Vesta Rules the February Dusk Skies

The brave new world of 4 Vesta snaps into focus. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Missing out on the morning planetary action?February sees all five naked eye planets in the dawn sky, though that’s about to change in March. But the good news is, now is the time to hunt for a sometimes planet, sometimes asteroid in the early evening.We’re talking about 4 Vesta. The 4th identified resident of the asteroid belt, discovered by Heinrich Olbers in 1807, Vesta made its way into many planetary listings in the 19th century before its demotion to asteroid. It then enjoyed a very brief six month resurgence as a planet in 2006 along with Ceres and Eris (nee Xena) before the International Astronomical Union demoted the lot along with Pluto to the realm of the dwarf planets.Such are the whims of the universe. 4 Vesta is actually the second largest asteroid belt member, and the brightest asteroid as seen from the Earth, shining at magnitude +5.5 near opposition—bright enough to see with the unaided eye—Vesta can be seen from a good dark sky site if you know exactly where to look for it.February 2016 sees Vesta about 50 degrees above the western horizon at sunset, right along the Cetus-Pisces border. Vesta is worth tracking down this month, as it moves south of and parallel to another solar system resident: +5.9 magnitude Uranus. Follow both Vesta and Uranus, and you can see the difference in distance between the two betrayed by their motion: Vesta covers 10 degrees through the 29 day leap month, while Uranus spans just over one degree. Vesta and Uranus are 2.9 AU and 20.5 AU away from the Earth this month, respectively. A fitting pairing with the ice giant world in the icy month of February.The waxing crescent Moon also pays the pair a visit, passing between the two —> Read More

Building the Family Tree of Humankind


I am confident that each of you has been asking himself, at least once, questions on his genetic roots. Why do I look the way I do? Where did my gene pool originate? If you have, then you will be interested in the story I am about to tell you and in what I believe to be one of the most intriguing scientific projects of all times. Skeptical? Allow me a few more paragraphs to convince you.

Evolution is one of those topics, which could entertain me for hours. I deal with the evolution of enzymes and proteins at a molecular level every day, but unfortunately, I am far less involved in conversations concerning human evolution. Nevertheless, a few months ago a friend introduced me to the

The Genographic team base their work on the observation that our genetic information, stored in the form of a code in our cells (our DNA), is passed down from generation to generation. This is the way in which we inherit our traits from our parents. The way the information is transferred is quite complex because, during the process, the parental code undergoes some random shuffling, making it difficult to track its origins backward. However, there are parts of the genetic code that are passed on as they are, without shuffling: the DNA contained in the Y chromosome for the male and the mitochondrial DNA for the female: these are the parts of the codes that the scientists in the project are interested in studying. Furthermore, every time that the parental information is given to the next generation, some “typos” (mistakes under the form of mutations, generally harmless), as Dr. Wells calls them, may occur in the code and, once they happen, they are transmitted unaltered to every future descendant. These “typos” —> Read More

NASA Unveils Orion Pressure Vessel at KSC Launching on EM-1 Moon Mission in 2018

Orion crew module pressure vessel for NASA's Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is unveiled for the first time on Feb. 3, 2016 after arrival at the agency's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. It is secured for processing in a test stand called the birdcage in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at KSC. Launch to the Moon is slated in 2018 atop the SLS rocket.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – NASA officials proudly unveiled the pressure vessel for the agency’s new Orion capsule destined to launch on the EM-1 mission to the Moon in 2018, after the vehicle arrived at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida last week aboard NASA’s unique Super Guppy aircraft.This ‘new and improved’ Orion was unloaded from the Super Guppy and moved to a test stand called the ‘birdcage’ in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at KSC where it was showcased to the media including Universe Today.Orion’s arrival at KSC truly signifies a major turning point in achieving NASA’s agency-wide goal of sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s to carry out the ‘Journey to Mars’ initiative.The Orion pressure vessel serves as the structural backbone for the spacecraft.But before it can launch engineers and technicians from NASA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin will spend the next two years meticulously installing all the systems amounting to over 100,000 components and gear required for flight.This particular ‘Lunar Orion’ crew module is intended for blastoff to the Moon in 2018 on NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) atop the agency’s mammoth new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, simultaneously under development. The pressurized crew module serves as the living quarters for the astronauts comprising up to four crew members.EM-1 itself is a ‘proving ground’ mission that will fly an unmanned Orion thousands of miles beyond the Moon, further than any human capable vehicle, and back to Earth, over the course of a three-week mission.NASA is planning the first manned flight in about three years later in 2021, depend on the budget allocation.“We are targeting the first crewed flight for around 2021 on Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2),” Mark Geyer,, deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, —> Read More

How You Can Afternoon-Nap Like a Boss



By Peter Rugg

Rich people don’t even nap the same as us plebes. While you and I struggle to shake off the foggy exhaustion weighing us down as we lurch towards 5 p.m., those wealthy sleep masters have been keeping their eyes trained on our failings with secretive siestas. No more, I say!

Enter “The Sleep Doctor“, a.k.a. Michael Breus, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, board certified in sleep disorders, and a practicing sleep specialist. If you watch Dr. Oz’s show, or you’re one of Breus’ Fortune 500 company patients, you might have seen him handing out tips on a better night’s rest. Breus gave Inverse a quick course on how to get the most our of your midday break, and the value of packing a “sleep kit.”


Now if I want the perfect nap do I …

I should stop and say a caveat here how much adenosine you have in your brain. Adenosine builds in your brain. As it builds up, it makes you feel sleepier and sleepier. It has a molecular structure almost identical to caffeine, and caffeine fits in that receptor. So it’s not that caffeine is making you not sleepy, it’s that it’s blocking the adenosine. That’s why you have the crash later as it stops blocking the receptors. And then you’re looking at a power nap, a 25- to 30-minute nap.

Is there an ideal time I should be napping?

Your brain gets signaled right around 1 p.m. and you get the urge to sleep because about that time your core body temperature is dropping. Just before you went to sleep the night before, your core temperature dropped and it signaled its brain to release melatonin. You have the exact same cycle repeat in —> Read More

Meet the Cool Satellites That NASA Will Send Into Space



By Neel V. Patel

For the past six years, NASA has been building a new launch apparatus designed to once again take us beyond Earth’s orbit, to Mars, and beyond. And in just a little more than two years, the Space Launch System will embark on its inaugural launch and separate from the Orion spacecraft, which will circle the moon and eventually return to Earth.

Accompanying Orion on that 2018 mission will be 13 small objects known as CubeSats, which illustrate what the future of space exploration and research will be: efficient, cost-effective, and taking advantage of the most innovative science and technology breakthroughs to date. NASA has finally revealed what kinds of CubeSats are hitching a ride with Orion and heading off into deep space, and they look pretty fantastic.

They represent, in the words of NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman at today’s announcement, “the synergy of where we can do science and technology.”

To review: CubeSats are basically cheap, miniature satellites that are basically as big as a shoebox, and can act as a type of multipurpose tool for all kinds of projects. The first CubeSats were launched in 2003, but they’ve exploded in popularity starting this decade, thanks to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative that provides opportunities for students and research teams from around the world to send CubeSats to the International Space Station.

Until now, CubeSats have primarily been used for educational purposes, according to Michael Seablom, chief technologist for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Even when they’ve been used as a part of scientific research, it has been in a pedestrian manner that’s non-essential to the study at large.

Seablom and others hope to change that very soon. The SLS-Orion integrated launch — set for September 2018 — is a —> Read More

What We Know About the People Who Can Remember Everything



By Yasmin Tayag

After mentally peacing out and drifting through the weekend, most of us would find it hard to recall what happened just a few days ago. People with HSAM — highly superior autobiographical memories — don’t have that problem. In fact, they’d be able to recall exactly what happened a month, a year, or even a decade ago in exact detail.

While this intensive total recall can suck for HSAM subjects — their memories of a gut-wrenching break-up or a mortifying faux pas are only made worse by the cruelly faithful emotional detail attached to them — neuroscientists think that understanding their rare condition could hold the key to memory enhancement.

As David Robson at the BBC wrote recently, people with HSAM can recall the minutiae of specific dates and times in their lives, down to the weather, the clothes they were wearing, and even the art hanging on the walls at any given moment. Having HSAM, it seems, is more than just having a photographic memory: It’s as if the brain has its own reality-TV camera crew that never stops filming — or replaying scenes.

Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), .. BBC Jan 25, 2016. fantasizing. absorption

— Richard Harper (@harpersnotes) January 31, 2016

Researchers at UC Irvine, who have spearheaded research in this field, think this strange gift can be chalked up to two factors they call “fantasy proneness” and “absorption,” two psychological measures in which people with HSAM score highly. Absorption refers to the idea that HSAM subjects are more fully immersed in daily life — they feel more, see more, hear more — and so, in a sense, are able to document their lives in HD, while the rest of us are buffering much of the —> Read More

New thin film transistor may lead to flexible devices

An engineering research team has invented a new transistor that could revolutionize thin-film electronic devices.Their findings could open the door to the development of flexible electronic devices with applications as wide-ranging as display technology to medical imaging and renewable energy production.The transistor is easily scaled and has power-handling capabilities at least 10 times greater than commercially produced thin film transistors. —> Read More

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