Monday, 26 March 2018

China’s Space Station May Crash to Earth on April Fools’ Day

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Experts predict the abandoned space station, Tiangong-1, will fall back to Earth around this weekend. But the risk to anyone on the ground is almost nil.
via New York Times

Kepler Solves Mystery of Fast and Furious Explosions

Space Observatory Captures the Details of an Unusual Stellar Detonation

The universe is so huge that it's estimated that a star explodes as a supernova once every second. Astronomers capture a small fraction of these detonations because they are comparatively short-lived, like fireflies flickering on a summer evening. After skyrocketing to a sudden peak in brightness, a supernova can take weeks to slowly fade away.

For the past decade astronomers have been befuddled by a more curious "flash-in-the-pan" that pops up and then disappears in just a few days, not weeks. It's called a Fast-Evolving Luminous Transient (FELT). Only a few FELTs have been seen in telescopic sky surveys because they are so brief.

Then along came NASA's Kepler Space Telescope that caught a FELT in the act. Kepler's outstanding ability to precisely record changes in the brightness of celestial objects was designed to look for planets across our galaxy. But a great spinoff from the observatory is to go supernova hunting too.

Kelper's unique capabilities captured the properties of the blast. This allowed astronomers to exclude a range of theories about how FELTs happen, and converge on a plausible model. They conclude that the brief flash is from a vast shell of material around a supernova that abruptly lights up when the supernova blast wave crashes into it.

via Hubble - News feed

Particle detectors meet canvas

Slotting a painting into the X-ray scanner, which will analyse it at a high resolution. (Image: InsightArt s.r.o.)

Artworks are part of our cultural and historical heritage. Yet, according to the Fine Arts Expert Institute, nearly half of the artworks circulating on the market are fakes. So how can you tell if a Rembrandt painting is really a Rembrandt and if a Monet is really a Monet? Moreover, how do you make sure a painting of great value is kept in perfect condition for many generations to come? Museums, art galleries, auction houses, art restorers and other art experts may now benefit from the use of particle detectors for art authentication and restoration.

At CERN, the Medipix collaborations have been developing pixel detector readout chips since the 1990s, enabling high-resolution, high-contrast, noise-free images – making them unique for imaging applications. Medipix2, Medipix3, Timepix and Timepix3 are state-of-the-art particle imaging and detection readout chips. Now they are being used to bring about a revolutionary improvement in the field of art authentication and restoration. A new start-up company based in Prague, InsightArt s.r.o., has adopted the technology to perform spectral X-ray scans of paintings.

Bringing together scientists and art restorers, InsightArt uses these chips to perform highly detailed X-ray scans of artworks. Unlike more conventional X-ray systems used in art authentication, the InsightArt scanner produces “colour” X-rays where colours represent different materials, i.e. pigments, in a painting. Differences in materials are detected by measuring the wavelength of X-ray photons. Furthermore, by using a system with robotic arms, analysis can be expanded to sculptures and other antique objects.

It can take between ten minutes and two hours to scan a piece of art, depending on its type and size. The read-out chips work like cameras, recording images based on the number of photons that hit the pixels when the shutter is open. The result is an X-ray image with unprecedented contrast and information on X-ray wavelengths, permitting researchers to estimate the materials used to create the piece. This helps for instance to determine whether any modifications have been performed on it over time, and even whether or not it is an authentic piece. The InsightArt company is supported by the ESA-BIC business incubator in Prague.

The Medipix collaboration was initially established at CERN to adapt particle-tracking chips, which had been developed for the LHC, to imaging applications in other fields. Subsequently, these chips have found applications in a wide range of sectors including medicine, space research, education and art. They are one of the many CERN technologies available for knowledge transfer.

Read more about other CERN projects linked to cultural heritage, in the Knowledge Transfer annual report, page 18. 

via CERN: Updates for the general public

Out There: Meet Tess, Seeker of Alien Worlds

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NASA’s new spacecraft, to be launched next month, will give scientists a much clearer view of the planets orbiting stars near to us.
via New York Times

Star-forming filaments

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Space Science Image of the Week: Herschel views chaotic web of gas filaments peppered with bright star-forming hotspots in the Galactic plane
via ESA Space Science