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NASA captures first photos of ice on Mercury with the Messenger

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NASA spacecrafts have been looking at Mercury for quite some time now, and we’ve known that the closest rock to the sun showed evidence of water ice on the planet. Mercury is the first celestial object from the Sun, so it might be a surprising fact that water ice was spotted by NASA on a planet so close to it. Nonetheless, NASA has been using radars and has recently sent the Messenger spacecraft to do some recon around Mercury, and the spacecraft has successfully sent back photographic documentation to the Space Agency.

The Messenger has been able to take shots of the water ice NASA has been talking about on the surface of Mercury. The Messenger creeped into the Prokofiev crater on Mercury, where NASA thought it would be optimal for the spacecraft to snap photos of the North Pole of Mercury. While the photos made public by NASA will probably look like something unidentifiable to the average eye, we assure you that those who occupy themselves with outer space more than half their time find the new images more than useful. These photographs will be further analyzed by NASA and its geologists and specialists, so that they can form a comprehensive image about Mercury and how the water ice got on the surface.

The Messenger probe was sent out by NASA with the specific purpose of collecting data about Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. The Messenger has been gathering data about Mercury for the past 3 years, and has finally managed to get some photos of the Prokofiev crater. NASA has found out that the Prokofiev crater is one of the places on Mercury that is completely devoid of light. The NASA Messenger flies at a 28 mile distance from the Sun, and can also observe solar flares and the solar neutrons they create. The Messenger is one of the most advanced pieces of technology developed by NASA and it carries all kinds of detectors and machinery so that it can accurately monitor the outer space environment, as well as send all that data back to NASA headquarters for analysis.

As part of the editorial team here at Geekreply, John spends a lot of his time making sure each article is up to snuff. That said, he also occasionally pens articles on the latest in Geek culture. From Gaming to Science, expect the latest news fast from John and team.

Space Exploration

What is the current number of satellites in orbit?

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We need space to live in the modern world. The satellites that fly above us help us communicate and find our exact location. They also keep us safe by predicting the weather and doing many other studies, such as keeping an eye on wildfires, floods, ice, and pollutants that are released into the atmosphere.

However, the number of satellites has (pardon the pun) gone through the roof in the past few years, which has changed what is going on in space. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) says that as of today, June 11, there are 11,780 satellites in orbit around Earth. Most of them are ready to go and are in low-Earth orbit.

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The geostationary orbit (GEO) is 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles) above the equator of the Earth. It is also called the geosynchronous orbit. As it moves around the Earth at the same speed as the Earth’s spin, the satellite will stay in the same place on the surface of the planet. There are 552 satellites there right now. Satellites that send messages and watch the weather are often put in GEO.

Then there is medium-Earth orbit (MEO), which is a huge area that goes from up to 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) above the Earth. These are great places for navigation satellite systems like Galileo, GLONASS, the Global Positioning System, and BeiDou to be based. At the moment, 199 satellites are in this orbit, but some internet service providers in space are thinking about moving here.

That’s because low-Earth orbit (LEO) is getting crowded. LEO has 8,110 satellites right now, and 6,050 of them are from SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation. The project from Elon Musk’s company wants to get to almost 12,000 satellites, which is twice as many as they are now. It could grow to 34,400 satellites, which is even more.

In low Earth orbit (LEO), putting up so many satellites is causing a lot of worry. One big worry is how it’s changing the night sky, both for advanced astronomy and just for the sake of light pollution, even in places where there are no other lights.

The huge growth of space junk is the other worry. There’s no doubt that space is huge, but interesting and useful orbits are only a small part of it. Satellites’ orbits need to be changed all the time, which means that some of them will cross paths. What do you do when the satellites stop working, though? That kind of thing is found in almost 3,000 places! Their orbits will keep changing, but we won’t be able to stop them (though some countermeasures have been suggested).

A crash in space could mean that things are going to get worse. Because a piece of space junk breaking apart turns into a swarm of space junk, collisions lead to more collisions. Scientists are worried that we might reach a state called Kessler syndrome, in which the number of collisions and space junk increases very quickly. In this case, whole areas of space close to Earth could become dangerous to travel through.

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There is finally a “alien” signal from Mars that has been decoded after a year

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A little more than a year ago, the stars sent a message to everyone on Earth with a challenge: decode it. Daniela de Paulis, who is an Artist in Residence at the SETI Institute, made the message. The goal was to fake an alien signal, and even though it was made on Earth, it really did come from another world.

The project, called A Sign in Space, was sent from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of the European Space Agency on May 24 at 7 p.m. UTC. The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the Green Bank Observatory, the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station, and the Allen Telescope Array of the SETI Institute all picked it up 16 minutes later. Over 4,000 people from all over the world joined the search to figure out what the message meant.

On June 7, the right answer was finally given to De Paulis by a father and daughter named John and Sarah (made-up names). They looked at the encrypted message because they thought it might be related to the cellular automaton, which is a well-known way to model computation. A well-known example of this model is Conway’s Game of Life.

Pixels can be “alive” or “dead” in this model, and they change based on certain rules. The model can create complicated situations that develop from simple rules. It was used to find something meaningful in a message that seemed to be made up of only ones and zeros (alive or dead pixels).

They used the Unity game engine to change the message 6,625 times so that it could be understood.

It was a picture of five amino acids, as it turned out.

Blocks with various numbers of pixels display these crucial molecules for life. Eight is for oxygen, one is for hydrogen, six is for carbon, seven is for nitrogen, and so on.

This is not the end of the science-art experiment. De Paulis planned the challenge as a way to show what people will have to go through if they receive a signal from aliens. People will understand what communication is in the first place, which is what John and Sarah did. The next step is to figure out what the signal means. Just why are these five amino acids important?

De Paulis is extending an invitation to additional individuals to join the Discord server, which serves as a central platform for deciphering and discussing the signal. Since the previous year, there have been more than 54,000 messages pertaining to the project. The project team anticipates the participation of additional individuals to join the existing thousands in engaging in discussions, expressing opinions, and suggesting potential interpretations of the extraterrestrial signal.

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Space Exploration

The concept of gravity without mass offers a novel explanation for the inability to detect dark matter

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A novel hypothesis posits that the nonexistence of dark matter is the reason behind our inability to detect it. Contrarily, the author believes that our comprehension of gravity has been flawed. While others have previously proposed similar ideas, the latest suggestion of gravity without mass, generated by topological imperfections in space-time, is notably innovative.

The concept of dark matter was initially introduced in 1932, following the observation that the movement of galaxies aligns with the presence of additional mass beyond what can be accounted for by stars and gas alone. What began as a small number of unexpected measurements has developed and grown significantly. Concise explanations, such as the underestimation of star populations, have unequivocally proven to be unsuccessful.

Various hypotheses have been put up regarding the composition of dark matter, ranging from primordial black holes to subatomic particles. Thus far, our search has yielded no discoveries, except for rogue planets and star mass black holes, which alone can only explain a small portion, less than one percent, of the missing matter.

This has prompted certain physicists to question whether our understanding is fundamentally flawed. It is possible that dark matter does not exist, and instead, gravity operates in a manner that differs from our current understanding on bigger sizes. One variant of this concept, referred to as Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), has garnered much interest. However, it has found greater favor among online commentators than among physicists, who typically view it as highly unlikely.

Professor Richard Lieu from the University of Alabama at Huntsville has entered this issue with his unique interpretation of gravity, suggesting that it can exist independently of mass. If his assertion is accurate, it would significantly challenge the current understanding of cosmology and render the pursuit of dark matter a misguided distraction in the scientific progress, akin to the historical concept of phlogiston. Nevertheless, there is still a considerable distance to be covered before it is widely seen as credible, much alone probable.

Lieu suggests that space-time experienced the formation of topological faults shortly after the occurrence of the Big Bang.

“Topological effects refer to highly condensed areas in space that contain a significant amount of matter. These regions are typically in the form of linear structures called cosmic strings, although spherical shells are also a possible configuration,” stated Lieu.

The paper shells I have contain a thin inner layer with positive mass and a thin outer layer with negative mass. The combined mass of both layers, which is the only measurable mass, is precisely zero. However, when a star is positioned on this shell, it encounters a significant gravitational force that pulls it towards the center of the shell.

The force in this scenario would have a magnitude proportional to the reciprocal of the distance, rather than the reciprocal of the square of the distance as described by Newton’s equation of gravity. The practical feasibility of this concept remains unverified, however, Lieu asserts that it is mathematically sound.

Lieu suggests that as light traverses a gravitational lens, such as a galaxy, it is deflected inward because to its interaction with these shells. The degree of bending would be indiscernible from that which would result from increased gravitational force. Similarly, this applies to the orbital motions of a star around the central mass of a galaxy.

According to Lieu, if an alternate process is found for both of these phenomena, it would make dark matter redundant, as they form the foundation of our belief in its existence.

Conversely, the concept of shells with positive and negative mass on opposite sides is equally unverified, and it is even more challenging to rationalize their existence.

Lieu suggests that the emergence of these imperfections was linked to a “cosmological phase transition” during the early stages of the universe, where matter experienced a state change throughout the entire cosmos.

“I was inspired by my personal quest to find an alternative solution to the gravitational field equations of general relativity,” Lieu stated. This phenomenon can provide a gravitational pull that is finite even when there is no visible mass present.

Lieu’s proposition necessitates multiple elements for which we lack explicit substantiation, in contrast to the singular requirement associated with dark matter. The researcher acknowledges that the specific type of phase transition in the cosmos that could lead to these types of topological flaws is still uncertain.

He has proposed other potential actions, such as the hypothesis that the shells were formerly planes or straight strings that subsequently became coiled. However, at now, the situation appears to be very improvised, resembling the ad hoc nature of the epicycles employed by Ptolemaic astronomers to elucidate the planetary orbits.

However, in support of his argument, Lieu could argue that the concept is so novel that no one has yet been actively seeking appropriate proof. However, a significant amount of money and the most brilliant intellects of our time have been dedicated to the fruitless quest for dark matter.

“I am motivated by my frustration with the current situation, specifically the belief in the existence of dark matter without any direct evidence for the past hundred years,” Lieu stated.

“While the presence of a second solution, although highly suggestive, is not enough to disprove the dark matter hypothesis, it may only serve as an intriguing mathematical exercise,” Lieu said. “However, this is the initial evidence that gravity can exist in the absence of mass.”

The idea has been published in the scientific journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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