4 comments on “This Week in Science (July 3 – 10)

  • Newly-Discovered Planet Has 3 Suns

    @ link – “For about half of the planet’s orbit, which lasts 550 Earth-years, three stars are visible in the sky, the fainter two always much closer together, and changing in apparent separation from the brightest star throughout the year,” said Kevin Wagner, a doctoral student in Apai’s research group and the paper’s first author, who discovered HD 131399Ab. “For much of the planet’s year the stars appear close together, giving it a familiar night-side and day-side with a unique triple-sunset and sunrise each day. As the planet orbits and the stars grow farther apart each day, they reach a point where the setting of one coincides with the rising of the other – at which point the planet is in near-constant daytime for about one-quarter of its orbit, or roughly 140 Earth-years.”

    This is an interesting widely spaced solar-system structure, with a large planet distantly orbiting the large “central” star in a centuries long orbit, and what are in effect two smaller binary stars closely orbiting each other, with the pair of stars orbiting the central star at an even greater distance than the planet, way outside the orbit of the planet HD 131399Ab.

    This observation, helps to improve the understanding, that there are diverse forms of planetary systems.

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  • @ #2

    Cool, resembles a non-colored enhanced deep field Hubble photo.

    My stove light, reflecting off black smooth surface, brings to mind final minutes of ‘2010’, i.e., double suns.

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  • Now that the political foot-draggers have approved some funding, the potential green future of air-transport can proceed!


    The £60m UK government investment in the “revolutionary” Sabre rocket engine concept has finally started to flow.

    The company behind the power unit said at the Farnborough International Air Show that this would now enable it to push ahead with a new demonstrator.

    Sabre burns hydrogen like a rocket motor but in air drawn from the atmosphere, just like a jet.

    Reaction Engines Ltd foresees the technology being used to propel future space planes and hypersonic airliners.

    Farnborough witnessed the signing of an £8m (€10m) contract between REL and the European Space Agency, which will result in Esa keeping its role as the “technical auditor” on the project.

    Its propulsion experts have in the past been asked to maintain an independent assessment of the progress of Sabre, whilst also making some contributions to its design.

    The oversight will now continue as REL moves towards the construction of its scaled, ground-based demonstrator. This is supposed to be the last phase in the development of Sabre before it can become a commercial proposition.

    “We are moving forward in a significant way on technology development that is revolutionary in terms of space transportation,” said Franco Ongaro, Esa’s director of technical and quality management.

    “The contract we sign today will take us to a Preliminary Design Review in 2018 and we’re looking for a demonstrator to be tested on the ground in 2020.”

    The UK government’s £60m commitment to the Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) was announced back in July 2013 at the UK Space Conference. Getting the funding released has taken far longer than anyone thought. The first tranche came in March. The Esa involvement will also be paid out of the £60m.

    Part of the reason for the delay was the need to win a state aid, fair competition ruling from the European Commission. Another reason lay in agreeing the complex terms of what will be a “grant”, not a “loan”.

    Further tranches will now come to REL provided certain milestones are achieved, but additional private investment is also still required to implement the demonstrator programme in full.

    I hope brexit is not going to hamper this enterprise!

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