Picture of the Day: Cygnus Mass Simulator separates from Orbital’s Antares rocket

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This image almost looks like an artist’s concept, but is an actual photo taken by a camera on board Orbital Science’s Antares rocket showing the Cygnus mass simulator shortly after separation from the rocket’s upper stage.

Antares launched on April 21 for its first test flight – dubbed the A-One mission. The goal of the flight was to test the fully integrated Antares rocket and boost a simulated version of the Cygnus cargo carrier into a target orbit of 250 x 300 kilometers and inclined 51.6 degrees.

Antares also sent a trio of off-the-shelf-smartphone “PhoneSats” to orbit. The three picture-taking satellites are named Alexander, Graham and Bell and are some of the lowest-cost satellites ever flown in space.

Orbital says that both the mass simulator and the upper stage are expected to stay in orbit for several months before their orbits degrade, causing them to re-enter and burn up in…

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New Battery Design could help solar and wind power the grid

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This post first appeared on the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory website by Mike Ross


Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid.

“For solar and wind power to be used in a significant way, we need a battery made of economical materials that are easy to scale and still efficient,” said Yi Cui, a Stanford associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, a SLAC/Stanford joint institute. “We believe our new battery may be the best yet designed to regulate the natural fluctuations of these alternative energies.”

The Ideal Batteries for Grid-Scale Solar & Wind

Currently the electrical grid cannot tolerate large and sudden power fluctuations caused by wide swings in sunlight…

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Sun’s next-door twin: Cool layer also in the atmosphere of Alpha Centauri A

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The European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory has detected a cool layer in the atmosphere of Alpha Centauri A, the first time this has been seen in a star beyond our own Sun. The finding is not only important for understanding the Sun’s activity, but could also help in the quest to discover proto-planetary systems around other stars.

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New research findings lead to Zinc-Oxide-based UV lasers, novel LED devices

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Researchers from North Carolina State University have solved a long-standing materials science problem, making it possible to create new semiconductor devices using zinc oxide (ZnO) — including efficient ultraviolet (UV) lasers and LED devices for use in sensors and drinking water treatment, as well as new ferromagnetic devices.

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