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Following are links to various U.S. government press releases.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

NASA DISCOVERS THE COOLEST STARS

The following is an excerpt from the NASA website:

NASA's Wise Mission Discovers Coolest Class of Stars WASHINGTON – Scientists using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have discovered the coldest class of star-like bodies, with temperatures as cool as the human body.

Astronomers hunted these dark orbs, termed Y dwarfs, for more than a decade without success. When viewed with a visible-light telescope, they are nearly impossible to see. WISE's infrared vision allowed the telescope to finally spot the faint glow of six Y dwarfs relatively close to our sun, within a distance of about 40 light-years.

"WISE scanned the entire sky for these and other objects, and was able to spot their feeble light with its highly sensitive infrared vision," said Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "They are 5,000 times brighter at the longer infrared wavelengths WISE observed from space than those observable from the ground."

The Y's are the coldest members of the brown dwarf family. Brown dwarfs are sometimes referred to as "failed" stars. They are too low in mass to fuse atoms at their cores and thus don't burn with the fires that keep stars like our sun shining steadily for billions of years. Instead, these objects cool and fade with time, until what little light they do emit is at infrared wavelengths.

Astronomers study brown dwarfs to better understand how stars form and understand the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system. The atmospheres of brown dwarfs are similar to those of gas giant planets like Jupiter, but they are easier to observe because they are alone in space, away from the blinding light of a parent star.

So far, WISE data have revealed 100 new brown dwarfs. More discoveries are expected as scientists continue to examine the enormous quantity of data from WISE.

The telescope performed the most advanced survey of the sky at infrared wavelengths to date, from Jan. 2010 to Feb. 2011, scanning the entire sky about 1.5 times.

Of the 100 brown dwarfs, six are classified as cool Y's. One of the Y dwarfs, called WISE 1828+2650, is the record holder for the coldest brown dwarf with an estimated atmospheric temperature cooler than room temperature, or less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius).

"The brown dwarfs we were turning up before this discovery were more like the temperature of your oven," said Davy Kirkpatrick, a WISE science team member at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "With the discovery of Y dwarfs, we've moved out of the kitchen and into the cooler parts of the house."

Kirkpatrick is lead author of a paper appearing in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, describing the 100 confirmed brown dwarfs. Michael Cushing, a WISE team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., is lead author of a paper describing the Y dwarfs in the Astrophysical Journal.

The Y dwarfs are in our sun's neighborhood, from approximately nine to 40 light-years away. The Y dwarf approximately nine light-years away, WISE 1541-2250, may become the seventh closest star system, bumping Ross 154 back to eighth. By comparison, the star closest to our solar system, Proxima Centauri, is about four light-years away.

"Finding brown dwarfs near our sun is like discovering there's a hidden house on your block that you didn't know about," Cushing said. "It's thrilling to me to know we've got neighbors out there yet to be discovered. With WISE, we may even find a brown dwarf closer to us than our closest known star."

Once the WISE team identified brown dwarf candidates, they turned to NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to narrow their list. To definitively confirm them, the WISE team used some of the most powerful telescopes on Earth to split apart the objects' light and look for telltale molecular signatures of water, methane and possibly ammonia. For the very coldest of the new Y dwarfs, the team used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The Y dwarfs were identified based on a change in these spectral features compared to other brown dwarfs, indicating they have a lower atmospheric temperature.

JPL manages WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The principal investigator is Edward Wright at UCLA. The WISE satellite was decommissioned in 2011 after completing its sky survey observations. The mission was selected under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing are at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology. For more information about WISE, visit:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

SEC ALLEGES A CONVICTED FELON AND INSURANCE BROKER OPERATED A PONZI SCHEME IN U.S. AND CANADA

The following is an excerpt from the SEC website:

“The Securities and Exchange Commission announced an enforcement action filed on August 29, 2011 against James Davis Risher, a convicted felon, and Daniel Joseph Sebastian, a former insurance broker, charging them with violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. From no later than January 2007 until July 2010, Risher and Sebastian operated a Ponzi scheme through which they raised approximately $22 million from more than 100 investors in the United States and Canada for a purported private equity fund which they marketed under the names Managed Capital Fund, Safe Harbor Private Equity Fund, and Preservation of Principal Fund (collectively, the Fund).
The SEC’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, charges Risher and Sebastian with making several material misrepresentations and omissions to investors in the offer and sale of unregistered securities. The SEC alleges they told investors the Fund earned annual returns ranging from 14% to 124% by investing in public equity securities through a FINRA-regulated broker-dealer and sent investors false account statements indicating such returns. In reality, only a fraction of investor funds were invested in equities through a broker-dealer. Instead, Risher misappropriated the majority of the money for personal use and paid Sebastian large performance and management fees. Furthermore, Risher represented that the Fund was registered in Bermuda and both he and Sebastian falsely claimed that the Fund was audited annually by a Bermudan auditor. Sebastian further misrepresented to investors that their principal would be guaranteed against loss.
The SEC’s enforcement action charges Risher and Sebastian with violating Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s enforcement action further charges Risher with violating Sections 206(1), (2), and (4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act) and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder, and Sebastian with aiding and abetting Risher’s violations of Section 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement, and financial penalties against Risher and Sebastian.”

HOW TO FLY AND TALK IN SPACE

The following is an excerpt from the NASA website:

"Communications, Navigation And In-Space Propulsion Technologies Selected For NASA Flight Demonstration WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected three proposals as Technology Demonstration Missions to transform space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities. The projects will develop and fly a space solar sail, deep space atomic clock, and space-based optical communications system.

These crosscutting flight demonstrations were selected because of their potential to provide tangible, near-term products and infuse high-impact capabilities into NASA's future space operations missions. By investing in high payoff, disruptive technology that industry does not have today, NASA matures the technology required for its future missions while proving the capabilities and lowering the cost of government and commercial space activities.

"These technology demonstration missions will improve our communications, navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities, enable future missions that could not otherwise be performed, and build the technological capability of America's space industry," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Optical communication will enable rapid return of the voluminous data associated with sending spacecraft and humans to new frontiers. High-performance atomic clocks enable a level of spacecraft navigation precision and autonomous operations in deep space never before achieved, and solar sails enable new space missions through highly efficient station-keeping or propellant-less main propulsion capabilities for spacecraft."

The proposals selected for demonstration missions are:
-- Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, David J. Israel, principal investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
-- Deep Space Atomic Clock, Todd Ely, principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology/NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
-- Beyond the Plum Brook Chamber; An In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail, Nathan Barnes, principal investigator at L'Garde Inc., of Tustin, Calif.

Technology Demonstration Missions are a vital element in NASA's space technology maturation pipeline. They prove feasibility in the environment of space and help advance innovations from concept to flight and use in missions.
The advances anticipated from communications, navigation and in-space propulsion technology will allow future NASA missions to pursue bolder and more sophisticated science, enable human missions beyond low Earth orbit, and enable entirely new approaches to U.S. space operations.

The Laser Communications Relay demonstration mission will fly and validate a reliable, capable, and cost-effective optical communications technology. Optical communications technology provides data rates up to 100-times higher than today’s systems, which will be needed for future human and robotic space missions. The technology is directly applicable to the next generation of NASA's space communications network. After the demonstration, the developed space and ground assets will be qualified for use by near-Earth and deep space missions requiring high bandwidth and a small ground station reception area.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock demonstration mission will fly and validate a miniaturized mercury-ion atomic clock that is 10-times more accurate than today’s systems. This project will demonstrate ultra-precision timing in space and its benefits for one-way radio navigation. The investigation will fly as a hosted payload on an Iridium spacecraft and make use of GPS signals to demonstrate precision orbit determination and confirm the clock's performance. Precision timing and navigation is critical to the performance of a wide range of deep space exploration missions.

The Solar Sail demonstration mission will deploy and operate a sail area 7 times larger than ever flown in space. It is potentially applicable to a wide range of future space missions, including an advanced space weather warning system to provide more timely and accurate notice of solar flare activity. This technology also could be applied to economical orbital debris removal and propellant-less deep space exploration missions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is collaborating with NASA and L'Garde Inc. on the demonstration.

The clock and solar sail will be ready for flight in three years. The optical communications team anticipates it will take four years to mature the technology for flight. NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist plans to make a total investment in these three missions of approximately $175 million, contingent on future appropriations. Each of the selected teams also will receive funding from partners who plan on using the technologies as part of future space missions.

Projects include all elements of the flight test demonstration including test planning, flight hardware, launch, ground operations, and post-testing assessment and reporting. Each team has proposed between one and two years of spaceflight operations and data analysis. To reduce cost, the technology demonstrations will ride to space with other payloads aboard commercially provided launch vehicles. Launches are anticipated in 2015 and 2016."