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Earth Could Be a Lens for a Revolutionary Space Telescope



Astronomers and Earth’s environment are pure enemies. Stargazers need crisp, clear photographs of their celestial targets, whereas winds and clouds scatter and block starlight in methods that may scuttle even essentially the most cautious measurements. Minus the gentle inconvenience of missing air to breathe, many researchers would possibly in any other case choose our planet had no environment in any respect—no less than throughout their coveted observing nights at world-class telescopes. The Hubble House Telescope and different large off-world observatories can rise above the environment’s issues however at prices which can be, for lack of a greater phrase, astronomical.

Now a brand new preprint research means that removed from being a bane, Earth’s environment might develop into astronomy’s boon, serving to amplify starlight in ways in which cut back the necessity for huge (and enormously costly) telescopes on the bottom and in house. Astronomers badly want such money-saving, performance-boosting approaches as the price of constructing new state-of-the-art observatories soars to unsustainable ranges.

The obvious methods to make new discoveries are to look deeper into the heavens or to search out fainter objects—which require making ever bigger mirrors to gather as a lot starlight as doable. However that technique is quick turning into prohibitively costly as researchers clamor for higher, greater tools: the practically 25-meter Big Magellan Telescope being inbuilt Chile is anticipated to price about $1 billion, and the 6.5-meter James Webb House Telescope at the moment being prepped for launch in 2021 has a price ticket simply shy of $10 billion.

Columbia College astronomer David Kipping, writer of the paper, which can be revealed in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, says his idea might result in a “terrascope” that, at just one meter throughout, might gather as a lot mild as a 150-meter mirror. “The potential of it’s big,” Kipping says. “You can detect mountain ranges on exoplanets. You can detect the faintest sources [of light] within the universe.” A terrascope, Kipping suggests, would possibly even unveil indicators of life and even intelligence past our photo voltaic system.

The important thing to all this could be atmospheric refraction, which is the way in which mild bends because it enters Earth’s environment from house—a phenomenon you would possibly know finest as the reason for our planet’s colourful sunsets. In sure conditions, refraction can focus an enormous quantity of sunshine on a small space, erasing the necessity for an enormous construction to catch all of it. Specifically, mild from far-off sources can refract by the higher environment to kind a cone round Earth, projecting rays that come collectively at a degree barely nearer than the moon after which lengthen outward in a straight line.

An observer on that line would see a distant mild supply immediately behind Earth as a vivid ring, amplified some 22,500 occasions better than if our planet was not there to refract, Kipping estimates. “This big [of an] amplification won’t ever be achieved by [a] manufactured telescope,” says Jean Schneider, a physicist on the Paris Observatory. Constructing, launching and working a one-meter terrascope at a degree of orbital stability barely past the moon could be simple with immediately’s know-how. The one impediment, Schneider says, is funding.

Kipping will not be the primary to deliver up the idea: so-called atmospheric lensing has been mentioned since no less than 1979. “In a manner, the concept has all the time been with us,” he says. “The purpose of my paper was actually to spotlight this thrilling risk which may deserve additional consideration.”

“Whereas there are many particulars to work out, that is an instance of the modern pondering that would result in scientific breakthroughs on a finances the place taking a danger is sensible,” says Martin Elvis, a Harvard College astrophysicist who has argued for brand spanking new concepts to curb the runaway prices of cutting-edge telescopes.

A terrascope may very well be greater than only a telescope, Kipping says. Given a transmitter moderately than a detector, the signal-boosting course of is reversed: waves of sunshine journey to Earth, refract by the higher environment and refocus on the opposite aspect. The result’s a slender beam that may ship messages to different planets. As a result of different planets in our photo voltaic system even have light-refracting atmospheres, Kipping says, “you could possibly have an interplanetary communications community—an Web throughout the photo voltaic system.”

There are pitfalls. For one, Kipping’s calculations are very preliminary; they depend on simplified atmospheric fashions that don’t absolutely account for real-world variables resembling high-altitude clouds. So a terrascope’s efficiency would possibly fall nicely wanting the estimates provided in his paper. And since atmospheric refraction will solely improve the sunshine of objects exactly aligned to be immediately behind Earth as seen by a terrascope, a single machine would solely be capable of picture a small fraction of the sky. Launching a number of detectors would mitigate this drawback, however Kipping notes that doing so may also counteract the fee financial savings that make the concept so interesting.

A number of the difficulties are critical. Slava Turyshev of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says Kipping’s estimates for setting up a transparent picture are overly optimistic. Chief amongst Turyshev’s considerations is the way in which undesirable mild from Earth, the solar, the moon and even the neighborhood of a far-distant goal would intervene with imaging. Stopping such “noise” from obscuring any “sign” being acquired or transmitted by a terrascope, he says, is “very arduous, if not not possible.” One other complication is the character of refraction itself: the diploma to which mild refracts by Earth’s environment is a operate of the sunshine’s wavelength, or shade, which may simply result in scrambled footage.

Kipping agrees that, on the very least, there may be plenty of work to be executed. “Questions like this are precisely the form of factor I hope future analysis can pursue,” he says. However the terrascope’s potential could also be too good to disregard: “The thought of a 100-meter-class—and even bigger than that—telescope in house is actually tantalizing,” he says.

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Amazon Deal Opens Door to Bigger Footprint in India




AMZN -0.98%

is buying a small stake in considered one of India’s largest retailers in a deal that provides it an choice to take a a lot bigger stake after three years, underlining its curiosity in increasing its operations in Asia’s third-largest financial system.

The deal units up the retail large for a giant potential transfer into bricks-and-mortar shops in India, because it might ultimately make Amazon the most important shareholder in

Future Retail

540064 -5.67%

Initially the deal would not directly give Amazon a stake of round 3.5% in Future, which runs greater than 2,000 shops in Asia’s third-largest financial system. The agreement–subject to regulatory approval–also consists of an choice to purchase half or the entire greater than 40% stake owned by the retailer’s founding household, which incorporates Chief Govt

Kishore Biyani,

in keeping with a stock-exchange submitting.

The preliminary share buy and choice will value Amazon near $200 million, mentioned an individual conversant in the deal. It can result in instant cooperation between the 2 corporations, equivalent to Amazon utilizing Future retailers for Amazon Now grocery deliveries and Future itemizing its many clothes manufacturers and private-label items completely on Amazon, the individual mentioned.

The funding “offers a chance for us to study world tendencies in digital-payments options and launch new merchandise,” a Future Group spokesperson mentioned.

An Amazon spokesperson in India wouldn’t touch upon the announcement.

Whether or not Amazon is ready to take a much bigger stake after three years shall be depending on modifications in Indian rules, which limit some varieties of overseas direct funding in retail. Complicating issues additional, India’s states select the right way to apply overseas direct funding coverage.

Amazon is positioning itself in hopes of a guidelines change, analysts mentioned, as having a robust native associate with a lot of bodily retailers will assist it know the Indian market higher.

“I feel they’re hopeful that within the subsequent 5 years there shall be a change within the FDI guidelines,” mentioned

Satish Meena,

senior forecast analyst at Forrester Analysis. “Within the quick time period, they wish to remedy the issue of gaining access to these shops.”

Amazon’s stake in Future Retail comes from its funding arm’s acquisition of a 49% stake in Future Coupons Ltd., in keeping with the stock-exchange submitting. Future Coupons owns 7.3% of Future Retail. Future Coupons is the digital-payments arm of Future Group.

The Indian e-commerce market is about to exceed $100 billion by 2022, in keeping with a report from PwC India and the Nationwide Affiliation of Software program & Companies Corporations commerce group.

After getting outflanked by native competitors and failing to realize any important market share in China, Amazon has been among the many most bold worldwide tech corporations in India.

It has pledged to take a position greater than $5 billion within the nation and the Future deal shall be Amazon’s third funding in retail in India.

Final yr Amazon teamed up with an area private-equity agency to put money into an organization that acquired one other massive retail chain, Aditya Birla Retail Ltd., for greater than $500 million. That deal might give Amazon entry to the greater than 500 shops of the Extra chain of supermarkets and hypermarkets.

In 2017, Amazon took a 5% stake in Indian department-store chain

Buyers Cease

Simply this week it opened its largest company campus constructing globally within the southern metropolis of Hyderabad, designed to accommodate greater than 15,000 workers. The brand new facility is a “tangible dedication” to the corporate’s plans for India, Amazon India nation supervisor

Amit Agarwal

mentioned in a information launch.

The Future deal units Amazon as much as turn out to be the dominant e-commerce participant in India, analysts mentioned. It bonds it to one of many retail conglomerates with the broadest expertise with Indian shoppers and it units it up for a extra aggressive push into groceries, which account for the lion’s share of most Indians’ spending.

“We consider {that a} hybrid retail mannequin combining the digital energy of e-commerce with bodily retail’s infrastructure and repair capabilities may match finest for grocery in India,” mentioned

Morgan Stanley

in a report on the announcement. “Following this proposed transaction, we might anticipate Amazon to undertake the hybrid-retail mannequin in India.”

In the meantime the deal blocks Amazon rivals equivalent to


its Indian e-commerce website Flipkart and native gamers equivalent to Reliance Industries Ltd. from becoming a member of forces with Future.

Write to Corinne Abrams at and Eric Bellman at

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Firm, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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The Solar System’s Loneliest Planets, Revisited



On August 25, 1989, in Pasadena, Calif., NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was bustling with exercise. Scientists, reporters and even a bona fide rock star, Chuck Berry, had flocked to the power’s mission management to commemorate the second the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew shy of 5,000 kilometers above Neptune’s north pole the earlier night—marking its closest go to the ice large. “The extent of pleasure is the best I’ve ever seen right here,” Carl Sagan later mentioned on a CNN tv section.

That pleasure had been constructing for greater than a yr because the spacecraft slowly approached what’s now thought of the solar’s outermost identified planet. Day-to-day, the exhilaration grew as Voyager 2 beamed again footage—incrementally remodeling a blurry cluster of pixels right into a looming, stunning blue orb. “It bought to the purpose the place, every single day, when a brand new set of photos got here down, there could be new discoveries on the planet,” says Heidi Hammel, who was a member of Voyager 2’s imaging science crew. Hammel’s logbooks from that point are crammed along with her sketches of these photos—together with “Wow!” “Gosh!” and different exclamations scrawled within the margins. Every picture revealed an unexpectedly dynamic world—one with methane-rich clouds, violent storms bigger than Earth and planetary winds that, at greater than 2,000 kilometers per hour, are the quickest within the photo voltaic system. Even Neptune’s giant, frozen moon Triton churned with geysers and different stunning indicators of geologic exercise. “Day by day was an journey,” Hammel recollects. “It was only a exceptional time of discovery.”

However then Voyager 2 continued onward—leaving Neptune in solitude, because it had left behind our photo voltaic system’s different ice large, Uranus, after flying by it in 1986. “Our detailed information of the ice large techniques is just about frozen at the moment,” says Anne Verbiscer, a planetary scientist on the College of Virginia. After 30 years, no area company has returned to Neptune or Uranus, and the questions that Voyager 2 raised about every world stay principally unanswered. “We predict we’re so busy in area, however we’re busy at Mars,” says Candice Hansen, a scientist who was on the Voyager imaging crew through the flybys. “When you get past that, there simply aren’t that many missions which have flown out that far. There’s a lot nonetheless to study.”

Fortunately, the tides may quickly be turning. Because of a renewed curiosity from the planetary science neighborhood and lucky timing, a second mission may race towards these frigid and mysterious worlds comparatively quickly.

That’s not to say that scientists have failed to review Uranus and Neptune right here on Earth. Quite the opposite, astronomers usually swivel the mirrors of large telescopes on the bottom and in orbit towards the photo voltaic system’s outskirts to look at these faraway giants. However at such nice distances, Uranus and Neptune every seem as miniscule blobs. As such, it has taken a variety of tips to raised picture them. Scientists have shot lasers into the night time sky to sharpen their footage; they’ve studied Triton’s environment as that moon handed in entrance of a distant star; they usually have run experiments on Earth to raised comprehend the odd ice that exists inside these planets. However these efforts aren’t sufficient. “You simply can’t do the type of science from Earth that you are able to do when you’re within the setting itself,” says Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer on the SETI Institute.

The difficulty is that missions to the outer photo voltaic system, whereas doable, are removed from simple—partially as a result of they take at the least a decade. “It’s a lot simpler when you possibly can develop a mission and launch it inside two years,” says Hammel, now government vice chairman of the Affiliation of Universities for Analysis in Astronomy in Washington, D.C. “It’s inside a presidential funding cycle.” Furthermore, removed from a star, a spacecraft can not depend on solar energy and as an alternative makes use of nuclear gas—comparable to plutonium-238, which presents a gradual warmth provide that makes it a great energy supply for darkish voyages. However NASA’s acquisition of that radioisotope has lengthy been sporadic. That a lot was made painfully clear to Hansen, now a senior scientist on the Planetary Science Institute, in 2003. She was on the verge of proposing a mission to the ice giants when NASA introduced it had run out of accessible plutonium—offering the loss of life blow to her proposal. “It simply wasn’t within the playing cards,” Hansen says. “But it surely was onerous for me to let go of that, I’ve to confess.” Fortunately the hiatus didn’t final lengthy. In 2011 Congress provided the funds that allowed the Division of Power to renew plutonium manufacturing for NASA—and with it, the flexibility to as soon as once more attain for the photo voltaic system’s horizons.

NASA’s nuclear rejuvenation couldn’t arrive at a greater time. To start, there isn’t a query that such a mission would revolutionize our understanding of the outer photo voltaic system, just by advantage of voyaging there after three many years of additional technological improvement and scientific discovery. What’s extra, within the late 2020s, the planets shall be positioned so {that a} Neptune-bound spacecraft can get a gravity help from Jupiter, choosing up great pace from swinging by the enormous planet and shaving years off the journey time. Lastly, a mission to Uranus wants to achieve the world earlier than 2050 to be able to see its northern hemisphere for the primary time. (When Voyager 2 flew previous Uranus, solely the planet’s southern hemisphere was illuminated.) “I’m hopeful as a result of that places a little bit bit extra stress on NASA,” says Mark Hofstadter, a planetary scientist at JPL. “However behind my thoughts, there’s a concern that if we miss it, I’m going to overlook the boat.” Hofstadter is 56 years previous and would due to this fact be in his mid-70s when—if—a mission reaches the ice giants within the late 2030s. To him and lots of different planetary scientists on the verge of retirement, an accepted mission could be bittersweet. “I wish to joke that they’ll have to order a rocking chair and a drooling rag for me by the point we get there,” Hansen says.

Latest findings from the Kepler area telescope add additional impetus for visiting the photo voltaic system’s ice giants. Based mostly on Kepler’s survey of different planetary techniques within the Milky Approach, scientists at the moment are all however sure that ice giants—a definite, distinctive sort of world as in contrast with rocky planets and gasoline giants—are the most typical planets within the galaxy. Our grasp of how worlds are born, evolve and die will stay woefully incomplete with out intimately understanding these most considerable denizens of the Milky Approach. But the ice giants defy a lot of our most sturdy fashions of planetary formation, which counsel such worlds ought to have grown into full-fledged gasoline giants akin to Jupiter—solely they didn’t, and scientists aren’t positive why. Furthermore, scientists suppose that water within the type of ice makes up most of a typical ice large’s inside (therefore the identify), however certainty on this key element stays elusive. “We all know so little about Uranus and Neptune that to actually perceive the exoplanets and place them into context, we actually want to return and end the job for the ice giants,” says Mark Marley, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Analysis Heart who research exoplanets.

Due to that reality, there’s a groundswell of help from the exoplanet neighborhood, Marley says. Even the final Planetary Science Decadal Survey (a report that determines NASA’s exploration priorities for the approaching decade) positioned a mission to the ice giants third after one that might return samples from Mars and one to Jupiter’s moon Europa. On condition that these two higher-ranked missions at the moment are nicely underway, a voyage to the ice giants simply may float to the highest of NASA’s subsequent bucket record. Already, a crew of scientists has moved to tell the subsequent Decadal Survey, scheduled for the early 2020s, by publishing a research calling for 2 separate craft to the outer photo voltaic system. One would fly previous Uranus, sweeping inside its advanced magnetic area and doubtlessly dropping a probe into the planet’s environment, earlier than leaving to discover smaller, frozen our bodies even farther from the solar. And the opposite would orbit Neptune, finding out each the planet and the mysterious, geyser-spewing Triton.

“The problem, in fact, is that there are lots of fabulous locations to go in our photo voltaic system,” says Hammel, who admits she is biased. “However I don’t wish to return to Mars once more. I don’t wish to return to Venus once more. I don’t wish to go to a different comet. I like them, they usually’re nice science. However the place are the mysteries? The place are the unknowns? The place are the enormous query marks that we are able to’t tackle and not using a spacecraft? To me, that’s Uranus and Neptune.”

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A Business Built on Disinformation: Highlights From Our Investigation



It is probably not a family title, however few publications have had the attain, and probably the affect, in American politics as The Western Journal.

Even the right-wing publication’s viewers of greater than 36 million individuals, eclipsing lots of the nation’s largest information organizations, doesn’t know a lot concerning the firm, or who’s behind it.

In a New York Instances investigation, Nicholas Confessore and Justin Financial institution discovered that the location, which stokes outrage and curates a story through which conservatives and their values are below fixed assault, is caught in a high-stakes conflict between Silicon Valley and Washington. The positioning has struggled to keep up its viewers via Fb’s and Google’s algorithmic adjustments aimed toward lowering disinformation — actions the location’s leaders see as proof of political bias.

You’ll be able to learn the total investigation right here. However in case you have time just for the highlights, right here’s what the reporters discovered.

The publication does nearly no authentic reporting, as an alternative repackaging tales discovered elsewhere that match into right-wing narratives chosen by the location’s editors. After an editor finds a worthy story, it’s handed off to a pool of contract writers who usually have 30 minutes to put in writing a narrative. Most work remotely.

It was a mannequin that labored strikingly nicely — for some time. Within the three years ending in March, Western Journal posts on Fb earned three-quarters of a billion shares, likes and feedback, almost as many because the mixed tally of 10 main American information organizations.

However every of the tech giants started limiting its attain. Google Information blacklisted it for what it thought-about misleading enterprise practices, Apple Information adopted after saying it produced tales that promoted “views overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific neighborhood,” and Fb downgraded The Western Journal after it was repeatedly dinged on fact-checking websites.

Floyd G. Brown, who based the location, is a political activist who has chosen writing as his weapon. He started his profession with the race-baiting “Willie Horton” advert through the 1988 presidential marketing campaign, which used mug photographs of a black convicted assassin to stoke fears that the Democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis, was delicate on crime.

Within the 1990s, he peddled opposition analysis and conspiracy theories about Invoice Clinton. Within the 2000s, he helped kind a community of political motion committees that made adverts attacking Barack Obama, together with one which questioned whether or not Mr. Obama was a secret Muslim.

The corporate additionally has unusually shut ties with a pro-Trump PAC, America Preventing Again. Mr. Brown is the PAC’s chairman.

Mr. Brown’s son Patrick served as chief government of the location till he stepped down in August to take a medical depart. Early in his publishing profession, Patrick Brown initially centered on uplifting and nonpolitical tales, however finally adopted its right-wing focus.

Its leaders didn’t purchase explanations from the know-how corporations on why the publication had been downgraded or suspended, echoing the widespread criticism in conservative media that Huge Tech was biased towards them.

To deal with the adjustments, it started, within the phrases of Patrick Brown, “backing into one thing that appears extra like a conventional media firm.” It launched a corrections web page and employed copy editors with conventional journalism coaching. It eliminated hundreds of outdated tales, revealed editorial requirements and renamed its military of associated Fb pages to tie them to a single model.

It has now rebounded, however is about half of its prior dimension. Later this 12 months, the Browns will launch a smartphone app meant to sidestep the gatekeeping of Huge Tech.

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