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A successful test of laser communication has just been complete by researchers at NASA according to Space.com. The agency tested laser transmission of data into space by beaming the Mona Lisa from earth to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter some 240,000 miles away.
The LRO, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009, was chosen over other space craft because it was already fitted with laser communication gear. The image of the Mona Lisa was subdivided into 150 x 200 pixel segments and then beamed to the LRO from the Goddard Flight Center at a rate of about 300 bits per second.
"This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances," said David Smith, a researcher working with the LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter. "In the near future, this type of simple laser communication might serve as a backup for the radio communication that satellites use."
Earlier this week, I reported on NASA's plans to add an inflatable habitat module to the International Space Station. Today the space agency has released photos and a simulation animation on how the module will connect to the ISS.
Officially named the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM for short, the module will test expandable space habitat technology. While early reports showed the module as being quite large, the photo above is said to depict the actual size of the module that will fly into space.
BEAM is scheduled to launch on SpaceX's eighth cargo resupply mission to the ISS, which has been contracted by NASA for some time in 2015. As seen in the video above, astronauts will use the stations robotic arm to install the inflatable BEAM module and a two year test of the module will commence.
A multinational team of astronomers have discovered the largest objects in the known universe. In research led by the University of Central Lancashire, the team recently observed a large quasar group comprised of dozens of highly energetic "star-like" objects.
Each object averages about 500 Megaparsecs, with the entire group being close to 1,200 Megaparsecs at its widest point. If that makes no sense to you, the distance between our Milky Way, and our closest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, is about 0.75 Megaparsecs. If this new object was within 100 light-years of Earth, it would dominate the entire night sky. For those who are curious, 1 Megaparsec equals 3,261,633.44 light years.
This discovery will have huge implications on the study of cosmology. Einstein's Cosmological Principal states that the universe looks the same regardless of the observation point when viewed at a large enough scale. If you combine this principal with modern theories, we shouldn't be able to find objects larger than 370Mpc. This new quasar group is not the first to question Einstein's theory either. Other smaller objects have been discovered that add weight to the challenge.
CES 2013 - Walking the halls of the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas last week, we came across a demo from HzO which was super impressive. They've developed a proprietary nanotechnology that uses nanocoating that gets applied to the internal components of a device.
After this, the device is put through a vapor deposition process and voila, your smart device is pretty much water proof. The demo involved dropping a smartphone into a bowl of beer and it survived. The phone was taken out of the beer, quickly dumped in some water, and had the battery reinserted. It was turned on in front of our eyes and it worked.
Can this be applied to all technology, yesterday? Thanks, HzO.
Fans of the end of the world will have to wait just a bit longer to start cheering. NASA has just released information that the world will not be ending in an explosion caused by an asteroid in 2029 or 2036. Previously, the Apophis asteroid was thought that it could hit the Earth in 2036, with a low chance of collision in 2029.
NASA's new data suggests that there is only a one in a million chance of the asteroid colliding with Earth in 2036, which is small enough for NASA to effectively rule out the collision. NASA says that interest in the Asteroid will now be purely scientific for the foreseeable future.
The asteroid will pass within 9.3 million miles of the Earth, which is a bit close for my comfort. However, it's far enough away that nobody will need to build bunkers. So, until the next space scare, put away your end of the world gear.
When we think of inflatables, we usually picture the moon bounce or giant slides often seen at amusement parks and children's birthday parties. NASA has other plans for the inflatable technology though, commissioning a $17.8 million inflatable space habitat.
A contract between Bigelow Airspace and NASA was just signed for the construction of an inflatable and expandable module for the International Space Station. Bigelow Airspace was chosen because they already have a few prototype habitats orbiting earth.
Last year Bigelow Airspace partnered up with SpaceX to launch its BA 330, seen above, sometime in 2015. It is unsure at this time if NASA will launch the new expansion module or if SpaceX will be handling the delivery. Further details on the new ISS expansion are due this Wednesday, and I will be covering the event, so stay tuned for more information.
Three students from the University of Toronto have designed a revolutionary new type of LED based light bulb that is orders of magnitude more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.
The Nanolight is an LED based light bulb replacement that consumes just 12 watts of energy and produces 1600 lumens of light output. This is on par with a 100w incandescent bulb at almost 1/10th the power consumption. The new design claims to have solved the LED heat problem and has no need for an expensive aluminum heatsink.
The Nanolight has a lifespan of 30,000 hours and is estimated to cost a mere $50 in electricity over the full lifespan of the bulb. The company plans on producing a 10w Nanolight which would be equivalent to a 75w incandescent and cost even less to power.
Lego has announced that they will soon be offering up the next-generation of their Mindstorms line. The new system, which is the third-generation of its line, will be the EV3. EV3 sports a bunch of improved features in both hardware and software, where it's headed to the classroom and will also be used in Lego League competitions. Soren Thomsen of LEGO Education told Forbes:
We gathered information from teachers and coaches to meet their needs. This is a strong new kit that should last for a lot of years.
Some of the new features being built into EV3's kit include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the ability to add memory to the units - which is something that the Lego League teams have been asking for - as well as the file sizes of the programs being streamlined. The new EV3 has a 3D instruction manual which should make it easier for users to see all the pieces from all angles, allowing them to design and construct their own robots.
The EV3 is available right now for preorder and will ship in the fall semester of 2013.
Every Friday, I like to end my week here at TweakTown with a science post, and this week I want to show you a stunning new image released by astronomers from the Gemini South Observatory in Chile. The "Cosmic Bullets" pictured below are roughly 1,500 light years away from the earth and were first discovered in 1992.
This image of "cosmic bullets" in the Orion Nebula (M42) was taken on the night of Dec 28th 2012 using a new adaptive optics system which is equipped with five laser guide stars and three deformable mirrors to correct atmospheric distortion. Each cosmic bullet is about 10 times the size of Pluto's orbit around our sun, which is roughly 3.67 billion miles.
The cosmic bullets are made up of enormous clumps of gas packed with iron atoms, and were ejected from deep within the Orion Nebula. They are most likely propelled by strong winds expelling gas at supersonic speeds from a region of massive star formation, outside and below this image's field of view.
Lego just announced a new Mindstorms kit that packs one heck of a punch. The EV3 kit is designed to introduce a younger generation to the joys of building and programming robots while still keeping things fresh for their existing Mindstorm fans.
The new EV3 kit is centered around the EV3 Intelligent Brick which features an ARM9 SOC, which includes more memory and a much more robust processor than previous Mindstorm bricks. Users can now remove the tether from their Mindstorm project and take advantage of the new "on brick programming" feature.
The EV3 is running on a new Linux-based firmware and can be programmed with a USB port and storage can be augmented by an on-board SD card slot. The EV3 kit will also include full Android and iOS app compatibility out of the box. Availability is set for the second half of 2013 and will carry a MSRP of $349.99