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Our Galaxy Likely Contains Many Planets Made Mostly of Diamond

For the first time in human history, we’re regularly identifying planets outside of our solar system and even identifying traits.

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(TMU) –  We’re in the Golden Age (likely the first of many different phases) of discovering exoplanets. For the first time in human history, we’re regularly identifying planets outside of our solar system and even identifying traits – atmospheric and core composition – that tell us which of these worlds are Earth-like.

Scientists are also discovering exoplanets that are decidedly not Earth-like and some of them are truly mind-boggling. In fact, last year NASA devoted a Halloween-themed video and webpage to showcase some of the more extreme new planets they’ve discovered.

These include: “hellscape” planet HD 189733 b, whose winds reach 5,400mph and contain “torrential rains of glass blowing sideways”; the three “zombie worlds” circling pulsar star PSR B1257+12, which flash “sickly irradiated auroras” that might be beautiful were they not extremely deadly to any organic life; Kepler-70b (a.k.a. KOI-55), which at 12,000 degrees F (6,800 C), is one of the hottest planets known to humans; and TrEs-2b, whose surface is less reflective than coal, meaning the extreme darkness of this world would be broken only by a faint Sauron-like burning in a sky that is the temperature of lava.

As sinister and exotic as these planets sound, it’s good to know that there are other worlds out there that, while not hospitable to humans, are shimmering with potential.

Astronomers and geophysicists now believe that a significant number of exoplanets in our galaxy and others could be made primarily of diamond. They base this on the fact that stars contain different proportions of elements and between 12 and 17 percent of planets are likely located around carbon-rich stars. As a contrast, our star is relatively low-carbon and in the early solar system that affected the composition of the planets orbiting it.

Researchers believe that a high-carbon star whose orbiting bodies contain less carbon will produce worlds comprised mostly of silicon carbide. Using lab experiments that tested temperatures up to 2,500 Kelvin and pressures of 50 gigapascals, they concluded that all that would be necessary to produce these almost incomprehensible alien diamond worlds would be oxidization from water caused by sufficient heat and pressure. The resulting density of silicon carbide would stifle any geologic activity.

Geophysicist Harrison Allen-Sutter said, “These exoplanets are unlike anything in our Solar System.”

He added: “This is one additional step in helping us understand and characterise our ever-increasing and improving observations of exoplanets. The more we learn, the better we’ll be able to interpret new data from upcoming future missions like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope to understand the worlds beyond on our own Solar System.”

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will deploy next years, will catalyze a new era of exoplanet exploration. Using infrared technology, the transit method, and state of the art spectroscopy, the telescope’s powers of magnification and spectrum analysis will allow scientists to search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of alien worlds.

Perhaps a question to consider now is how far into the future we will have to go to see diamond-mining interstellar missions sponsored by De Beers.

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News

Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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News

Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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