US, Russian crew in Russian space center after failed launch
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Friday, October 12
MOSCOW (AP) — A U.S. astronaut and his Russian crewmate arrived Friday at the Russian space center for medical checks following a failed launch that led to an emergency landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
NASA’s Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin jettisoned in a rescue capsule from their Soyuz rocket that failed two minutes after Thursday’ launch from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station.
U.S. and Russian space officials said the astronauts were in good condition even though they experienced a gravitational force that was six-to-seven times more than is felt on Earth when their capsule went into a steep, harrowing fall back to ground.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine told reporters in Moscow Friday that the emergency rescue system worked flawlessly.
“I just want to say how grateful we are as a country, the United States, for our Russian partners,” he said. “The crew was calm and collected the entire time.”
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin promised that Hague and Ovchinin will be given a chance soon to perform a stint on the orbiting outpost.
“The boys will certainly fly their mission,” Rogozin tweeted, posting a picture in which he sits with the two astronauts aboard a Moscow-bound plane. “We plan that they will fly in the spring.”
Russian space officials said Hague and Rogozin will spend a couple of days at Star City, Russia’s main space training center outside Moscow, undergoing routine medical checks.
“They are in good health and don’t need any medical assistance,” said Vyacheslav Rogozhnikov, chief of the Russian Federal Medical and Biological Agency.
The aborted mission dealt another blow to the troubled Russian space program that currently serves as the only way to deliver astronauts to the orbiting outpost.
Sergei Krikalyov, the head of Roscosmos’ manned programs, said the launch went awry after one of the rocket’s four boosters failed to jettison about two minutes into the flight, damaging the main stage and triggering the emergency landing.
He said a panel of experts is looking into the specific reason that prevented the booster’s separation.
“We will need to look and analyze the specific cause — whether it was a cable, a pyro or a nut,” he said. “We need more data.”
Krikalyov said all Soyuz launches have been suspended pending the investigation. Preliminary findings are expected later this month, Krikalyov said, adding that Roscosmos hopes to be able to sort out the problem and perform the next Soyuz launch in December.
The current space station crew of an American, a Russian and a German was scheduled to return to Earth in December after a six-month mission, and it wasn’t immediately clear if their stint in orbit might need to be extended.
A Soyuz capsule attached to the station which they use to ride back to Earth is designed for a 200-day mission, meaning that their stay in orbit could only be extended briefly.
“We don’t have an opportunity to extend it for a long time,” Krikalyov said.
NASA said flight controllers could operate the space station without anyone on board if the Russian rockets remain grounded.
NASA’s Bridenstine voiced hope that the problem that aborted the launch could be solved quickly and the next Soyuz launch may take place in December.
Krikalyov emphasized that Roscosmos will do its best not to leave the orbiting outpost unoccupied.
“The station could fly in an unmanned mode, but will do all we can to avoid it,” he said. “The conservation of the station is possible, but it’s undesirable.”
While the Russian program has been dogged by a string of problems with unmanned launches in recent years, Thursday’s incident was the first manned failure since September 1983, when a Soyuz exploded on the launch pad.
Roscosmos pledged to fully share all relevant information with NASA, which pays up to $82 million per Soyuz seat to the space station.
Bridenstine hailed the U.S.-Russian cooperation in space, voicing hope that tensions between Moscow and Washington in other areas wouldn’t affect that relationship.
“We can both do more in space together than we can ever do alone,” Bridenstine said. “When it comes to space and exploration and discovery and science our two nations have always kept those activities separate from the disputes that we have terrestrially. I anticipate that this relationship will stay strong.”
Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.
Solving the mystery of the wimpy supernova
October 11, 2018
Graduate student of Astronomy, California Institute of Technology
Kishalay De does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
A spectacular supernova explosion, more than a billion times brighter than our sun, marked the birth of a neutron star orbiting its hot and dense companion. Now these two dense remnants are destined to spiral into each other in about a billion years, eventually merging and yielding some of the heaviest known elements in the universe.
The explosion occurred in a galaxy similar to our own Milky Way, nearly 920 million light years away. A small telescope at Palomar observatory in California detected the first photons from the supernova – named “iPTF 14gqr” – just hours after the explosion, when it was more than 10 times hotter than the surface of our sun. As the brightness of the supernova evolved during the next two weeks, an international team of astronomers used the data to trace the origin of the explosion to a massive star with a radius 500 times that of the sun.
But it wasn’t just the giant size of the star that made this discovery particularly noteworthy. What was unusual was that the star also seemed to be the lightest of all known exploding giant stars. This massive star had been robbed of nearly all of its mass, perhaps by a dense orbiting partner. When it exploded, it left behind a newborn neutron star that continued to orbit its companion.
Understanding the formation of binary star systems in which two super dense stars orbit each other has always been a puzzle. These fleeting supernovae that yield these dense binary star systems are both rare and difficult to find, because they quickly appear and disappear in the sky – about five times faster than a typical supernova.
This first observation of a “ultra-stripped” supernova, which my colleagues and I detail in a new study, not only provides insights into the formation of these systems but also reveals the final stages in the lives of these unique massive stars that have been plundered of all of their mass before they die.
Solving a longstanding mystery
Stars born with more than eight times the mass of the sun quickly run out of fuel and succumb to gravity at the end of their lives – collapsing in on themselves and exploding in a supernova. When this happens, all of the star’s outer layers – a few times the mass of the sun – are scattered.
When I started working with my advisor, Mansi Kasliwal, as a new graduate student, I decided to study supernovae that quickly fade in brightness. Mining the database of events discovered by iPTF, I came across iPTF 14gqr, a quickly fading supernova that was discovered more than a year before but whose true physical nature remained mysterious.
The data were puzzling because our preliminary models suggested this supernova was caused by the death of a giant massive star, yet the explosion in itself was quite wimpy. It ejected only a fifth of the mass of the sun, while its energy was only a tenth of a typical supernova. Where was all the missing matter and energy?
The clues indicated that the exploding star must have been stripped of nearly all of its original mass before the explosion. But what could have stolen so much matter from this giant star? Perhaps an unseen binary companion?
I started reading up about rare binary star scenarios, when I first came across the idea of “ultra-stripped supernovae.”
As two massive stars orbiting each other, the more massive star explodes first, leaving a rapidly spinning neutron star behind. This neutron star steals most of the material from its neighbor until the second star explodes in an ‘ultra-stripped’ supernova. What is left behind is a binary neutron star system.
When a massive star has a dense and nearby binary companion star, the intense gravitational pull of the companion can rob its unsuspecting neighbor of nearly all its mass before it explodes – hence the term “ultra-stripped.”
The ultra-stripped supernova leaves behind a neutron star, a rapidly spinning dense stellar corpse containing a bit more than the mass of the sun crammed into a region the size of downtown Los Angeles. This neutron star is trapped in a tight orbit around its companion. The companion is possibly another neutron star, or even a white dwarf or a black hole that was formed from a massive star that died several million years before its companion.
Such binary systems have been an important field of astrophyiscal investigation for several decades. We have directly observed many such systems in our own galaxy with optical and radio telescopes. The first indirect detection of gravitational waves came from observations of a double neutron star system. More recently, the first merger of a double neutron star system was detected both by advanced LIGO and in electromagnetic waves in 2017, giving astronomers unique insights into the workings of gravity and the origin of heavy elements in the universe.
Two dense neutron stars orbiting each other as they gradually spiral in and merge. The merger produces a ‘kilonova’ explosion, which was directly detected for the first time in 2017.
Yet, it has long remained a mystery how binary stars form. We know that neutron stars are formed in supernova explosions. But, in order to get binary neutron stars, you need a binary of two massive stars to begin. However, it requires a precise balance of forces to make sure that the binary neutron stars remain stable enough to survive the two violent explosions that create the system.
Several lines of indirect evidence suggest they are formed in a very rare class of weak ultra-stripped supernova explosions. But these faint explosions had so far escaped direct detection. This first observational evidence for an ultra-stripped supernova opens up an opportunity for understanding the formation of tight neutron star binary systems.
Scanning the heavens for infant explosions
Our supernova was spotted during the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF) survey. The automated iPTF survey used a large camera mounted on a 1-meter-sized telescope to take photos of the sky every night and scan for “new stars.” A search priority was hunting for infant supernovae and pinpointing the origin.
Whenever a new star is found, the survey robot immediately alerts on duty astronomers located in a completely different time zone to follow up. This strategy together with a global network of telescopes allowed us to catch several exploding stars in action and understand what they looked like just before they exploded. In fact, finding a rare ultra-stripped supernova moments after the explosion was a lucky coincidence!
This single event has provided us with the first insight into the mass and energy released in such explosions, the life cycle of massive stars, and the formation of binary stars. Yet, there is a lot more to be learned from a larger sample of these events.
With the Zwicky Transient Facilty– the successor of iPTF that can scan the skies 10 times faster – and a global network of telescopes called GROWTH, we hope to witness more ultra-stripped explosions, beginning a new episode in our understanding of these unique star systems.
News from The Citadel
James Snyder awarded gold stars for spring 2018 academic achievements at The Citadel
CHARLESTON, SC (08/31/2018)— James Snyder of Powell, OH (43065) was awarded gold stars by The Citadel for achieving a 3.7 grade point average or higher during the 2018 spring semester. Cadets and students who achieve gold star recognition are also placed on The Citadel’s dean’s list.
About The Citadel
The Citadel, with its iconic campus located in Charleston, South Carolina, offers a classic military college education profoundly focused on leadership excellence and academic distinction. Graduates are not required to serve in the military but about one-third of each class commission as officers in every branch of U.S. military service. Graduates of The Citadel have served the nation, their states and their communities as principled leaders since the college was founded in 1842.
The Citadel Graduate College offers 26 graduate degree programs with 42 concentration options, 25 graduate certificate programs and 10 evening undergraduate programs, through an all-evening schedule with many courses now available online. The Citadel was named Best Public College in the South by U.S. News & World Report for seven consecutive years, and #1 Best Public College for Veterans in the South as well as Best Value out of all South Carolina colleges and universities by Forbes.
Students/Schools Invited to Compete during National Energy Awareness Month Celebration
OOGEEP challenges Ohio students to demonstrate energy knowledge
Granville, OH (October 12, 2018) – The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program has invited Ohio students and teachers to creatively demonstrate their energy knowledge during National Energy Awareness Month. The U.S. Department of Energy made the designation to emphasize the importance of energy and energy production to our nation’s economic prosperity, security and quality of life.
To engage students in conversations about energy, contestants have until October 31 to take part in the Ohio School Energy Challenge. The contest calls for students to submit a short video or photo demonstrating how everyday tasks can, or cannot, be accomplished using petroleum-based products. More than 50 cash prizes and awards will be distributed.
“Our primary goal is to help educate Ohioans about the important role crude oil and natural gas-based products has in our everyday lives,” said OOGEEP Executive Director Rhonda Reda. “Teachers have a critical role in demonstrating to students the importance of STEM in areas such as geology, physical science, environmental science, engineering and chemistry, among other areas, and why they play an important role in energy development.”
Once the contest closes on October 31, each entry will be reviewed, and the top awards will be determined by OOGEEP representatives. Fifty prizes will be awarded for submissions from elementary, middle school and high school students, including four, $500 1st place awards.
Six elementary schools will also win a school-wide assembly of OOGEEP’s Rock’N in Ohio presented by PopFusion. The program is a full hour of fun, music, prizes and energy education activities.
Contest details, rules and information about how students and teachers may enter are all available on the OOGEEP website, http://www.oogeep.org/industry-facts/energy-challenges/. Contest winner will be announced by January.
“National Energy Awareness Month is an opportunity to talk about the tremendous impact of Ohio’s oil and gas industry not just on the United States, but on the entire world,” said Reda. “The more our students understand the science of the oil and gas industry, the more opportunities they will realize while considering the more than 75 industry careers available in Ohio.”
OOGEEP provides educators support and programs throughout the year including classroom presentations to science classes for all ages through the Petro Pro program. OOGEEP also supports our students by sponsoring State Science Day awards in the spring and provides annual scholarships for students pursuing a career in the oil and gas industry. More information about all the resources provided, at no cost, to teachers and students can be found at http://www.oogeep.org/teacher-students/.
The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) is a non-profit statewide education and public outreach program. Created in 1998, OOGEEP provides a variety of programs throughout the State of Ohio. These programs primarily focus on teacher workshops, scholarships, science fair, firefighter training, industry training, career and workforce development, research and guest speaker programs.
Opinion: States Should Work to Defuse America’s Ticking Fiscal Time-Bomb
By Jesse Hathaway
Tick, tick, tick …
That’s the sound of a bomb nearing explosion, one with the power to destroy taxpayers’ lives and state budgets. This explosive device is set to blow up sometime in the future, but it’s just as dangerous and deserving of our attention as any immediate threat.
For decades, state lawmakers across the nation have been cooking the books and using budgeting gimmicks to defer bills coming due and enable spending binges, adding incendiaries to a metaphorical pile of dynamite. With every additional unfunded liability created by politicians, the fuse on this bomb grows shorter, and the potential risk to all Americans increases.
If policymakers don’t solve the budgeting problem they’ve collectively created and stop the madness, the financial explosion may result in total devastation of the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, 40 states cannot pay their bills, according to the ninth edition of Truth in Accounting’s The Financial State of the States. In fact, state governments have racked up more than $1.5 trillion in total unfunded state debt.
This debt metastasis, primarily driven by the rampant mismanagement of government pension plans, threatens to obliterate state budgets. Necessary pension-fund reforms, such as shifting from defined-benefit programs to 401(k)-like defined-contribution plans, have garnered a fierce resistance that has sped up the clock for the debt doomsday.
“States in general do not have enough money to pay all of their bills,” the report states. “Based on our latest analysis, the total unfunded debt among the 50 states increased by $53.4 billion to more than $1.5 trillion in (fiscal year) 2017. Most of this debt comes from unfunded retiree benefit promises, such as pension and retiree health care debt. This year, pension debt accounts for $837.5 billion, and other post-employment benefits — mainly retiree health care liabilities — totaled $663.1 billion.”
Fortunately, some state leaders have made decisions to shelter their voters from the coming debtpocalypse. For example, North Dakota lawmakers have made difficult spending decisions to ensure the state can meet its budget obligations. The Peace Garden State has $14.5 billion on hand to pay $7.4 billion in liabilities, creating a comfortable cushion for potential economic downturns.
Despite the state’s seemingly stable financial footing, there’s still room for improvement: North Dakota’s pension liabilities are under-reported by about $400 million due to budgeting gimmicks and outdated numbers.
On the other hand, states such as New York are likely heading into budgetary oblivion. Poor financial decisions have left the Empire State with a $143 billion shortfall, primarily caused by excessively generous pension benefits and no constitutional recourse for lawmakers seeking to undo the fiscal damage wrought by their predecessors. All in all, New York has only $135 billion in assets available to pay for $277.9 billion of future liabilities.
The time to solve this problem, for every lawmaker in every state, is now — not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not some unspecified day after the next campaign.
The clock is ticking, and how state lawmakers choose to prepare for this inevitable explosion is up to them. Refusal to acknowledge the problem is a gross abuse of the trust voters put in their elected officials.
If elected officials refuse to defuse the ticking debt time bomb, drastic spending cuts and enormous tax increases will be required, putting prosperity in jeopardy.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jesse Hathaway (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.