India OK’s New Observatory; Japan’s X-Ray Telescope; Long-Lasting Eclipse Detected

Posted February 19th, 2016 at 3:55 pm (UTC-4)
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Aerial view of LIGO Observatory in Hanford, Washington (LIGO Laboratory)

Aerial view of LIGO Observatory in Hanford, Washington (LIGO Laboratory)

LIGO Scientific Collaboration to Build New Observatory in India

Just days (2/11/16) after announcing the first detection of Einstein’s theorized gravitational waves, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration has been granted approval in principle by India to build an Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory there.

LIGO currently operates two observatories in the United States; one in Hanford, Washington and the other in Livingston, Louisiana.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration says the addition of an observatory in India to its network will greatly improve the ability of scientists to identify and analyze the sources of incoming gravitational waves.

The first detection and observation of these ripples in the fabric of space time were made by LIGO on September 14, 2015, some 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted their existence in his General Theory of Relativity.

The gravitational waves that were detected were produced 1.3 billion years ago when a pair of orbiting black holes smashed into each other in a cataclysmic explosion.

Artist conception of the Hitomi, formerly ASTRO-H, spacecraft (Akihiro Ikeshita/JAXA via NASA Blueshift/Flickr)

Artist conception of the Hitomi, formerly ASTRO-H, spacecraft (Akihiro Ikeshita/JAXA via NASA Blueshift/Flickr)

Japan Sends New X-Ray Telescope into Space

The Japan Exploration Agency or JAXA successfully launched their X-ray astronomy satellite from the Tanegashima Space Center on Wednesday, February 17th at 0845 UTC.

JAXA learned from data transmitted by the spacecraft to its Uchinoura Ground Station that it had deployed its solar array paddles (SAPs) and is currently in good health.

The original name for the spacecraft was ASTRO-H, but the space agency renamed it Hitomi, which in Japanese means pupil, for the part of the eye which regulates incoming light.

According to JAXA, the Hitomi satellite has been equipped with a collection of instruments that will allow scientists to study the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe, the phenomena of the non/thermal universe and learn more about dark matter and dark energy.

Artist conception of binary star system TYC-2505-672-1. (Jeremy Teaford, Vanderbilt University)

Artist conception of binary star system TYC-2505-672-1 (Jeremy Teaford, Vanderbilt University)

Astronomers Find Longest-Lasting Eclipse in Binary Star System

Astronomers from Vanderbilt and Harvard Universities have discovered a binary star system nearly 10,000 light years from Earth where it takes 69 years for one of its stars to nearly totally eclipse the other.  But once it does, the eclipse lasts for three and a half years.

The researchers describe their findings in a paper that’s been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

This star system, which has no name but only an astronomical catalog number of TYC 2505-672-1, has set a new record for having both the longest duration stellar eclipse and the longest period between eclipses in a binary system, said the research team.

Until this discovery, the previous record holder was Epsilon Aurigae, an eclipsing binary system that is only 2,000 light years from Earth.

The star system’s yellow giant star is eclipsed by its normal sized companion that’s slightly bigger than our sun, for 640 to 730 days every 27 years.

Bat inspired membrane wings mounted on a Micro Air Vehicle (EPSRC)

Bat inspired membrane wings mounted on a Micro Air Vehicle (EPSRC)

Bats Inspire Development of Aircraft Wings That Change Shape

UK researchers looked to the bat for inspiration in developing wings that could be used in constructing a new generation of insect or bird sized aircraft called Micro Air Vehicles.

They say their new innovation will allow the tiny aircraft to eventually travel much longer distances than currently possible and are also inexpensive to run.

Scientists at the UK’s University of Southampton say that their new wings, which they liken to artificial muscles, have improved aerodynamic properties and can quickly respond to various flying conditions by simply changing their shape.

While this new technology uses no mechanical parts, it does incorporate electroactive polymers that use electrical current to modify the aerodynamic characteristics of the wing structure.

Micro Air Vehicles, which can be as small as 15 centimeters, can be used in various commercial and military applications.  Hobbyists also build these tiny aircraft and use them for aerial photography.

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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