Bright Spots on Ceres; Sorry No Alien Structure; New Lie-Detector

Posted December 10th, 2015 at 5:00 pm (UTC-4)
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New image of Ceres' Occator crater with mysterious bright spots take by NASA's Dawn spacecraft (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

New image of Ceres’ Occator crater with mysterious bright spots take by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

Scientists Learn More about Dwarf Planet Ceres

Scientists think they may know what’s behind the mysterious bright spots on the Ceres and where the dwarf planet may have originated.

Studying data gathered by NASA’S Dawn spacecraft the researchers outlined their findings in a pair of new studies published in the journal Nature.

In one study, researchers found evidence that the bright spots are deposits of a salt called hexahydrite.

Since the bright spots are found, mostly in craters, spread throughout the surface of Ceres, the researchers suggest that the dwarf planet has a subsurface layer that contains briny water-ice.

Researchers writing in the second study examined the composition of Ceres and found that it contains ammonia-rich clays.

Finding this material has the scientists thinking that Ceres may have either originated or formed with material from the outer solar system and not its current location in the asteroid belt.

An orbiting swarm of dusty comet fragments are a possible explanation for the unusual light signal of KIC 8462852. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An orbiting swarm of dusty comet fragments are a possible explanation for the unusual light signal of KIC 8462852. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mysterious Star Dimming Not an Alien Structure

A couple of months ago, the Internet buzzed with the rumor that a massive structure built by an advanced civilization of extraterrestrials might be orbiting a star located nearly 15-hundred light years from Earth.

Erratic dimming of a star known as KIC 8462852 has baffled astronomers since its September discovery by citizen scientists.

SETI International researchers at the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama searched for laser pulses from the star, but anyone hoping for evidence of ET will be disappointed.  SETI International says that they did not find any evidence of an advanced civilization beaming intentional laser signals toward Earth.

A periodically dimming star is often seen as an indication of an exoplanet, but the dimming pattern around the new found star was sporadic and irregular.

Some astronomers think that comet fragments in elliptical orbit around the star might be the cause of the strange behavior.

University of Michigan Researchers Develop New Lie Detector

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan has built a prototype of a new lie detector with unique lie-detecting software based on “real-world” data.

The team used a set of 120 video clips taken from media coverage of actual trials to develop the software.

The University of Michigan team’s prototype lie-detector examines a subject’s words and gestures.

And unlike a traditional polygraph that requires a number of physical connections to the person being questioned, the prototype doesn’t need to touch the subject in order to work.

The researchers say the new software allows them to identify several ‘tells,’ or clues that people are lying.

They found that liars tend to move their hands more, look their questioners in the face and tried to sound more convincing than those telling the truth.

After experimenting with the new software, the developers say they were able to correctly identify people who were being deceptive as much as 75 percent of the time.

Japanese Space Agency Gets Venus Probe into Orbit

Nearly five years ago, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Venus Climate Orbiter “Akatsuki” was supposed to go into orbit around Venus.

Instead, the space probe was orbiting the sun until December 7th, when agency engineers fired its attitude control thrusters for 20 minutes to put it into an elliptical orbit around Venus.

The Akatsuki will fly within 400 kilometers of Venus at its closest orbital point, or periapsis, and 440,000 kilometers at its furthest point, or apoapsis.

The spacecraft is equipped with six instruments that will allow mission scientists to study Venusian climate factors such as stratification of the atmosphere, atmospheric dynamics, and cloud physics.

The scientific gear includes a 1 and 2-micron camera, Lightning and Airglow Camera, Ultra-Stable Oscillator, Ultraviolet Imager and a Longwave IR camera.

The Japanese space agency also reports the spacecraft is in good health and they expect to start regular operations of the Akatsuki next April.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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