Sunday, April 16, 2017

DeeDee, the Solar System’s Newest Dwarf Planet

Astronomers first caught sight of DeeDee in 2014 using the Blanco telescope in Chile. Those initial observations allowed scientists to learn a lot about the distant world. For instance, the object takes 1,100 earth years to orbit the sun in an elliptical orbit that brings it as close as 38 astronomical units (the distance of the earth to the sun) and as far as 180 AUs. Currently it sits some 92 AUs from the sun. They recently described DeeDee in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

But the Blanco observations couldn’t tell researchers just how big DeeDee is—and whether it is a sphere, which is necessary for it to qualify as a dwarf planet. That’s why researchers pointed the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) at DeeDee, which is able to detect the heat cold objects emit into space.

The data suggests that DeeDee is about 394 miles in diameter, making it about two-thirds the size of the dwarf planet Ceres located in the asteroid belt. That size also means DeeDee should have enough mass to take on a spherical shape, which would qualify it as a dwarf planet. Even so, it has not officially earned that status yet.

It’s unlikely DeeDee is the only undiscovered dwarf planet hiding in the space beyond Neptune, says David Gerdes, researcher at the University of Michigan and lead author of the paper. There could be thousands out there.

“Far beyond Pluto is a region surprisingly rich with planetary bodies. Some are quite small but others have sizes to rival Pluto, and could possibly be much larger,” Gerdes says in a press release about the find. “Because these objects are so distant and dim, it’s incredibly difficult to even detect them, let alone study them in any detail. ALMA, however, has unique capabilities that enabled us to learn exciting details about these distant worlds.”

Dwarf planets aren’t the only celestial bodies still hiding in our Solar System. Some scientists suspect that another planet, dubbed Planet 9, is lurking on the edge of our solar system. So whether or not DeeDee makes the dwarf planet cut, there are still many more worlds just waiting to be found.

Monday, April 10, 2017

We’re about to take our first ever photo of a black hole

Black holes are staples of science fiction films  but we have never actually seen one.

Recently scientists switched on a global array of telescopes with the aim of imaging a supermassive black hole for the first time.

The Event Horizon Telescope will run from April 5 until April 14 – and could deliver an image as early as this year.

Gopal Narayanan at the University of Massachusetts said, ‘These are the observations that will help us to sort through all the wild theories about black holes. And there are many wild theories.

‘With data from this project, we will understand things about black holes that we have never understood before.

The Event Horizon Telescope will turn our entire planet into a radio dish – using computer power to ‘fill in the gaps’ as huge radio dishes all over the planet ‘tune in’ to the supermassive black hole.

‘There’s great excitement,’ project leader Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics told the BBC.

‘We’re going to make the observations that we think have the first real chance of bringing a black hole’s event horizon into focus.’

The scientists hope that the radio telescopes will capture the event horizon – the point beyond which nothing can escape from the black hole, not even light.

It will look like a ring of bright light around a dark blob, they believe – although the black hole is 26,000 light years from Earth, so it’s the size of a pinprick in the night sky.

The scientists describe the project as like ‘trying to photograph a grapefruit on the moon’.

Future Google Pixel phones could have curved screens

Like it or not, the next big thing in smartphones appears to be putting edge displays in flagships. Samsung has been ahead of the curve  ever since the 2014 Galaxy Note Edge.

Google is willing to invest $880 million in LG Display to secure OLED displays for its next flagship phone. However, one little detail is of particular interest: the OLED panels Google wants are, in fact, of the flexible variety, meaning there's more than a fair chance a successor to the Pixel could sport a curved-edge display.

A few things to note, however: firstly, while Google has expressed interest in this investment, nothing is actually set in stone, as LG is said to just be considering the proposal for now, meaning there's a significant chance of the deal not going through. Also, an investment does not mean placing a manufacturing order, though having the power to call dibs on OLED panels is the most obvious benefit Google will get out of this partnership. Lastly, seeing as the Pixel was released almost half a year ago, it's safe to say that Google is currently underway in prototyping a potential successor. In other words, even if curved screens do actually come to the Pixel line, it's extremely unlikely they'll do so in time for the Pixel 2's release.

Still, considering the current smartphone market climate, curved screens are a hot commodity – the Galaxy S8 was a statement from Samsung, which has now doubled down on the technology, and other device makers now seem to be following suit. Most notably, we've been hearing rumors of the iPhone 8 sporting one as well, so it's no surprise Google would also want to enter the race as soon as possible, before the market gets overcrowded with copycats.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Microsoft bans emulators on Xbox, Windows 10 shops

Microsoft has officially begun encouraging Windows 10 users to download and install the Creators Edition patch, and that has been met with an update to the Windows Store's rules. Among other policy changes is one that went into effect almost immediately: a ban on emulators.
An affected developer was notified of the change on Tuesday when its product, Universal Emulator, was delisted from the Windows Store. While no proof of a letter or notice from Microsoft was published, the developers at NESBox linked to relevant changes in the Windows Store application rules, dated March 29, which now include this line: "Apps that emulate a game system are not allowed on any device family."

This list of general Windows Store rules, written for developers, received a massive update to its "Gaming and Xbox" requirements; these used to contain only one sentence, and it referred hopeful Windows Store game developers to the ID@Xbox program. That existing program requires pre-approval by Microsoft, but developers will soon be able to publish their games directly to both Xbox and Windows 10 marketplaces by paying a one-time fee of $100 or less as part of the Xbox Live Creators Program. (The biggest catch is that these games must run in Universal Windows Platform [UWP] mode.)
Games in the new program will be approved in a less stringent, App Store-styled manner and sectioned off in a "creators" sub-category. They will have to abide by Windows Store rules, whose new gaming-specific section has 11 subcategories. The emulation-related one is cut-and-dry, without any references to other possible use cases. Running open-sourced, homebrew software on Xbox One using console emulators is now out of the question.
Some game makers and license holders may want to emulate consoles to port older games to Xbox One, but this rule might prohibit that path. Also, the rule's phrasing doesn't answer whether all computer and device emulation will be banned from the Windows Store. (Maybe we want to emulate AppleWorks on our Xbox One consoles. Why? Because it integrates word processing, electronic filing, and spreadsheets, duh.)
Otherwise, this formally ties a bow on the selective bans that Microsoft doled out to Xbox-compatible game console emulators last year. And just to clarify: this rule applies to "apps that are primarily gaming experiences or target Xbox One." Thus, there's no Windows 10 loophole for emulation listings within the Windows Store.
The creators of the free Universal Emulator were quick to explain how they'd deal with the delisting: "This means nothing for the [Web] browser version, it doesn't depend on 'stores.'"

Gibraltar - Jabal Ṭāriq - Who owns it?

The name Gibraltar is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning "Mountain of Tariq". It refers to the Rock of Gibraltar, which was named after the Umayyad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who led the initial incursion into Iberia in advance of the main Umayyad force in 711 under the command of Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I.

Earlier, it was known as Mons Calpe, a name of Phoenician origin.

The sovereignty of Gibraltar is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations as Spain asserts a claim to the territory. Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in a 1967 referendum and again in 2002. Under the Gibraltar constitution of 2006, Gibraltar governs its own affairs, though some powers, such as defense and foreign relations, remain the responsibility of the British government.

Gibraltar aerial view looking northwest.jpg
By Steve - Flickr: Gibraltar, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Gibraltar's territory covers 6.7 square kilometres (2.6 sq mi) and shares a 1.2-kilometre (0.75 mi) land border with Spain. The town of La Línea de la Concepción, a municipality of the province of Cádiz, lies on the Spanish side of the border. The Spanish hinterland forms the comarca of Campo de Gibraltar (literally "Countryside of Gibraltar"). The shoreline measures 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) in length. There are two coasts ("Sides") of Gibraltar: the East Side, which contains the settlements of Sandy Bay and Catalan Bay; and the Westside, where the vast majority of the population lives.