Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mars Rover Self-Portrait Shoot Uses Arm Choreography



On the 84th and 85th Martian days of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity's mission on Mars (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture dozens of high-resolution images to be combined into self-portrait images of the rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS  
The robotic arm on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity held the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera in more than 50 positions in one day to generate a single scene combining all the images, creating a high-resolution, full-color portrait of the rover itself.

A larger version of the previously released self-portrait is now available online, along with an animation video showing how it was taken, and a practice self-portrait taken earlier by Curiosity's test-rover double on Earth.
The animation video at:http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=156880341depicts how the rover moved its robotic arm on Oct. 31 to record the component images that would be combined into the self-portrait. The same software that rover planners use when designing the rover's moves was used to generate the animation.
The arm movements were practiced on Earth first, using the closest double that exists for Curiosity, the Vehicle System Test Bed rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The rover team typically uses that rover to test maneuvers before they are tried by Curiosity. The Vehicle System Test Bed's self-portrait, from the engineering model of MAHLI on that rover, is at:http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16458 .
MAHLI is mounted on a turret at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm. The arm is not visible in the portrait because the arm was positioned out of the shot in the images or portions of images used in the mosaic. Some images taken during the day show portions of the arm. However, the Martian ground that the arm hides from view in those images is visible in alternative images chosen for the mosaic, taking the arm out of the scene.
During a two-year prime mission, researchers are using Curiosity's 10 science instruments to assess whether the study area in Gale Crater ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates MAHLI. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

NASA'S Hubble Provides First Census of Galaxies Near Cosmic Dawn



This new image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) 2012 campaign reveals a previously unseen population of seven faraway galaxies, which are observed as they appeared in a period 350 million to 600 million years after the big bang. Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (Caltech), and the UDF 2012 Team
 Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have uncovered a previously unseen population of seven primitive galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 4 percent of its present age. The deepest images to date from Hubble yield the first statistically robust sample of galaxies that tells how abundant they were close to the era when galaxies first formed.


The results are from an ambitious Hubble survey of an intensively studied patch of sky known as the Ultra Deep Field (UDF). In the 2012 campaign, called UDF12, a team of astronomers led by Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC 3) to peer deeper into space in near-infrared light than any previous Hubble observation.

The observations were made during six weeks in August and September, and the first scientific results now are appearing in a series of scientific papers. The UDF12 team is releasing these unique data to the public after preparing them for other research groups to use.

The results show a smooth decline in the number of galaxies looking back in time to about 450 million years after the big bang. The observations support the idea galaxies assembled continuously over time and also may have provided enough radiation to reheat, or re-ionize, the universe a few hundred million years after the theorized big bang.

Looking deeper into the universe also means peering further back in time. The universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old. The newly discovered galaxies are seen as they looked 350 to 600 million years after the big bang. Their light is just arriving at Earth now.

Astronomers study the distant universe in near-infrared light because the expansion of space stretches ultraviolet and visible light from galaxies into infrared wavelengths, a phenomenon called "redshift." The more distant a galaxy, the higher its redshift.

The greater depth of the new Hubble images, together with a carefully designed survey strategy, allows this work to go further than previous studies, thereby providing what researchers say is the first reliable census of this epoch. Notably, one of the galaxies may be a distance record breaker, observed 380 million years after the birth of our universe in the big bang, corresponding to a redshift of 11.9.

A major goal of the new program was to determine how rapidly the number of galaxies increases over time in the early universe. This measure is the key evidence for how quickly galaxies build up their constituent stars.

"Our study has taken the subject forward in two ways," Ellis explained. "First, we have used Hubble to make longer exposures. The added depth is essential to reliably probe the early period of cosmic history. Second, we have used Hubble's available color filters very effectively to more precisely measure galaxy distances."

The team estimated the galaxy distances by studying their colors through a carefully chosen set of four filters at specific near-infrared wavelengths. "We added one filter, and undertook much deeper exposures in some filters than in earlier work, in order to convincingly reject the possibility that some of our galaxies might be foreground objects," said team member James Dunlop of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Astronomers have long debated whether hot stars in such early galaxies could have provided enough radiation to warm the cold hydrogen that formed soon after the big bang. This process, called "re-ionization," is thought to have occurred 200 million to 1 billion years after the birth of the universe. This process made the universe transparent to light, allowing astronomers to look far back into time. The galaxies in the new study are seen in this early epoch.

"Our data confirm re-ionization was a gradual process, occurring over several hundred million years, with galaxies slowly building up their stars and chemical elements," said Brant Robertson of the University of Arizona in Tucson. "There wasn’t a single dramatic moment when galaxies formed. It was a gradual process."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

NASA Mars Rover Fully Analyzes First Soil Samples



This is a view of the third (left) and fourth (right) trenches made by the 1.6-inch-wide (4-centimeter-wide) scoop on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity in October 2012. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS 
 NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover.
Detection of the substances during this early phase of the mission demonstrates the laboratory's capability to analyze diverse soil and rock samples over the next two years. Scientists also have been verifying the capabilities of the rover's instruments.
Curiosity is the first Mars rover able to scoop soil into analytical instruments. The specific soil sample came from a drift of windblown dust and sand called "Rocknest." The site lies in a relatively flat part of Gale Crater still miles away from the rover's main destination on the slope of a mountain called Mount Sharp. The rover's laboratory includes the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. SAM used three methods to analyze gases given off from the dusty sand when it was heated in a tiny oven. One class of substances SAM checks for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life.
"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Curiosity's APXS instrument and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover's arm confirmed Rocknest has chemical-element composition and textural appearance similar to sites visited by earlier NASA Mars rovers Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity.
Curiosity's team selected Rocknest as the first scooping site because it has fine sand particles suited for scrubbing interior surfaces of the arm's sample-handling chambers. Sand was vibrated inside the chambers to remove residue from Earth. MAHLI close-up images of Rocknest show a dust-coated crust one or two sand grains thick, covering dark, finer sand.
"Active drifts on Mars look darker on the surface," said MAHLI Principal Investigator Ken Edgett, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. "This is an older drift that has had time to be inactive, letting the crust form and dust accumulate on it."
CheMin's examination of Rocknest samples found the composition is about half common volcanic minerals and half non-crystalline materials such as glass. SAM added information about ingredients present in much lower concentrations and about ratios of isotopes. Isotopes are different forms of the same element and can provide clues about environmental changes. The water seen by SAM does not mean the drift was wet. Water molecules bound to grains of sand or dust are not unusual, but the quantity seen was higher than anticipated.
SAM tentatively identified the oxygen and chlorine compound perchlorate. This is a reactive chemical previously found in arctic Martian soil by NASA's Phoenix Lander. Reactions with other chemicals heated in SAM formed chlorinated methane compounds -- one-carbon organics that were detected by the instrument. The chlorine is of Martian origin, but it is possible the carbon may be of Earth origin, carried by Curiosity and detected by SAM's high sensitivity design.
"We used almost every part of our science payload examining this drift," said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The synergies of the instruments and richness of the data sets give us great promise for using them at the mission's main science destination on Mount Sharp."
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, a division of Caltech, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and built Curiosity.

Friday, December 21, 2012

From Cassini for the Holidays: A Splendor Seldom Seen


NASA's Cassini spacecraft has delivered a glorious view of Saturn, taken while the spacecraft was in Saturn's shadow. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute  


 Just in time for the holidays, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn for more than eight years now, has delivered another glorious, backlit view of the planet Saturn and its rings.
On Oct. 17, 2012, during its 174th orbit around the gas giant, Cassini was deliberately positioned within Saturn's shadow, a perfect location from which to look in the direction of the sun and take a backlit view of the rings and the dark side of the planet. Looking back towards the sun is a geometry referred to by planetary scientists as "high solar phase;" near the center of your target's shadow is the highest phase possible. This is a very scientifically advantageous and coveted viewing position, as it can reveal details about both the rings and atmosphere that cannot be seen in lower solar phase.
The last time Cassini had such an unusual perspective on Saturn and its rings, at sufficient distance and with sufficient time to make a full system mosaic, occurred in September 2006, when it captured a mosaic, processed to look like natural color, entitled "In Saturn's Shadow." In that mosaic, planet Earth put in a special appearance, making "In Saturn's Shadow" one of the most popular Cassini images to date.
The mosaic being released today by the mission and the imaging team, in celebration of the 2012 holiday season, does not contain Earth; along with the sun, our planet is hidden behind Saturn. However, it was taken when Cassini was closer to Saturn and therefore shows more detail in the rings than the one taken in 2006.
The new processed mosaic, composed of 60 images taken in the violet, visible and near infrared part of the spectrum, can be found at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini , http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://ciclops.org .
"Of all the many glorious images we have received from Saturn, none are more strikingly unusual than those taken from Saturn's shadow," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini's imaging team lead based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the U.S., England, France and Germany. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mobile Internet for iPad vs. Laptops



An important first step with any Apple device is figuring out your wireless Internet situation forstreaming media. The obvious trend is toward a heavy focus on mobile Internet capability, and you can get that with both laptops and iPads.
Wi-Fi networks typically give you Internet service in a well-defined area (i.e. a house, apartment, office, or school). Mobile Internet, on the other hand, lets you get online in more places, without seeking out Wi-Fi networks. So whether you’re in a hotel, a restaurant, or a friend’s house, you’ll still have Internet access on your devices.
Today we’ll give you a quick breakdown of the different ways to access mobile Internet on
your new iPad or Macbook. Particularly with the recent release of the iPad Mini, it’s an important time to understand the differences.
Mobile Internet for your iPad
Whether you have an iPad Mini, an iPad 2, or an iPad with Retina Display, you’re likely interested in the mobile Internet capabilities of your new device. All three can connect to a Wi-Fi network, and are mobile-ready in some way.
The iPad with Retina Display (iPad 3)and the new iPad Mini both offer Wi-Fi and cellular data options. That means you can sign up through a cellular provider (Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint), and your iPad can access the Internet in the same way as your smartphone. So, whenever you have cell service, you have Internet service on your iPad as well. This feature costs extra, however, and cellular data can be turned on and off at any point .Both of these devices are compatible with any 3G or 4G network that your carrier may offer.
The iPad 2 does not have 4G internet capability, but it is compatible with Verizon and AT&T’s 3G netwoarks. If you sign up via one of those two providers, you’ll have 3G access wherever it’s available. Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase an external USB or mobile hotspot device to access mobile Internet.
Mobile Internet on your laptop
None of Apple’s laptops currently have built-in mobile broadband capability, and thus require an external device. Wireless Internet companies like CLEAR offer devices that give you access to 4G Internet while you’re on the go. CLEAR is MAC compatible, making it a great option for mobile Internet on your laptop.
Why should I sign up for a mobile Internet plan?
Even if your laptop or tablet already has Wi-Fi capability, adding a mobile Internet plan can still be a great idea. A strong mobile Internet service gives you a lot of flexibility for where you can get online. On top of that, mobile Internet plans are affordable and have small, easy-to-use devices.
If you choose a Wi-Fi only tablet, you can always add mobile capabilities through CLEAR or another provider. This can actually be a good way to save money up front, while still giving yourself the freedom to upgrade later.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nokia taps into China Mobile gold mine with Lumia 920T

It's looking to foster growth and interest in Windows Phone in China, one of its most important markets.

The Nokia Lumia 920T.
(Credit: Nokia)

Nokia said today that it would launch a variant of its flagship smartphone, the Lumia 920, specifically for China Mobile.
The Lumia 920T will be the first Windows Phone to run on China Mobile's TD-SCDMA network. The phone is expected to hit the market by the end of the year and sell for 4,599 yuan (about $740).
This latest Nokia phone is important because it should allow the company to tap into China Mobile's more than 700 million customers -- the largest subscriber base in the world. China is an increasingly important market as Nokia hopes to regain its footing in the smartphone market.
The announcement comes after Nokia unveiled the low-end Lumia 620 earlier today.
The Lumia 920T is largely a clone of thLumia 920. It boasts many of the same features, including the PureView camera with "floating lens technology," a super-sensitive display, and wireless charging capabilities.
Nokia also struck a partnership with Air China to put wireless charging stations at the airline's Beijing Airport VIP lounges, and struck a deal with retailer Jiepang to deliver deals at several outlets through the use of NFC (near-field communication) technology. Nokia has been working to get more wireless charging stations at retailers, including Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the U.S.
In addition, the company launched the Nokia Experience and Innovation Center in an effort to support local developers and entrepreneurs looking to develop applications and drive interest in the Windows Phone platform.
"People around the world are responding positively to the new Lumia devices, and we're confident that the enthusiasm will extend to China with the Lumia 920T," Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said in a statement.

911 text messaging service coming in 2014




M
ost 911 centers can't receive text messages. But that doesn't always stop people from texting the familiar number in an emergency, not knowing their pleas for help won't be seen.
A new initiative announced Friday will finally bring the 20-year-old SMS texting technology to emergency centers across the country in the coming years.
The top four wireless carriers in the U.S. have agreed to speed up their efforts to support text-to-911 capabilities, making it available by May 15, 2014, according to a statement from the Federal Communications Commission released Friday.
"Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century -- and today, we are one step closer towards that vital goal" said FCC chairman Julius Genachowsk.
Once the carriers are set up, local emergency response centers will still need the proper equipment, software and training, so the feature won't be available instantly. However, eventually the carriers and FCC hope to provide 90% of the population with text-to-911 features. The service will not support third-party texting apps or roaming users.
In the meantime, the carriers will implement a much-needed alert message warning anyone who sends a text to 911 that their message was not received, and that they should make a phone call instead. That auto-reply system will be up and running by June 30, 2013.
The carriers will handle support for texting until the national next-generation 911 service is completed in the next decade. Most 911 systems are managed locally, but the next-generation 911 project is a national push to update the systems to handle modern communications, including calls over the Internet, images and photos.
One-third of the estimated 240 million calls to 911 are from wireless lines. Current systems do support the modern technology -- for example, some can pinpoint what tower a call was routed through to determine a caller's location -- but SMS text support has been more difficult.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Apple iPad mini



Apple today introduced iPad mini, a thinner, lighter iPad design that fits in one hand. It features a stunning 7.9-inch Multi-Touch display, FaceTime HD and iSight cameras, ultrafast wireless performance, and 10 hours of battery life. Apple today also announced the fourth-generation iPad featuring a 9.7-inch Retina display, new Apple-designed A6X chip, ultrafast wireless, and the new Lightning connector. iPad mini with Wi-Fi starts at $329 (U.S.), and the fourth-generation iPad with Wi-Fi starts at $499 (U.S.).








Everything you love about iPad — the beautiful screen, fast and fluid performance, FaceTime and iSight cameras, thousands of amazing apps, 10-hour battery life* — is everything you’ll love about iPad mini, too. And you can hold it in one hand.




Colors are vivid and text is sharp on the iPad mini display. But what really makes it stand out is its size. At 7.9 inches, it’s perfectly sized to deliver an experience every bit as big as iPad.


Right from the start, apps made for iPad also work with iPad mini. They’re immersive, full-screen apps that let you do almost anything you can imagine. And they make iPad mini practically impossible to put down.





With advanced Wi‑Fi that’s up to twice as fast as any previous-generation iPad and access to fast cellular data networks around the world, iPad mini lets you download content, stream video, and browse the web at amazing speeds.






With the new A6X chip, FaceTime HD camera, blazing-fast dual-band Wi-Fi, and access to even more cellular data networks around the world, iPad with Retina display is twice as fast and capable of so much more than you ever imagined.








Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Little Telescope Spies Gigantic Galaxy Clusters



A galaxy cluster 7.7 billion light-years away has been discovered using infrared data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/WIYN/Subaru 

Our solar system, with its colorful collection of planets, asteroids and comets, is a fleck in the grander cosmos. Hundreds of billions of solar systems are thought to reside in our Milky Way galaxy, which is itself just a drop in a sea of galaxies.
The rarest and largest of galaxy groupings, called galaxy clusters, can be the hardest to find. That's where NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) can help. The mission's all-sky infrared maps have revealed one distant galaxy cluster and are expected to uncover thousands more.
These massive structures are collections of up to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. They were born out of seeds of matter formed in the very early universe, and grew rapidly by a process called inflation.
"One of the key questions in cosmology is how did the first bumps and wiggles in the distribution of matter in our universe rapidly evolve into the massive structures of galaxies we see today," said Anthony Gonzalez of University of Florida, Gainesville, who led the research program. The results are published in the Astrophysical Journal.
"By uncovering the most massive of galaxy clusters billions of light-years away with WISE, we can test theories of the universe's early inflation period."
WISE completed its all-sky survey in 2011, after surveying the entire sky twice at infrared wavelengths. The 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope ran out of its coolant as expected in 2010, but went on to complete the second sky scan using two of its four infrared channels, which still functioned without coolant. At that time, the goal of the mission extension was to hunt for more near-Earth asteroids via a project called NEOWISE.
NASA has since funded the WISE team to combine all that data, allowing astronomers to study everything from nearby stars to distant galaxies. These next-generation all-sky images, part of a new project called "AllWISE," will be significantly more sensitive than those previously released, and will be publicly available in late 2013.
Gonzalez and his team plan to use the enhanced WISE data to hunt for more massive galaxy clusters. The first one they spotted, MOO J2342.0+1301, is located more than 7 billion light-years away, or halfway back to the time of the Big Bang. It is hundreds of times more massive than our Milky Way.
By scanning the whole sky with the improved AllWISE data, the team will sleuth out the true monsters of the bunch, clusters as big as thousands of times the mass of the Milky Way, assembled even earlier in the history of the universe.
Galaxy clusters from the first half of the universe are hard to find because they are so far away and because not very many had time to assemble by then. What's more, they are especially hard to see using visible-light telescopes: light that left these faraway structures in visible wavelengths has been stretched into longer, infrared wavelengths due to the expansion of space. WISE can hunt some of these rare colossal structures down because it scanned the whole sky in infrared light.
"I had pretty much written off using WISE to find distant galaxy clusters because we had to reduce the telescope diameter to only 16 inches [40 centimeters] to stay within our cost guidelines, so I am thrilled that we can find them after all," said Peter Eisenhardt, the WISE project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. and an author of the new paper. "The longer exposures from AllWISE open the door wide to see the most massive structures forming in the distant universe."
Other projects planned for the enhanced WISE data include the search for nearby, hidden cool stars, including those with masses as low as planets. If a large planet or tiny star does exist close to our solar system, an object some call "Tyche," then WISE's infrared data may reveal it.
Other authors of the new study are: Daniel Gettings and Conor Mancone of the University of Florida; Adam Stanford of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif., and University of California, Davis; Mark Brodwin of University of Missouri, Kansas City; Daniel Stern of JPL; Gregory Zeimann of University of California, Davis; Frank Masci of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; Casey Papovich of Texas A&M University, College Station; Ichi Tanaka of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan; and Edward (Ned) Wright of UCLA.
JPL manages, and operated, WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Edward Wright is the principal investigator and is at UCLA. The mission was selected competitively under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Apple uses U.S.-made 'engine' for iPhone, iPad


The single most important internal component for the iPhone and iPad is already manufactured in the U.S.
Apple gets key chips for the iPad from U.S.-based manufacturing sources.


Key chips for the iPhone and iPad are being made in the U.S. -- future U.S.-made Macs, asdisclosed today, notwithstanding.
This year, CEO Tim Cook has been talking about U.S. manufacturing more than usual. Partly to counter Apple's largely make-it-in-China strategy but also because of U.S. manufacturing strengths.
The same essential points he made in a Bloomberg interview today he made back in May.
To wit: "It's not known well that the engine for the iPhone and iPad is made in the U.S., and many of these are also exported.... The glass is made in Kentucky," he said today to Bloomberg.

Making the "engine" -- essentially the Apple A5 and A6 chips -- is something the U.S. excels at. Intel fabricates the engines for the Mac and PC industry at multibillion-dollar "fabs" (or fabrication facilities) in the U.S. And Globalfoundries and IBM make processors on a smaller scale in New York.
In Apple's case, the A5 and A6 processors are made in Texas (by Samsung presumably, though Apple has never confirmed this).
And it's no mistake that Apple wants this high-end, high-tech production in the U.S. Processor tech is arguably the single most important thing inside the iPad and iPhone. That's why Apple has taken control of the design and has spent millions of dollars acquiring companies to get that expertise.
And it's also no mistake that Apple has been talking to Intel about manufacturing future Apple chips. Indeed, it makes sense to hook up the world's premier device company with the world's premier chipmaker.
That, along with more U.S.-based Mac assembly, could make Apple's production footprint in the U.S. a lot bigger than it has been in a long time.