Space Probe Has Close Encounter With Giant Asteroid
The European Space Agency's Rosetta comet chasing spacecraft flew within 1,900 miles of the 83 mile wide Lutetia asteroid to obtain a close look at the mysterious object.
Scientists have been puzzled by the composition of Lutetia, which is named after the Latin name for Paris, since it was discovered 150 years ago.
They hope to be able to tell whether Lutetia, which is currently around more than 282 million miles from Earth, is either a primitive form of asteroid made of rock and carbon or a metallic one.
The information gleaned by Rosetta during its fleeting fly-by will provide scientists with new information about what giant asteroids are made of how the solar system formed.
They also hope to obtain new information about the treat such asteroids may pose to the Earth and allow them to develop strategies that might be able to divert them from a collision course. Continue at Space Probe Has Close Encounter With Giant Asteroid
King Arthur's Round Table (sort of) Found
His is among the most enduring legends in our island’s history.
King Arthur, the gallant warrior who gathered his knights around the Round Table at Camelot and rallied Christian Britons against the invading pagan Saxons, has always been an enigma.
But now historians believe they have uncovered the precise location of Arthur’s stronghold, finally solving the riddle of whether the Round Table really existed.
And far from pinpointing a piece of furniture, they claim the ‘table’ was in fact the circular space inside a former Roman amphitheatre.
The experts believe that Camelot could in fact have been Chester Amphitheatre, a huge stone-and-wood structure capable of holding up to 10,000 people.
They say that Arthur would have reinforced the building’s 40ft walls to create an imposing and well fortified base.
The king’s regional noblemen would have sat in the central arena’s front row, with lower-ranked subjects in the outer stone benches.
Arthur has been the subject of much historical debate, but many scholars believe him to have been a 5th or 6th Century leader.
The legend links him to 12 major battles fought over 40 years from the Scottish Borders to the West Country. One of the principal victories was said to have been at Chester.
Rather than create a purpose-built Camelot, historian Chris Gidlow says Arthur would have logically chosen a structure left by the Romans.
‘The first accounts of the Round Table show that it was nothing like a dining table but was a venue for upwards of 1,000 people at a time,’ he said.
‘And we know that one of Arthur’s two main battles was fought at a town referred to as the City of the Legions. There were only two places with this title. One was St Albans, but the location of the other has remained a mystery.’
Researchers, who will reveal their evidence in a television documentary this month, say the recent discovery at the amphitheatre of an execution stone and a wooden memorial to Christian martyrs suggests the missing city is Chester.
Mr Gidlow said: ‘In the 6th Century, a monk named Gildas, who wrote the earliest account of Arthur’s life, referred both to the City of the Legions and to a martyr’s shrine within it.
'That is the clincher. The discovery of the shrine within the amphitheatre means that Chester was the site of Arthur’s court – and his legendary Round Table.’
NOTE: I've always been an enthusiast of the Arthur legends...even got the opportunity to see Richard Harris perform 'Camelot' live on stage. How much of the legend is really fact? Hard to say...but it is an everlasting tale with a lot of history intertwined within it. Modern portrayals are somewhat fanciful towards the original story but I did enjoy John Boorman's 'Excalibur' (especially the lovely and beautiful Helen Mirren as 'Morgana') as well as Antoine Fuqua's lavish 'King Arthur' (with Clive Owen as 'Arthur' and Keira Knightly as 'Guinevere'). I do recommend both films if you enjoy cinematic fantasy and violence...Lon
Michael Jackson Wanted Surgeons To Make Pet Chimp 'Bubbles' Talk
Michael Jackson spent thousands of dollars trying to get throat specialists to make his chimp Bubbles speak. The singer, who died in June last year aged 50, pestered surgeons for four years for advice on how he could achieve his dream of having a conversation with his primate friend.
His sister La Toya said: "Michael was always wanting to know how to make Bubbles speak and talk. They definitely communicated. One morning Michael called me and said 'You have got to see this - he mimics everything I do.' He wanted to give him vocal chords and asked doctors 'Can I given him an operation so I know what his thoughts are'."
But the plan was dashed because surgeons said Bubbles might not survive the surgery. Bubbles was Jackson's constant companion during the mid-eighties often sharing his bed and even going along on the star's 1987 Bad World tour.
But Jackson had to give the chimp, which is now 26 years old, to a monkey sanctuary in 1988 because he had become too big.
NASA Running Out of Plutonium-238
discovery - NASA is running low on plutonium, an issue that is causing growing concern for future outer solar system missions. And now, the European Space Agency (ESA) has recognized the US space agency's problems in acquiring the fuel, announcing Europe has plans to start their own production to support joint NASA-ESA programs.
The isotope plutonium-238 (or Pu-238) produces a steady supply of heat that can be readily converted into electricity. Small pellets of Pu-238 (like the one shown above) are commonly found inside radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) -- the power source of spacecraft that explore space beyond the orbit of Mars. At these distances, the sun's energy is too weak to be a viable energy source for spacecraft, forcing space agencies to use the plutonium isotope.
Deep space missions such as the 1970's Pioneer and Voyager probes were all launched with RTGs attached -- Voyager 2 is still transmitting scientific data after three decades in space, proving the longevity of this energy resource. The Cassini Equinox and New Horizons missions are also equipped with RTGs, and next year's NASA Mars Science Laboratory will use Pu-238 to provide a 24/7 energy resource.
Alas, although Pu-238 isn't fissile (i.e. it can't be used to make a bomb, unlike its slightly larger isotope cousin, Pu-239), it is still radioactive and has very tight regulations surrounding its acquisition and production. Unfortunately, NASA's stockpile is running low.
The US Department of Energy no longer has the funding to restart Pu-238 production and due to a contract dispute, NASA cannot acquire it from Russia. This means that NASA now lacks the plutonium to contribute toward a planned $4.5 billion joint U.S.-Europe flagship mission to the Jovian moon Europa.
"If we close another deal with the Russians for another delivery of plutonium-238, or get domestic production restarted, there's sufficient plutonium well out past the Outer Planets Flagship Mission," said Jim Adams, deputy director of NASA's planetary science division.
The Russian government also has dwindling supplies after halting production of Pu-278, so they are pursuing a more lucrative contract with NASA -- the cause of the dispute.
If Congress denies domestic production and the Russian deadlock continues, there appears to be only one answer to the plutonium deficit: ESA.
"To see see ourselves as a serious planetary science partner on the world stage with the United States, we're building up our nuclear capability for European-built RTGs," David Southwood, ESA's director of science and robotic exploration, said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. "We are building for a pretty major capability being available in Europe in the 2020s."
Southwood also hinted that Pu-238 isn't necessarily the only fuel that can be used with RTGs. Americium-241 has the advantage of a longer half-life, meaning these pellets will fuel RTGs for longer, but at a reduced energy output. Another big drawback with swapping americium for plutonium is that americium is more hazardous.
"Plutonium-238 is an alpha emitter, and you can shield alpha particles with a piece of paper," Adams said. "It's neutrons that damage people, and americium is more a neutron emitter than plutonium-238."
Regardless of the fuel Europe decides to produce, the commencement of a nuclear energy program for space missions will have to wait for approval from ESA Council meetings in 2011 or 2014.
Whatever the outcome, it is good to see strengthening collaboration between ESA and NASA.
"Our target is to have an independent capability, which may help our American friends," Southwood added.
Fortean / Oddball News - 7/12/2010