Sign up now for 2-for-1 tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, released April 5

Disrupt Berlin 2017 doesn’t take place until December, but if you’re looking to attend the best startup show in Europe for the lowest possible price, an important deadline is fast approaching.

We’ll be releasing a limited number of tickets to Disrupt Berlin on Wednesday, April 5 and the special price of two for the price of one. By signing up now, you can use this extra ticket to bring a colleague, friend or whoever else you might want to share a fun-packed couple of days with at Disrupt.

To sign up, all you need to do is enter your email address here. On April 5, you’ll receive an email with a link to purchase these deeply discounted tickets. You’ll definitely want to act quickly, however, as there are only 50 pairs of tickets available, and if history is any indication, they’re going to run out quickly.

Disrupt attendees get to check out fireside chats with some of the most brilliant minds in the business. In the Startup Battlefield and the Startup Alley, they’ll be introduced to some pretty awesome international startups across many verticals.

Plus, if you are part of a startup, multiple members of the media will be in attendance as well, making Disrupt a perfect storm to get your budding startup in front of the eyes and ears that can help take your company to the next level.

Disrupt Berlin 2017 takes place December 4-5 at the beautiful, historical Arena Berlin in the heart of Berlin, Germany. We can’t wait to see you all there!

Nasa’s New Institute to Explore Ways to Protect Astronauts

Nasa's New Institute to Explore Ways to Protect Astronauts

The US space agency has established a new institute charged with researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including Nasa’s “Journey to Mars”.

The Nasa Translational Research Institute (NTRI) will implement a “bench-to-spaceflight” model, moving results or methods from laboratory experiments or clinical trials to point-of-care astronaut health and performance applications, the US space agency said in a statement.

The goal of the research is to produce promising new approaches, treatments, countermeasures or technologies that have practical application to spaceflight.

“It’s fitting on the 47th anniversary of humanity’s first moon landing that we’re announcing a new human spaceflight research institute that will help reduce risks for our astronauts on the next giant leap – our Journey to Mars,” said Marshall Porterfield, Nasa’s Director of Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications.

Set up under the Translational Research Institute Cooperative Agreement, overseen by Nasa’s Human Research Programme, the new institute is lated to begin functioning from October 1.

Nasa will join with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to operate the new institute, the statement added.

Translational research is an interdisciplinary model of research that focuses on translating fundamental research concepts into practice, with appreciable health outcomes.

Translational research has the potential to move solutions into practical application much faster than traditional research approaches.

To that end, the Nasa Translational Research Institute would maintain research leadership in translational human performance, biomedical, environmental, and cognitive and behavioural science, and foster greater involvement of the science community in accomplishing the agency’s human exploration goals.

The institute also would provide opportunities for scientists to gain experience in research laboratories, within and external to Nasa, and apply their knowledge and expertise to reducing human exploration health and performance risks.

 

How Twitter Helped Solve Milky Way Mystery

How Twitter Helped Solve Milky Way Mystery

Taking help from Twitter, two astronomers have uncovered the strongest evidence yet that an enormous X-shaped structure made of stars lies within the central bulge of the Milky Way galaxy.

Previous computer models and observations of our own galaxy have suggested that the X-shaped structure existed.

But no one had observed it directly. Some astronomers argued that previous research that pointed indirectly to the existence of the X could be explained in other ways.

“There was controversy about whether the X-shaped structure existed. But our paper gives a good view of the core of our own galaxy. I think it has provided pretty good evidence for the existence of the X-shaped structure,” said Dustin Lang, Research Associate at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto.

The Milky Way Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy – a disk-shaped collection of dust, gas and billions of stars, 100,000 light-years in diameter.

The central bulge, like other barred galaxy’s bulges, resembles a rectangular box or peanut when viewed – as we view it – from within the plane of the galaxy.

The X-shaped structure is an integral component of the bulge.

Lang’s analysis was originally intended to aid in his research in mapping the web of galaxies beyond the Milky Way galaxy.

To help explore the maps he had developed from Nasa’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope data, he created an interactive map-browsing website and tweeted an image of the entire sky.

“Melissa Ness, post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, saw the tweet and immediately recognised the importance of the X-shaped structure,” Lang noted.

“The bulge is a key signature of formation of the Milky Way galaxy. If we understand the bulge we will understand the key processes that have formed and shaped our galaxy,” Ness added in a paper appeared The results appear in the Astronomical Journal.

It is also evidence that our galaxy did not experience major merging events since the bulge formed. If it had, interactions with other galaxies would have disrupted its shape.

 

Joint Development of Isro and Nasa’s Nisar Satellite Detailed

Joint Development of Isro and Nasa's Nisar Satellite Detailed

The Indian space agency and US Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are jointly working on the development of Dual Frequency (L&S band) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Imaging Satellite named as Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (Nisar), slated to be completed and launched by 2021, parliament was told on Thursday.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will be responsible for design and development of S-band SAR, Spacecraft Bus, data transmission system, spacecraft integration and testing, launch using heavy rocket geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) and on-orbit operations, Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh, who also holds charge of the Space Department, told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

The Nasa laboratory will be responsible for design and development of L-band SAR, 12m unfurlable antenna and its deployment elements, global positioning system (GPS) and data recorder.

The L and S band microwave data obtained from this satellite will be useful for variety of applications, which include natural resources mapping & monitoring; estimating agricultural biomass over full duration of crop cycle; assessing soil moisture; monitoring of floods and oil slicks; coastal erosion, coastline changes and variation of winds in coastal waters; assessment of mangroves; surface deformation studies and others.

Isro and JPL/ Nasa are working towards realisation of this mission by 2021 and both agencies have obtained necessary approvals from respective governments, he said.

The joint science observation plan has been documented with the participation of Indian and American scientists. The core science teams of India and US meet every six months to discuss various observation requirements and strategies of science observation. The technical teams of both the agencies are working towards building the necessary systems, Singh said.

 

Isro to Launch INSAT-3DR Weather Satellite in August

Isro to Launch INSAT-3DR Weather Satellite in August

India will launch a weather satellite next month with its heavy rocket, the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV-Mk II), Indian space agency chief A.S. Kiran Kumar said in Chennai on Friday.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will launch INSAT-3DR next month with its GSLV rocket, said Kiran Kumar at the Madras Institute of Technology Alumni Association meeting in Chennai.

He also said Isro is targeting to increase the number of its satellite and rocket launches from the current six-eight per year to 12-18 per year.

Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director K. Sivan said that Isro will also be launching ScatSat – a weather monitoring and forecasting satellite – with polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV).

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, he said that the Indian satellite will be a co-passenger to an Algerian satellite.

“Both the satellites will be put into different orbits. So the fourth stage/engine of the rocket will be switched off after ejecting ScatSat first. Then after a gap of around 30 minutes, the engine will be switched on and put the Algerian satellite into its intended orbit,” Sivan said.

According to him, the year end is expected to see the launch of GSLV-Mk-III with communication satellite GSAT 19 weighing around 3.2 ton – the heaviest satellite to be lifted by an Indian rocket from the Sriharikota rocket port in Andhra Pradesh.

Sivan also said Isro will soon be testing its scramjet or air breathing engine for use future use to power Indian rockets.

The scramjet engine used only during the atmospheric phase of the rocket’s flight will help in bringing down the launch cost by reducing the amount of oxidiser to be carried along with the fuel.

 

Powered by Google, UN Flexes Tech Muscle to Fight Climate Change

Powered by Google, UN Flexes Tech Muscle to Fight Climate Change

New Google-powered software will help the world tackle problems related to climate change, deforestation and food production, a United Nations agency said on Friday, as it presented its revamped online platform.

Open Foris, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) software, uses high-resolution satellite images to monitor the environment and changes in land use and forest cover.

“We make maps that used to take three years in a week,” Erik Lindquist, forestry officer at FAO, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Rather than preparing data to analyse we can spend time probing the data for answers. We’re getting to answers much more quickly,” he said on the sidelines of a global forest conference in Rome.

Lindquist said the software was free to use by anyone, from citizens who want to monitor misuse of natural resources to scientists or governments wanting to assess the carbon storage capacity of an area.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the total forest area in the word, how much forest is being lost and gained, how is the land use changing and what are the effects on carbon emissions,” Lindquist said.

“The more we use these tools the more we’re going to be sure of whether the situation is improving or getting worse.”

The software can also be deployed to inspect water resources and even evaluate locations for refugee camps based on availability of firewood for cooking, he said.

Earlier this month, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres launched the MapSwipe app, which also uses satellite images and allows users to map remote, rural regions vulnerable to humanitarian crises.

 

Nasa to Digitise Viking Mission Data on Mars

Nasa to Digitise Viking Mission Data on Mars

Forty years ago, Nasa’s Viking mission made history when it became the first to successfully land a fully operational spacecraft on Mars.

As engineers and scientists planned for later missions to Mars, the rolls of microfilm containing the Viking data were stored away for safekeeping and potential later use.

It would be another 20 years before someone looked at some of these data again – in a digitised format.

“At one time, microfilm was the archive thing of the future. But people quickly turned to digitising data when the web came to be. Now, we are going through the microfilm and scanning every frame into our computer database so that anyone can access it online,” said David Williams, planetary curation scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The spacecraft, dubbed Viking 1, touched down on the Martian surface on July 20, 1976. Its counterpart, Viking 2, followed suit and landed on September 3 in the same year.

The mission objectives were to obtain high-resolution images of the Martian surface, characterise the composition of the Martian surface and its atmosphere and search for life.

After years of imaging, measuring and experimenting, the Viking spacecraft ended communication with the team on Earth, leaving behind a multitude of data that scientists would study for the next several years.

The archive today houses much of Nasa ‘s planetary and lunar spacecraft data stored on microfilm and computer tapes, including the Viking data.

Williams works to digitise all of the data so that it can be easily accessed from the web.

He received a call from Joseph Miller, associate professor of cell and neurobiology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, requesting data from the Viking biology experiments.

But all that was left of the data was stored on microfilm.

“I remember getting to hold the microfilm in my hand for the first time and thinking, ‘we did this incredible experiment and this is it, this is all that’s left,'” Williams said in a Nasa statement.

“If something were to happen to it, we would lose it forever. I couldn’t just give someone the microfilm to borrow because that’s all there was,” he added.

The archive team decided to tear open the boxes of microfilm and begin digitising the data.

Miller wanted to analyse the data from Viking’s biology experiments to see if the Viking science team had missed something in the original analysis.

He concluded that one of the Viking biology experiments did, indeed, offer proof that life may exist on Mars.

In one of the experiments known as Labeled Release (LR), the Viking landers scooped up soil samples and applied a nutrient cocktail.

If microbes were present in the soil, they would likely metabolise the nutrient and release carbon dioxide or methane.

The experiment did indicate metabolism, but the other two Viking experiments did not find any organic molecules in the soil.

Unlike Viking, data from Nasa rover Curiosity is uploaded to the Planetary Data System for easy accessibility.

Today Nasa has a fleet of orbiters and rovers on and around Mars, making key discoveries such as evidence of liquid water near the surface of Mars and paving the way for future human-crew missions.

The Mars 2020 rover recently passed an important mission milestone toward launch in 2020, arriving on Mars in 2021.

The mission is to seek signs of past life and demonstrate new technologies to help astronauts survive on Mars, with the goal of sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.

 

Nasa Training Astronauts Underwater to Mimic Mars Mission Conditions

Nasa Training Astronauts Underwater to Mimic Mars Mission Conditions

Nasa has sent a team of astronauts to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on a 16-day mission to prepare for future deep space missions and the journey to Mars.

The ‘aquanauts’ were sent to train undersea in simulated space mission as the bottom of a blue ocean and the surface of a Red Planet have something in common – extreme environments.

During the 16-day Nasa Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 21 expedition beginning July 21, an international crew will explore tools and techniques being tested for future space exploration by living in simulated spacecraft conditions and conducting simulated spacewalks outside of their undersea habitat, Aquarius, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

The Aquarius Reef Base is located 62 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Isolating crew members at the bottom of the ocean simulates life and work for astronauts in microgravity environments like the International Space Station, or in spacecraft that will travel to asteroids and planets in the future, Nasa said.

“NEEMO 21 astronauts and crew will pioneer complex tasks on the seafloor utilising the most advanced underwater navigation and science tools which are methodically choreographed to mimic a Mars exploration traverse,” said NEEMO Project Lead Bill Todd.

Inside Aquarius, the international crew will conduct a variety of research and operations studies, such as testing a mini DNA sequencer that Nasa astronaut Kate Rubins also will be testing aboard the International Space Station, and a telemedicine device that will be used for future space applications.

During their simulated spacewalks, the crew will collect samples for marine biology and geology studies, test software for managing operations, and participate in a coral restoration project.

Throughout many of these tasks, the mission will also test communications delays similar to those that would be encountered on a mission to Mars.

“Equipment can fail, communication can be challenging and tasks can take longer than expected. Other tasks go just as planned. All cases are equally beneficial. It’s how we learn and how we are able to assemble all of this together so that someday we’re prepared for the unexpected when we are living on and traversing the Martian surface,” Todd explained.

 

Missing Craters on Dwarf Planet Ceres Intrigue Scientists

Missing Craters on Dwarf Planet Ceres Intrigue Scientists

In an intriguing find, scientists associated with Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft have discovered a mysterious disappearance of a significant number of large craters on dwarf planet Ceres, indicating something has happened to it.

Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft arrived to orbit Ceres in March 2015 and mission scientists expected to find a heavily-cratered body generally resembling the protoplanet Vesta – Dawn’s previous port of call.

Instead, as the spacecraft drew near to Ceres, a somewhat different picture began to emerge: Something has happened to Ceres to remove its biggest impact basins.

Now, a team of Dawn scientists led by Simone Marchi from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado suggest that Ceres has experienced significant geological evolution, possibly erasing the large basins.

“We concluded that a significant population of large craters on Ceres has been obliterated beyond recognition over geological time scales, which is likely the result of Ceres’ peculiar composition and internal evolution,” Marchi explained in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

According to David Williams from Arizona State University, “When we first starting looking at Ceres images, we noticed that there weren’t any really large impact basins on the surface.”

None are larger than 285 km across.

This presents a mystery, he says, because Ceres must have been struck by large asteroids many times over its 4.5-billion-year history.

“Even Vesta, only about half of Ceres’ size, has two big basins at its south pole. But at Ceres, all we saw was the Kerwan Basin, just 285 km in diameter,” Williams added. “That was a big red flag that something had happened to Ceres.”

The team’s simulations of collisions with Ceres predicted that it should have 10 to 15 craters larger than 400 km in diameter, and at least 40 craters larger than 100 km wide.

In reality, however, Dawn found that Ceres has only 16 craters larger than 100 km, and none larger than the 285-km Kerwan Basin.

So what removed Ceres’ large craters and basins?

“If Ceres were highly rocky, we’d expect impact craters of all sizes to be preserved. Remote sensing from Earth, however, told us even before Dawn arrived that the crust of Ceres holds a significant fraction of ice in some form,” Williams explained.

If Ceres’ crust contained a large proportion of ice – especially if mixed with salts – that would weaken the crust and let the topography of a large basin relax and become smoother, perhaps even disappear.

In addition, said Williams, Ceres must have generated some internal heat from the decay of radioactive elements after it formed.

This too could also have helped soften or erase large-scale topographic features.

Nasa plans for Dawn to continue orbiting Ceres as the dwarf planet makes its closest approach to the Sun in April 2018.

Scientists want to see if the increasing solar warmth triggers any activity or produces detectable changes in Ceres’ surface.

 

Great Red Spot Storm Heating Jupiter’s Atmosphere, Study Shows

Great Red Spot Storm Heating Jupiter's Atmosphere, Study Shows

Scientists have long wondered why Jupiter’s upper atmosphere has temperatures similar to those of Earth, even though the biggest planet in the solar system is five times farther away from the sun.

The answer may be The Great Red Spot, an enormous storm big enough to swallow three Earths that has been raging on Jupiter for at least three centuries, a study showed on Wednesday.

Using an infrared telescope at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea Observatory, scientists discovered that the upper atmosphere above the Great Red Spot – the largest storm in the solar system – is hundreds of degrees hotter than anywhere else on the planet.

It could be a coincidence or a major clue, said Boston University physicist James O’Donoghue, lead scientist of the study published in the journal Nature.

The storm spans 13,670 miles by 7,456 miles (22,000 km by 12,000 km) and is located in Jupiter’s lower atmosphere. The top of its clouds reach altitudes of about 31 miles (50 km).

By a process of elimination, the newly found hot spot must be heated from below, the study concluded.

The finding provides a strong link between Jupiter’s upper and lower atmosphere, though the exact process by which heat is transferred remains unknown. The most-likely energy source is acoustic waves that provide heat from below, the study said.

Scientists also are unsure why the storm is brick red, nor why it has changed colour over time. In a 1900 report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, scientists described the oval storm as salmon pink. Recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope show it has become orange tinged and more circular.

Like a hurricane on Earth, the Spot’s centre is relatively calm, but farther out winds reach 270 mph to 425 mph (430 kph to 680 kph). Because there is no land on Jupiter, which is made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, the storm can never make landfall and dissipate.

“The Great Red Spot is like a wheel that’s wedged between two conveyor belts running in opposite directions,” said planetary scientist Glenn Orton, with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“One is adding momentum to it at the top, and another is adding momentum at the bottom. Together, they feed the vortex and essentially keep it alive.”

But the storm may not be alive much longer. It has been shrinking for the last 100 years, Orton said.

More information is expected from Nasa’s Juno spacecraft, which arrived at Jupiter on July 4.