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Mysteries of Ultima Thule unravelled by NASA’s New Horizons

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LOS ANGELES: New Horizons mission team of NASA yesterday (Monday 18th March)  unraveled mysteries of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) nicknamed Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever explored by mankind.
New Horizons performed the farthest flyby in history at 12:33 a.m. EST (0533 GMT) on New Year’s Day, as it approached Ultima Thule within 2,200 miles (about 3,540 km) of the surface at a velocity of 31,500 miles (about 50,694 km) per hour. Analyzing the data New Horizons has been sending home since the flyby, mission scientists are learning more about the formation, geology, and composition of this ancient relic of solar system formation, said a NASA release.
Ultima Thule is the first unquestionably primordial contact binary ever explored, said the mission team. Approach pictures of Ultima Thule hinted at a strange, snowman-like shape for the binary, but further analysis of images taken near closest approach uncovered the object’s unusual shape. Ultima Thule consists of a large and flat lobe (nicknamed “Ultima”) connected to a smaller and rounder lobe (nicknamed “Thule”).
“We’ve never seen anything like this anywhere in the solar system,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern. “It is sending the planetary science community back to the drawing board to understand how planetesimals – the building blocks of the planets – form.” Scientists believe Ultima Thule’s two lobes once orbited each other, like many so-called binary worlds in the Kuiper Belt, until something brought them together in a “gentle” merger. The “neck” connecting Ultima and Thule is bent, and could indicate shearing as the lobes combined, said Kirby Runyon, a New Horizons science team member.
In terms of color and composition, Ultima Thule is very red – redder even than Pluto, which New Horizons flew past on the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt in 2015, and about the same color as many other so-called “cold classical” KBOs, said the team. New Horizons scientists have also seen evidence for methanol, water ice and organic molecules on the surface. Currently, the New Horizons spacecraft is 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth, operating normally and speeding deeper into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 33,000 miles (53,000 kilometers) per hour.

 

 

 

 

 

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World’s highest operating weather stations installed on Mt. Everest

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ISLAMABAD: The National Geographic Society has announced the successful installation of the worlds highest operating weather stations on Mount Everest to provide researchers, climbers, and the public with near real-time information about mountain conditions, the media reported.
“The multi-disciplinary team installed the world’s two highest operating automated weather stations at Balcony area (8,430 m) and South Col (7,945 m), as well as three other weather stations on Mount Everest,” Fae Jencks, Director, Marketing and Communications at the National Geographic Society, said in a statement.
The other stations were placed at Phortse (3,810 m), Everest Base Camp (5,315 m) and Camp II (6,464 m), the statement said, adding that each weather station will record data on temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction, The Himalayan Times reported.
Data from the weather stations and other new research conducted as part of National Geographic and Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition to Everest will help communities respond to climate risks that threaten the lives and livelihoods of the more than one billion people in the region.
The successful installation aims to break new ground in our monitoring and understanding of climate change as the stations will help continuously monitor the upper reaches of the atmosphere, which is critical to tracking and predicting weather patterns around the globe, the statement added.
“The Balcony weather station is the first weather station installed at an elevation above 8,000 meters, meaning it will also be the first to sample the stratosphere as natural variations in the atmospheric boundaries change over time.”
From April to June, an international team of scientists, climbers, and story-tellers, led by the NatGeo Society and Tribhuvan University and supported in partnership with Rolex, conducted a scientific expedition to Everest, believed to be the most comprehensive single scientific expedition to the mountain in history, it claimed.
With team members from eight countries, including 17 Nepali researchers, the expedition team conducted trailblazing research in five areas of science that are critical to understanding environmental changes and their impacts: biology, glaciology, meteorology, geology, and mapping.

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Instagram, PlayStation hit with outages

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Instagram PlayStation hit with outages

SAN FRANCISCO: An Instagram outage on Thursday left users of the Facebook-owned social network flocking to Twitter to vent frustration.

The website DownDetector.com showed a spike in reports of Instagram being unavailable in the afternoon, nearly hitting 54,000 before diving back down.

“Earlier today, a technical issue caused some people to have trouble accessing their Instagram accounts. We are now fully recovered and apologize for the inconvenience,” an Instagram spokesperson said in a statement.

The company did not elaborate on the cause or extent of the outage.

People using the #instagram hashtag on Twitter posted that attempts to access the service on mobile apps or computers had been met with messages such as “couldn’t refresh feed” or “something went wrong.”

Along with complaints and animated gifs playing on the inconvenience, some offered words of wisdom.

“Imagine if Instagram and social media closed every day at 6 pm like a shop,” read a tweet from the account of @stevebartlettsc.

“We would all be forced to meet up and speak to each other in real life, to be present with our families, to work out, to go outside, to read, to make art, music… eurghhh, nevermind.”

Meanwhile, some gamers trying to access the PlayStation network on Thursday were also met with error messages.

“We’re aware that some users are experiencing issues logging into PSN. Thank you for your patience as we investigate,” the official Ask PlayStation Twitter account said.

According to DownDetector.com, the outages were concentrated in northern Europe and Britain, as well as in several parts of the United States and Brazil.

 

 

 

 

 

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Facebook says CEO did not ignore personal data issues

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Facebook says CEO did not ignore personal data issues

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not knowingly violate an agreement with the regulator supervising the company’s management of users’ personal data, the social media giant said Wednesday as it addressed an issue that has been under federal investigation for the past year.

Facebook was required to provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with emails, some from 2012, suggesting that Zuckerberg was personally aware of but neglected to address the fact that external applications had access to massive amounts of personal data without Facebook users’ knowledge, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper added that it did not have access to the documents but that anonymous sources had described their contents.

“We have fully cooperated with the FTC’s investigation to date and provided tens of thousands of documents, emails and files,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

“At no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company’s obligations under the FTC consent order nor do any emails exist that indicate they did.”

The FTC reopened investigations into whether Facebook violated a 2011 settlement with the regulator on protecting user data following revelations last year that personal data from tens of millions of users was hijacked by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica as it worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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