An infrared image of 47 Tucanae, a dense globular cluster of stars located roughly 16,000 light years from Earth. A new study has predicted that a black hole lies at its center. (2MASS / T. Jarrett)

A new method could help scientists peer inside universe’s densest star clusters to find undiscovered black holes

Approximately 16,000 light years from Earth lies a spherical glob of millions of stars dating back to the early years of the universe. This dense cluster, called 47 Tucanae, has a radius of about 200 light years and is one of the brightest clusters in our night sky. Inside 47 Tucanae, intense gravitational forces have sorted stars over time, pushing less dense stars to the outside and creating a very dense inner core that resists outside scrutiny.

"Studying globular clusters is notoriously challenging," says Bülent Kiziltan, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. There are so many stars packed next to each other, he says, that capturing radiation from the center of one is next to impossible. So while scientists have long suspected that 47 Tucanae might contain a black hole at its center, as many other globular clusters appear to, they haven’t been able to prove it.

Now, in a study published yesterday in the journal Nature, Kiziltan and his colleagues have helped peer into the heart of 47 Tucanae to find the first of a new class of medium-sized black holes.

Despite their name, black holes aren’t actually that black, Kiziltan says. As they tear apart stars unlucky enough to wander into their pull, he says, they form a disk of bright, hot gases around them known as an accretion disk. Black holes don’t let any visible light escape, but they usually emit X-rays as they consume these gases. However, 47 Tucanae is so dense that it has no gases left at its center for the black hole to consume.

Kiziltan used his expertise in another quirky type of space object—pulsars—to try a new way of detecting these elusive kinds of black holes.

Pulsars "provide us with a platform that we can use to study very minute changes in the environment," Kiziltan says. These stars, which emit "pulses" of radiation at very regular intervals, can be used as reference points to map out cosmic formations, including globular clusters; Kiziltan likens them to "cosmic atomic clocks."  

With two dozen pulsars on the edges of 47 Tucanae as guides, Kiziltan and his team were able to build simulations of how the globular cluster evolved over time, and particularly how the denser and less dense stars sorted themselves into their present-day positions.

These simulations were massive undertakings, Kiziltan says, requiring roughly six to nine months to complete even on extremely powerful computers. Which is why he wasn’t thrilled, he says, when reviewers at Nature asked for further simulations that ended up taking another year to complete.

But that effort was worth it, Kiziltan says, because it led to something unprecedented: the first discovery of a black hole inside a globular cluster. After running hundreds of simulations, he says, the only possible scenario that could lead to the development of today's 47 Tucanae featured a black hole at the global cluster's dense, gas-less center. This previously unconsidered environment for a black hole opens up new places to look for them, Kiziltan says.

"One can only imagine what is lurking in the centers of other global clusters," Kiziltan says.

What is also exciting, Kiziltan notes, is the size of the black hole his simulations predicted. So far, scientists have mostly found small black holes (those roughly the size of the stars that collapsed to form them) and supermassive black holes (those thousands of times larger than our Sun). Intermediate-sized black holes have mostly eluded scientists—though not for lack of trying.

The black hole predicted at the center of 47 Tucanae falls within this rare middle ground, Kiziltan says. Further study of this potential black hole could provide new insights on how and why these largely unknown type of black holes form.

Perhaps even more important than the discoveries themselves is how Kiziltan and his team arrived at them. Kiziltan and his collaborators drew on a mathematical theory developed in the 1950s by two American cryptographers to help chart the probable distributions of stars in 47 Tucanae. "They developed this mathematical method to piece together incomplete information to see the bigger picture," Kiziltan says.

Kiziltan is working to refine their new approach and use this new method to look at other populations of stars for previously unseen black holes. Powerful new scientific computers and other instruments that will go online in the coming years will help with this quest, he says.

"We've done many things for the first time in this work," Kiziltan says. At the same time, “there are still so many things that need to be done.”

Source: This article was published smithsonianmag.com By Ben Panko

Categorized in Science & Tech

The idea that we might be living in just one of an infinite number of universes has been fodder for scientific debate and sci-fi movie plots for a long time, but coming up with evidence to support the theory has been hard to come by. Now, researchers have discovered something in space that they can’t quite account for, and one of the possible explanations is that — are you sitting down? — our universe actually bumped into a neighboring, parallel one.

When gazing into the heavens, scientists spotted what they refer to as a “cold” area of space. It was observed some time ago, and explaining it proved difficult, but a 2015 study suggested it was merely an area of the universe in which the number of galaxies is dramatically lower than the rest. Unfortunately, subsequent investigations couldn’t support that finding, and a new study by Durham University suggests the slim possibility that it’s actually evidence of parallel universes is still on the table.

The multiverse theory hinges on the idea that all possible outcomes of any given scenario are all playing out at the same time in a layered reality of which we are only experiencing one layer. It’s a wild idea that has a foundation in quantum mechanics, but it’s also entirely unproven.

As the study states, the researchers believe the mysterious cold spot, while still totally unexplained, could actually be “the remnant of a collision between our universe and another ‘bubble’ universe during an early inflationary phase.” In short, if the idea is correct, our early universe collided with another young universe early on, causing something of a “bruise” which we are able to observe today.

Source: This article was published BGR News By Mike Wehner

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SCIENTISTS have managed to prove that event horizons of a black hole are real and that matter disappears when it crosses such a point.

Black holes DO have event horizons which devour EVERYTHING around them

Once matter crosses the event horizon of a black hole it is unable to escape, according to boffins at the University of Texas at Austin.

Due to the intense gravitational pull of a black hole, not even light can become freed once it passes the point of no return.

The revelation goes one step further to proving Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Astrophysicist Pawan Kumar, from the university, said: "Our whole point here is to turn this idea of an event horizon into an experimental science, and find out if event horizons really do exist or not.

star impactMark A. Garlick/CfA
An artist's impression os a star impacting against a solid object

"Our motive is not so much to establish that there is a hard surface, but to push the boundary of knowledge and find concrete evidence that really, there is an event horizon around black holes.”

Scientists largely believe that at the heart of most galaxies lies a supermassive black hole, but one theory that is also recognised is that there might not be a black hole, but rather a ‘central massive object’ which has somehow managed to avoid collapsing in on itself to create a singularity – a point of infinite density – like how black holes are created.

black hole 2
"General relativity has passed another critical test."
To test this theory, Mr Kumar and his team discovered that if a star was to crash into this central object, it would create intense heat that could be detected, rather than being sucked into a black hole.
 
They then scanned through data from the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii to look for instances in which this could have happened, but ultimately found none, essentially disproving the central massive object theory, and proving thew event horizon one.
 
Team member Ramesh Narayan from Harvard University said: "Our work implies that some, and perhaps all, black holes have event horizons and that material really does disappear from the observable Universe when pulled into these exotic objects, as we've expected for decades.
 
"General relativity has passed another critical test."
Source: This article was published express.co.uk By SEAN MARTIN
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Is it possible that space-time is curved in such a way that one (or many) of the galaxies we see in telescopes is actually our own Milky Way a few billion years earlier?

This infrared view reveals galaxies far, far away that existed long, long ago. Taken by the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the image is part of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field survey, the deepest portrait ever taken of the universe.

It is mathematically possible for a universe to be shaped this way, but not our Universe. Our Universe is as close to flat as we can measure right now, though it’s only possible for it to be very slightly curved, considering the wiggle room we have remaining on our measurements.

The universe that you describe could be round, donut-shaped or cylindrical; some shape where at least in one direction, it connects back to itself. These aren’t your only options for a universe - you could also invent a saddle shaped or other, more exotic shape to place your universe in.

For now, let’s roll with a cylindrical universe. And let’s put a star somewhere on the surface. If the light from this star is going along the length of the cylinder, all it can ever do is go out, because the surface is flat in that direction; there’s no curve or loop. This flat, uncurved behavior is how we believe our Universe behaves in every direction. Light in our Universe departs its star, and travels in a straight line forever (as far as we can tell) unless it is intercepted by another astrophysical object, another star, planet, or telescope detector.

However, the light that leaves our star in the cylindrical universe has one other option. The light that goes in the other direction - around the curve of the cylinder - will also travel in a straight path. But this path loops back on itself, and if the light doesn’t hit anything else, after it has completed its tour of the cylinder’s circumference, it will arrive back where it began, on the other side of the star, delayed by the length of time it took to do its loop.

 
The three possible geometries of space. At the top is a sphere, followed by a saddle-shaped universe, and then flat. Each geometry will affect the path of light traveling through it.

NASA / WMAP Science Team

The three possible geometries of space. At the top is a sphere, followed by a saddle-shaped universe, and then flat. Each geometry will affect the path of light traveling through it.

What happens if you make your universe spherical? It’s a very similar thing, except now every path that light can take will loop back onto itself, given enough time. There’s another curious thing about the light this time, though, which is that the beams of light, even though they’re all travelling “out”, will all cross each other at some other point on the sphere. If the star was on a flat surface, these beams of light would only ever get further apart; there’s nothing that would ever curve the light back towards each other.

In our Universe, we know that there’s no bending of the light as it comes through space (this is from an analysis of the map of the oldest light in the Universe) beyond what you would expect from gravitational forces. This lack of a large scale-bending rules out the spherical and saddle-shaped options, and all that’s left are the ones which can be considered flat. While we can’t observe the entire universe to objectively figure out what the global shape of the entire thing is, we know that on the scales of the observable universe, our Universe is pretty darn flat.

This artist’s impression shows how photons in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB, as detected by ESA’s Planck space telescope) are deflected by the gravitational lensing effect of massive cosmic structures as they travel across the Universe.

ESA and the Planck Collaboration

This artist’s impression shows how photons in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB, as detected by ESA’s Planck space telescope) are deflected by the gravitational lensing effect of massive cosmic structures as they travel across the Universe.

How do we know that the Universe isn’t a tightly rolled cylinder? Well, we can’t rule out a gigantic cylinder, but it would have to be so large that we couldn’t ever detect a difference between light going “out” along the length of the cylinder and the light going “around”, because as far as we can observe, the Universe is the same in every direction. If there were a preferred direction, where the Universe appeared considerably younger than in the other direction, then we’d get suspicious of a cylindrical shape. But since there’s no evidence for that, we usually describe our Universe as an unwarped, three dimensional, grid. And with that kind of shape, we don’t expect any of the light from the distant universe to be taking a looping path to show us our own Milky Way.

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Astrophysics. Find me on twitter @Jillian_Scudder.

Source: This article was published forbes.com

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NASA is in hot pursuit of a supermassive black hole that is hurtling through its galaxy.

NASA finds astonishing supermassive black hole HURTLING through galaxy

The huge phenomenon which has a mass of approximately 160 million times that of our sun and is being propelled at an astonishing speed.

Boffins at NASA believe that it could have been formed when two smaller black holes collided and merged. 

However, the experts believe that the gravitational waves generated by the clash could be stronger in one direction, causing the supermassive black hole, which are usually stationary and consume everything that crosses their path due to their immense gravitational pull, to be shot across the universe.

NASA said in a statement: “The strength of the kick depends on the rate and direction of spin of the two smaller black holes before they merge.

supermassive black hole
After all of this searching, a good candidate for a recoiling black hole was discovered.”

“Therefore, information about these important but elusive properties can be obtained by studying the speed of recoiling black holes.”

Scientists found the recoiling supermassive black hole candidate, which is in a galaxy 3.9 billion light years from Earth, by “sifting through X-ray and optical data for thousands of galaxies”.

 

 

black hole merge
NASA believes two black holes merged

They used observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to look for X-ray emissions and correlated their findings with images from the Hubble Space Telescope to see if the supermassive blackhole is moving.

NASA said: “After all of this searching, a good candidate for a recoiling black hole was discovered.”

It added: “The host galaxy of the possible recoiling black hole also shows some evidence of disturbance in its outer regions, which is an indication that a merger between two galaxies occurred in the relatively recent past. 

“Since supermassive black hole mergers are thought to occur when their host galaxies merge, this information supports the idea of a recoiling black hole in the system.”

Source: This article was published express.co.uk By SEAN MARTIN

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Astronomers have watched as a massive, dying star was likely reborn as a black hole. It took the combined power of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), and NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to go looking for remnants of the vanquished star, only to find that it disappeared out of sight.

It went out with a whimper instead of a bang.

The star, which was 25 times as massive as our sun, should have exploded in a very bright supernova. Instead, it fizzled out—and then left behind a black hole.

A team of astronomers at The Ohio State University watched a star disappear and possibly become a black hole. Instead of becoming a black hole through the expected process of a supernova, the black hole candidate formed through a "failed supernova."
Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Katrina Jackson

"Massive fails" like this one in a nearby galaxy could explain why astronomers rarely see supernovae from the most massive stars, said Christopher Kochanek, professor of astronomy at The Ohio State University and the Ohio Eminent Scholar in Observational Cosmology.

As many as 30 percent of such stars, it seems, may quietly collapse into black holes — no supernova required.

"The typical view is that a star can form a black hole only after it goes supernova," Kochanek explained. "If a star can fall short of a supernova and still make a black hole, that would help to explain why we don’t see supernovae from the most massive stars."

two images showing a star disappearing from a field
This pair of visible-light and near-infrared Hubble Space Telescope photos shows the giant star N6946-BH1 before and after it vanished out of sight by imploding to form a black hole. The left image shows the 25 solar mass star as it looked in 2007. In 2009, the star shot up in brightness to become over 1 million times more luminous than our sun for several months. But then it seemed to vanish, as seen in the right panel image from 2015. A small amount of infrared light has been detected from where the star used to be. This radiation probably comes from debris falling onto a black hole. The black hole is located 22 million light-years away in the spiral galaxy NGC 6946.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and C. Kochanek (OSU)

He leads a team of astronomers who published their latest results in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Among the galaxies they've been watching is NGC 6946, a spiral galaxy 22 million light-years away that is nicknamed the "Fireworks Galaxy" because supernovae frequently happen there — indeed, SN 2017eaw, discovered on May 14th, is shining near maximum brightness now. Starting in 2009, one particular star, named N6946-BH1, began to brighten weakly. By 2015, it appeared to have winked out of existence.

After the LBT survey for failed supernovas turned up the star, astronomers aimed the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to see if it was still there but merely dimmed. They also used Spitzer to search for any infrared radiation emanating from the spot. That would have been a sign that the star was still present, but perhaps just hidden behind a dust cloud.

five images showing the sequence of a supernova
The doomed star, named N6946-BH1, was 25 times as massive as our sun. It began to brighten weakly in 2009. But, by 2015, it appeared to have winked out of existence. By a careful process of elimination, based on observations researchers eventually concluded that the star must have become a black hole. This may be the fate for extremely massive stars in the universe.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and P. Jeffries (STScI)

All the tests came up negative. The star was no longer there. By a careful process of elimination, the researchers eventually concluded that the star must have become a black hole.

It's too early in the project to know for sure how often stars experience massive fails, but Scott Adams, a former Ohio State student who recently earned his doctorate doing this work, was able to make a preliminary estimate.

"N6946-BH1 is the only likely failed supernova that we found in the first seven years of our survey. During this period, six normal supernovae have occurred within the galaxies we've been monitoring, suggesting that 10 to 30 percent of massive stars die as failed supernovae," he said.

"This is just the fraction that would explain the very problem that motivated us to start the survey, that is, that there are fewer observed supernovae than should be occurring if all massive stars die that way."

To study co-author Krzysztof Stanek, the really interesting part of the discovery is the implications it holds for the origins of very massive black holes — the kind that the LIGO experiment detected via gravitational waves. (LIGO is the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.)

It doesn't necessarily make sense, said Stanek, professor of astronomy at Ohio State, that a massive star could undergo a supernova — a process which entails blowing off much of its outer layers — and still have enough mass left over to form a massive black hole on the scale of those that LIGO detected.

"I suspect it's much easier to make a very massive black hole if there is no supernova," he concluded.

Adams is now an astrophysicist at Caltech. Other co-authors were Ohio State doctoral student Jill Gerke and University of Oklahoma astronomer Xinyu Dai. Their research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

The Large Binocular Telescope is an international collaboration among institutions in the United Sates, Italy and Germany.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

Source: This article was published nasa.gov

Categorized in Science & Tech

The Cassini spacecraft, which has been observing the Saturn system from up close since 2004, gave us yet another ringside view of an event that had never been directly seen before. It recorded the northern summer solstice on Saturn, which happens once about every 15 Earth years, and the associated changes that happen on the gas giant, its rings, and moons

The giant storm that formed a ring around the planet’s northern hemisphere from late 2010 to 2011 was one of the most remarkable features observed by Cassini during its Solstice Mission. Another observation was that of hazes forming in the far north during the Saturn spring, leading to the disappearance of bluer hues in that region of the planet.

SaturnStorm
SaturnStorm

During its seven-year Solstice Mission, Cassini watched as a huge storm erupted and encircled Saturn. Scientists think storms like this are related, in part, to seasonal effects of sunlight on Saturn's atmosphere. Photo: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The formation of the hazes was found to be linked to the seasonal changes in temperature and chemical composition of the planet’s upper atmosphere. Some compounds in those parts of the atmosphere were seen to react quickly to the changing amount of sunlight as Saturn and its many companions went along their orbit around the sun. The changes were also found to be sudden, instead of gradual shifts, and occurring at specific latitudes in the planet’s layered atmosphere.

“Eventually a whole hemisphere undergoes change, but it gets there by these jumps at specific latitude bands at different times in the season,” Robert West, a Cassini imaging team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement Thursday.

SaturnSolstice

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn’s north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

Large-scale seasonal changes were also seen on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Some methane clouds have begun to appear in the moon’s northern hemisphere since 2010, when Cassini saw giant storms around the equator, having moved there from around the south pole, where the spacecraft had seen them on its arrival in 2004. Scientists had expected the shift to the northern hemisphere to have started much longer ago.

A sudden, rapid buildup of trace hydrocarbons and haze — previously seen only in the high northern regions of Titan — was observed by Cassini in 2013 in the moon’s south, suggesting a seasonal reversal of direction for Titan’s atmospheric circulation.

“Observations of how the locations of cloud activity change and how long such changes take to give us important information about the workings of Titan’s atmosphere and also its surface, as rainfall and wind patterns change with the seasons too,” Elizabeth Turtle, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said.

Titan

Following Saturnian equinox in 2009, Cassini observed cloud activity on Titan shift from southern latitudes toward the equator, and eventually to the high north. Such observations have provided evidence of seasonal shifts in Titan's weather systems. Photo: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The observations of Enceladus, Saturn’s icy moon with a global subsurface ocean, also changed due to the solstice. As the moon’s southern half sunk into the winter darkness, Cassini could monitor the internal heat emanating from within Enceladus, without any interference by the heat from the sun.

As the planet moved toward the solstice, the position of the gradually became higher in relation to the angle of the rings, allowing more light to penetrate into them and heating them to the warmest temperatures recorded by Cassini.

The light allowed Cassini to better observe how the particles of Saturn’s rings clump together and the differences in the properties of the particles that make up the different rings. As the angle of the rings changed, it also allowed for the spacecraft’s radio signals to pass more easily and cleanly through the densest of the rings, allowing scientists on Earth to capture high-quality data about the ring particles.

SaturnCRing

Various regions of Saturn's C ring, with varying degrees of brightness, can be seen in this image captured by the Cassini spacecraft, Jan. 9, 2017. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

“During Cassini’s Solstice Mission, we have witnessed — up close for the first time — an entire season at Saturn. The Saturn system undergoes dramatic transitions from winter to summer, and thanks to Cassini, we had a ringside seat,” Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL, said in the statement.

Observing the solstice and the seasonal changes in the Saturn system was one of the primary objectives for the spacecraft’s Solstice Mission — the name given to Cassini’s second extended mission that began in 2010. The first extended mission, from 2008 to 2010, was called the Equinox Mission.

Cassini is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. During its ongoing Grande Finale Mission, the spacecraft is making 22 dives through Saturn’s rings, one every week, till Sept. 15. On that day, Cassini will plunge into the gas giant’s atmosphere and burn up, bringing the mission to an end. Its fate has been planned to avoid possible contamination of Enceladus, which may be potentially habitable.

Source: This article was published ca.news.yahoo.com By Himanshu Goenka

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Preliminary results suggest that Jupiter may have winds at all levels creating movement.

Jupiter's atmosphere features colossal cyclones and rivers of ammonia welling up from deep inside the solar system's largest planet, researchers said on Thursday, publishing the first insights from a NASA spacecraft flying around the gas giant.

The cyclones were discovered as the Juno spacecraft made the first of at least 12 planned close encounters with Jupiter, which scientists believe set the stage for the development of Earth and other planets in the solar system.

Juno found cyclones as big as 870 miles (1,400 km) in diameter swirling over Jupiter's north and south poles, the research published in this week's issue of the journal Science shows.

The spacecraft also detected an ammonia belt extending from the top of the atmosphere to hundreds of miles into Juno's interior, as far down as Juno's instruments can see. Outside the band, Juno found other features in the atmosphere, rather than the expected homogeneous mix of gas.

"Jupiter is surprising us in almost every way," lead researcher Scott Bolton, with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said in a phone interview. "We're seeing hints that it is pretty exotic."

Preliminary results suggest that Jupiter may have winds at all levels creating movement, an unanticipated finding, he added.

Scientists expected Jupiter, which is more than 11 times the diameter of Earth, to be fairly uniform beneath its clouds. But "it doesn't look like its rotating like a solid body," Bolton said.

The findings released on Thursday were based on data collected when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 km) around Jupiter's poles on Aug. 27.

During Juno's next flyby on July 11, the spacecraft will pass directly over the planet's Great Red Spot, a massive storm south of the equator that has existed for centuries.

Scientists hope to learn how the storm maintains itself and if a mass of material underlies the churning clouds.

Juno is expected to continue its highly elliptical orbit around Jupiter for months, swooping close every 53 days to map the planet's interior so scientists can learn more about how and where Jupiter formed.

Like the sun, the gas giant is mostly hydrogen and helium, but it also has carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other elements, as well as organics and gases. Scientists hope that learning more about Jupiter's evolution will illuminate how Earth – and possibly other planets – were supplied with the ingredients for life.

Source: This article was published deccanchronicle.com

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What does fast food have to do with interstellar travel? At first blush, not much. But halfway through the film, “The Founder,” on a grueling, recent ten hour flight, it hit me that aerospace, even NASA, might learn something from McDonald’s corporation founding CEO Ray Kroc.

Three years before Sputnik, Kroc was a frustrated milkshake mixer salesman eating at a never-ending string of low-rent drive-ins. The fact that none of them appeared interested in his mixers was secondary to the fact that even with waitresses on roller skates, the food was slow to appear. Likewise, in our quest to send humans and massive payloads over interplanetary distances and beyond, aerospace is arguably still stuck in what in food service terms might be seen as the drive-in era, circa 1954.

Then in a change of fate, that would forever revolutionize the way the world eats, Kroc made the long drive from Illinois to San Bernardino, California to see why a small hamburger joint would need ten of his mixers. What Kroc found spurred the kind of eureka moment that would enable him to franchise the McDonald’s ‘Speedee’ delivery system in a way that would create what the world now commonly terms fast food.

The RS-25 engine, which successfully powered the space shuttle, is being modified for NASA’s Space Launch System. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne via NASA

Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne via NASA

The RS-25 engine, which successfully powered the space shuttle, is being modified for NASA’s Space Launch System. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne via NASA

Likewise, we need to ask ourselves where are the breakthroughs that will make hypersonic spaceplanes and crewed interplanetary transfer vehicles as common as fast food outlets at an interstate interchange?

Maybe the answer lies in rethinking chemical propulsion altogether and investing time and more energy into nuclear, ion, or laser propulsion.

But what aerospace really needs is a Ray Kroc McDonald’s moment that will allow for revolutionary propulsion mechanics to be economically replicated en masse. It wasn’t until Kroc and associates found a way to fundamentally change the way he thought about his business model that the brand became the behemoth that we know today.

Funding independent initiatives such as the Tau Zero Foundation will help. Its goal is dedicated to finding breakthrough propulsion technologies for interstellar flight, in particular. The Foundation recently reported that NASA awarded it a $500,000 grant for a three year “interstellar propulsion review.” The aim, says the Foundation, is to “create an interstellar work breakdown structure tailored to the divergent challenges and potentially disruptive prospects of interstellar flight.”

To date, however, the three biggest problems with crewed interplanetary space flight remain:

--- The cost of getting beyond Earth. That’s one reason the Saturn V launcher, which ferried the Apollo astronauts to the Moon and back, and NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) remain so few and far between.

--- How to efficiently shield the crew from lethal radiation without adding onerous payload mass to the spacecraft.

--- How to speed up interplanetary transfer to make travel within our own solar system and beyond tenable over human lifetimes.

This last one is a known unknown and if solved, there would be more of a clamor to adequately address the first two.

Bottom line?

Although in the film, Kroc attributes his success to tireless persistence, he appears to also have been obsessed with the idea that it was his patriotic duty to provide America and the world with reasonably-priced hamburgers at unheard of speeds. With all due respect to this new crop of space entrepreneurs, the current aerospace community needs to find and nurture a generation of Ray Krocs.

Here’s hoping someone credible out there among us is thinking about how to dramatically democratize breakthrough propulsion technologies.

Source: This article was published forbes.com By Bruce Dorminey

Categorized in Science & Tech

Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.

The concept

The Oxyde is a spacecraft/space module designed to carry robots to the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. It would also be used to pull smaller asteroids back closer to the Earth and Moon and could house engineers in charge of mining operations.


The background

Travelling within our solar system will probably become a possibility in the next 50 years. The next logical step will be to mine rare metals in space – if the numbers add up.

How will we do this? Will we develop multipurpose vehicles for this task? That’s the idea behind the Oxyde concept.

The Oxyde would fly into space by riding on top of a super heavy lift-launch vehicle.
The Oxyde would fly into space by riding on top of a super heavy lift-launch vehicle.

How it works

The Oxyde would be designed to carry humanoid robots into space. (See Robonaut 2by NASA.) It would not, however, be engineered to re-enter our atmosphere. It would fly out into space by riding on top of a super heavy-lift launch vehicle and remain there for the duration of its useful life.

The first Oxyde would be equipped with a chemical rocket powerful enough to reach the asteroid belt and bring back a small asteroid. Once it reached its destination, robonauts would exit the spacecraft and begin to survey and select suitable asteroids to mine.

Pulling an asteroid back to Earth will not be an easy task.The mass of the targeted asteroids would be limited by the thrust and fuel available on the Oxyde for the return trip. However, it would also be possible to send fuel to the surveying team once a candidate is selected.

Once the Oxyde is back near the moon, it could enter a lunar orbit with the asteroid and mining operations could begin.

At this point, a crew of human engineers could take their places aboard the Oxyde and live there to supervise mining operations. Basically, the Oxyde would become a space module for the mining crew.

The Oxyde would allow mining to take place in space, a necessary financial incentive for colonizing the solar system.
The Oxyde would allow mining to take place in space, a financial incentive to colonize the solar system.

What it’s used for

Would you like humans to colonize the solar system one day? If the answer is yes, then there will need to be a financial incentive, and mining is probably one of the best ones to attract investors. Of course, the cost will still be astronomical ($100-million (U.S.) for each launch, plus the spacecraft, preparation, etc.). There are thousands of unanswered questions, but this concept was meant first and foremost to continue the discussion around space mining .

The designer

I would like to thank Martin Rico for creating the images of the Oxyde concept. Rico lives near Buenos Aires and studied design at the University of Buenos Aires and now works as a freelance industrial designer. He also designed the Seataci Yacht concept and the Sutton and Maui snowboard and surfboard mobile rental units.

Source: This article was published theglobeandmail By CHARLES BOMBARDIER

Categorized in Science & Tech
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