Archive for the ‘alien life’ category: Page 9

Dec 12, 2023

Looking back on an eventful year for accelerators

Posted by in categories: alien life, particle physics

During their recent visit to CERN, Presidents Berset and Macron were given an introduction to the Laboratory by Fabiola. President Macron appeared to be really interested in the origins of the Universe, and explanations went way over time! The entourage were then whisked down to the LHC tunnel and through to the ATLAS cavern. It’s hard not be impressed, the LHC is the LHC and ATLAS is awe inspiring. What they didn’t see, however, was the near miraculous demonstration of technological prowess that underpins all of this. Taking a step back, it’s quite remarkable what we do here. One can weave a number of threads through the accelerator complex, from the chopper of Linac 4 to the PS RF system, the multi-cycling synchronisation of everything, the production of radioactive ion beams, the vacuum systems from ELENA to the LHC, the n_TOF target, stochastic cooling of antiprotons, the power converters, the magnets (from 1959 to 2023), beam instrumentation, the LHC transverse feedback system… and but wonder that it all comes together as well as it does. It’s worth reflecting on this, as we look back on another year in the life of an unparalleled collection of accelerators and facilities, a year that has been very good overall, although somewhat eventful for the LHC. Despite the sophisticated operations involved in producing the multiple beam configurations required for the down-stream machines, Linac4 maintained an impressive 98% availability, with stable running and optimal beam performance. The Proton Synchrotron Booster contributed significantly, as always, supplying beams to ISOLDE, HIE-ISOLDE and MEDICIS, as well as to the PS for the downstream users – all within tight user-dependent specifications. A large fraction of the protons at CERN are sent to ISOLDE, with 11.3e19 protons heading that way in 2023 and around 4.5e19 going on to the PS. To quote Erwin Siesling: “We (ISOLDE) had yet another very successful year, full of the usual issues and problems but with great physics results and lots of happy users!” The PS delivered beams to n_TOF, AD-ELENA, and the East Area experiments and irradiation facilities, which include CLOUD, CHARM, and IRRAD. The AD, back online since 30 July after repairs to a faulty quadrupole, compensated for the late start by extending their run to 12 November. Following optimisation, the AD achieved record intensity antiprotons for ELENA and the experiments. Throughout 2023, the SPS operated very well, with no major faults or prolonged downtimes while achieving an impressive transmission rate of about 95% to the North Area experiments with well optimised beam quality. Besides delivering beam to their regular users, work has continued in the Injectors on the high-intensity, high-brightness beams required by the HL-LHC (the primary mission of the LHC Injector Upgrade (LIU) during LS2). The injector teams have done a great job, with the LHC beams from PSB, PS and SPS meeting the LIU target beam parameters and even showing some margin to surpass the beam intensity and brightness required by HL-LHC. In the first part of the year, the LHC demonstrated outstanding luminosity performance, both peak and integrated. Operationally the teams have established impressive flexibility and sophisticated operational and system-level control. However, the excellent availability was punctuated by some singular faults – in particular, a helium leak into the insulation vacuum of the inner triplet assembly left of point 8 in the middle of July. This was a serious event, but reactivity was fantastic, and the leak repair and all that went with it were widely seen as a remarkable collaborative recovery. The adaptability of the cryogenics team was key to avoiding the need to warm up the adjacent sector. The leak, in an edge-welded bellows, was the result of a quench caused by an electrical disturbance on the grid. An availability analysis will be conducted at the Chamonix meeting in 2024 to address other potential non-conformities dating from construction. The prompt recovery enabled some special runs and the first LHC ion run in five years. Lead ions at the end of the year are always interesting, with preparation of the ion source, Linac3, and LEIR starting months before beam is sent to the PS and the downstream machines. Ions are principally destined for the North Area and the LHC. However, in the last two weeks of the four-week run, the PS provided lead ions to the East Area, where the CHIMERA facility irradiates electronics with high-energy heavy ions to study the effects of cosmic radiation on the electronics used in the CERN accelerators and experiments, as well as for space missions and avionics. In the SPS, the first operational use was made of a technique known as “momentum slip-stacking”, which involves injecting two batches of four lead-ion bunches separated by 100 nanoseconds to produce a single batch of eight lead-ion bunches separated by 50 nanoseconds, an impressive example of “RF gymnastics” and low-level RF control. In the LHC, the lead nuclei were colliding this year with an increased energy of 5.36 TeV per nucleon pair (compared to 5.02 TeV previously). A record number of bunches and high bunch intensities – thanks to the downstream machines – made for a challenging ion run. Again, with concerted effort and adaptability, the teams wrestled down the issues, delivered some record performance and paved the way for the rest of Run 3. As we look back on the year, we should bear in mind the phenomenal job that’s done in the exploitation of the complex. This is difficult stuff and it’s remarkable that it all works as well as it does. President Macron might not have seen it, but he surely sensed the spirit.

Dec 11, 2023

EU declares aim to become ‘quantum valley’ of the world

Posted by in categories: alien life, computing, internet, quantum physics

Q-day (the day when quantum computers will successfully actually break the internet) may be some time away yet. However, that does not mean that companies — and states — shouldn’t hop on the qubit bandwagon now so as not to be left behind in the race for a technology that could potentially alter how we think about life, the Universe, and well… everything.

Spurred on by a discourse that more and more revolves around the concept of “digital sovereignty,” 11 EU member states this week signed the European Declaration on Quantum Technologies.

The signatories have agreed to align, coordinate, engage, support, monitor, and all those other international collaboration verbs, on various parts of the budding quantum technology ecosystem. They include France, Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Finland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Malta, Estonia, and Spain. However, the coalition is still missing some quantum frontrunners, such as the Netherlands, Ireland, and Germany, who reportedly opted out due to the short time frame.

Dec 10, 2023

SETI Technosignatures

Posted by in category: alien life

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Dec 8, 2023

Evaluating Sampling Methods for Finding Life Beyond Earth

Posted by in categories: alien life, electronics

Can amino acids, the key building blocks of life, survive high-speed impacts from a spacecraft orbiting another world? This is what a recent study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) hopes to find out as a team of researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) conducted laboratory experiments to see if biosignature molecules identified in the plumes of Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft could survive hypervelocity impacts experienced by Cassini passing through the plumes. This study is a first-of-its-kind to investigate how extraterrestrial plumes can be analyzed and holds the potential to help researchers develop more efficient techniques for finding extraterrestrial life beyond Earth.

For the study, the researchers used the custom-built Hypervelocity Ice Grain Impact Mass Spectrometer to investigate if ice grains being shot out of Enceladus’s plumes at 800 mph (400m/s) could have survived after striking Cassinis’ detectors, which were estimated between 4 to 10.9 mi/s (6.5 to 17.5 km/s). For the tests, the team shot water through a needle at a high voltage, which caused it to break down into droplets followed by them entering a vacuum where they freeze, and the team used the spectrometer to measure the results of the grains impacting a microchannel plate detector. The results demonstrated that amino acids within ice grains could survive up to impacts of 2.6 miles per second (4.2 km/s), which the team says could serve as a baseline for sampling such plumes.

“To get an idea of what kind of life may be possible in the solar system, you want to know there hasn’t been a lot of molecular fragmentation in the sampled ice grains, so you can get that fingerprint of whatever it is that makes it a self-contained life form,” said Dr. Robert Continetti, who is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSD and a co-author on the study. “Our work shows that this is possible with the ice plumes of Enceladus.”

Dec 8, 2023

NASA unveils nuclear-powered Cryobot mission concept to hunt alien life

Posted by in categories: alien life, nuclear energy

NASA is currently investigating the feasibility of a “cryobot” probe that would drill through the ice crusts of moons such as Europa and Enceladus to directly detect liquid water and discover the possibility of life beyond Earth.

Apart from Mars, scientists are focusing their efforts on two other candidates: Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Compelling evidence indicates the potential existence of subsurface oceans beneath thick layers of water ice on these icy moons.

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Dec 4, 2023

Unlocking the Secrets of Planet Formation: First Observations with the James Webb Space Telescope

Posted by in categories: alien life, evolution, physics

Can planets form under extreme conditions, such as high levels of ultraviolet radiation? This is something a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters hopes to find out as a team of international researchers used data obtained from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as part of the eXtreme Ultraviolet Environments (XUE) JWST program to study the formation and evolution of young planetary systems. This particular study, known as XUE 1, focuses on the star cluster Pismis 24, with the team identifying some key ingredients for life as we know it.

Artist rendition of a protoplanetary disk where planets are forming around a young star. (Credit: ESO/L. Calçada)

“We find that the inner disk around XUE 1 is remarkably similar to those in nearby star-forming regions,” said Dr. Rens Waters, who is a professor of astrophysics at Radboud University in the Netherlands and a co-author on the study. “We’ve detected water and other molecules like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, and acetylene. However, the emission found was weaker than some models predicted. This might imply a small outer disk radius.”

Nov 30, 2023

NASA satellites discovered a 6-planet solar system in perfect synchrony

Posted by in categories: alien life, satellites

WATCH: TESS, NASA’s new exoplanet hunter, launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

A pair of planet-hunting satellites — NASA’s TESS and the European Space Agency’s CHEOPS— teamed up for the observations.

None of the planets in perfect synchrony are within the star’s so-called habitable zone, which means little if any likelihood of life, at least as we know it.

Nov 28, 2023

Exoplanet Haze Research: A Crucial Step in Understanding Alien Worlds

Posted by in categories: alien life, evolution

What is the weather like on water-rich exoplanets? This is something a recent study published in Nature Astronomy hopes to shed light on as a team of researchers conducted laboratory experiments to simulate how hazy skies might form on such exoplanets throughout the cosmos. Haze changes the way light reacts to various gases within a planet’s atmosphere, which alters what astronomers detect, as well. This study comes as the number of potential water-rich exoplanets continues to grow and holds the potential to help scientists better understand the conditions necessary for the formation and evolution of water-rich exoplanets, including how life might form and evolve on them, whether on their surfaces or in their atmospheres.

Artist illustration of water-rich exoplanets comprised of hazy atmospheres, which was the focus of this study. (Credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa/Johns Hopkins University)

“The big picture is whether there is life outside the solar system, but trying to answer that kind of question requires really detailed modeling of all different types, specifically in planets with lots of water,” said Dr. Sarah Hörst, who is an associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins University and a co-author on the study. “This has been a huge challenge because we just don’t have the lab work to do that, so we are trying to use these new lab techniques to get more out of the data that we’re taking in with all these big fancy telescopes.”

Nov 28, 2023

Unveiling Mercury’s Geological Mysteries: Salt Glaciers, Primordial Atmosphere, and the New Frontiers of Astrobiology

Posted by in category: alien life

Scientists from the Planetary Science Institute have uncovered evidence of potential salt glaciers on Mercury, opening a new frontier in astrobiology by revealing a volatile environment that might echo habitability conditions found in Earth’s extreme locales.

“Our finding complements other recent research showing that Pluto has nitrogen glaciers, implying that the glaciation phenomenon extends from the hottest to the coldest confines within our solar system. These locations are of pivotal importance because they identify volatile-rich exposures throughout the vastness of multiple planetary landscapes,” said Alexis Rodriguez, lead author of the paper “Mercury’s Hidden Past: Revealing a Volatile-Dominated Layer through Glacier-like Features and Chaotic Terrains” that appears in the Planetary Science Journal.

PSI scientists Deborah Domingue, Bryan Travis, Jeffrey S. Kargel, Oleg Abramov, John Weirich, Nicholas Castle and Frank Chuang are co-authors of the paper.

Nov 27, 2023

NASA is Getting the Plutonium it Needs for Future Missions

Posted by in categories: alien life, government, nuclear energy

Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) have a long history of service in space exploration. Since the first was tested in space in 1961, RTGs have gone on to be used by 31 NASA missions, including the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages (ALSEPs) delivered by the Apollo astronauts to the lunar surface. RTGs have also powered the Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, the Ulysses mission to the Sun, Galileo mission to Jupiter, and the Pioneer, Voyager, and New Horizons missions to the outer Solar System – which are currently in (or well on their way to) interstellar space.

In recent years, RTGs have allowed the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers to continue the search for evidence of past (and maybe present) life on Mars. In the coming years, these nuclear batteries will power more astrobiology missions, like the Dragonfly mission that will explore Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. In recent years, there has been concern that NASA was running low on Plutonium-238, the key component for RTGs. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently delivered a large shipment of plutonium oxide, putting it on track to realize its goal of regular production of the radioisotopic material.

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