighboring gas giant, Jupiter. 

As the massive planet formed, its intense gravity disrupted the orbit of the other bodies within the asteroid belt, causing them to smash into each other. Evidence of this cosmic “crash-o-rama” can be seen by looking at Vesta’s heavily cratered surface. Scientists determined Vesta contains an iron core, much like the one in the center of the Earth; However, due to multiple collisions over billions of years, Vesta was unable to fully form into a rocky world like the Earth or even Mars.

Until the arrival of Dawn, researchers predicted Vesta to be a very dry and inhospitable world complete with very little atmosphere. As a result any water that would have been on the surface of Vesta would evaporate almost immediately. However, new data from Dawn indicates there may have been short-lived water flows on Vesta’s surface.

“Nobody expected to find evidence of water on Vesta. The surface is very cold and there is no atmosphere, so any water on the surface evaporates,” said Jennifer Scully, postgraduate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. “However, Vesta is proving to be a very interesting and complex planetary body.”

During Dawn’s orbit around Vesta, the little probe showed Vesta’s complex surface geology very similar to that of rocky planets. Researchers mapped impact craters that are billions of years old, with newer craters detected inside the older ones.

This image shows Cornelia Crater on the large asteroid Vesta. On the right is an inset image showing an example of curved gullies, indicated by the short white arrows, and a fan-shaped deposit, indicated by long white arrows. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image shows Cornelia Crater on the large asteroid Vesta. On the right is an inset image showing an example of curved gullies, indicated by the short white arrows, and a fan-shaped deposit, indicated by long white arrows. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A new study being published in the journal “Earth and Planetary Science Letters”, by Scully and her colleagues, shows a number of young craters containing curved gullies and fan-shaped deposits on Vesta’s surface. The curvature of the gullies is particularly interesting to researchers, as they indicate the presence of surface water and vary significantly gullies formed by the flow of dry materials.

“We’re not suggesting that there was a river-like flow of water. We’re suggesting a process similar to debris flows, where a small amount of water mobilizes the sandy and rocky particles into a flow,” Scully said. “These features on Vesta share many characteristics with those formed by debris flows on Earth and Mars,” Scully said.

These narrow gullies span 100 feet (30 meters) wide, and just over half a mile (900 meters) long. Some of the best examples of curved gullies can be found within the Cornelia Crater, a surface crater stretching 9 miles (15 kilometers) wide.

Based on this data, it is believed that Vesta harbors small, localized pockets of subsurface ice. The origin of the ice is currently unknown; however researchers suspect these icy pockets could be a result of impacts with comets or other ice-rich bodies. Subsequent impacts would form another crater, with the heat from impact melting some of the ice, and causing it to flow down the crater walls.

Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt, is actually not an asteroid, but a protoplanet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt, is actually not an asteroid, but a protoplanet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“If present today, the ice would be buried too deeply to be detected by any of Dawn’s instruments,” Scully said. “However, the craters with curved gullies are associated with pitted terrain, which has been independently suggested as evidence for loss of volatile gases from Vesta.”

As the water flowed down the crater walls, it would push sand and other rocky particles along, carving out the surface gullies and producing fan-shaped deposits once the water evaporated. The particles help to slow the rate at which the water evaporates. Craters containing curved gullies, like the Cornelia Crater, tend to be only a few hundred million years old, in comparison to Vesta, which is estimate to be 4.6 billion years old.

“These results, and many others from the Dawn mission, show that Vesta is home to many processes that were previously thought to be exclusive to planets,” said UCLA’s Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission. “We look forward to uncovering even more insights and mysteries when Dawn studies Ceres.”

Data collected from Dawn’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer and gamma ray and neutron detector indicates that there is hydrated material within certain surface rocks on Vesta, a good indication the world is not completely dry. Experiments conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), indicate that there could be enough time for curved gullies to form on Vesta before all of the water evaporated.

(Ceres Rendering, Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

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