Space probe reveals secrets of ‘restless’ Milky Way

Space probe reveals secrets of ‘restless’ Milky Way
Above, four maps of the Milky Way made with new data collected by the ESA space probe Gaia. (European Space Agency)
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Updated 13 June 2022

Space probe reveals secrets of ‘restless’ Milky Way

Space probe reveals secrets of ‘restless’ Milky Way
  • European Space Agency: Mission’s third data set ‘revolutionizes our understanding of the galaxy’

PARIS: The Gaia space probe on Monday unveiled its latest discoveries in its quest to map the Milky Way in unprecedented detail, surveying nearly two million stars and revealing mysterious “starquakes” which sweep across the fiery giants like vast tsunamis.
The mission’s third data set, which was released to eagerly waiting astronomers around the world at 1000 GMT, “revolutionizes our understanding of the galaxy,” the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
ESA Director-General Josef Aschbacher told a press conference that it was “a fantastic day for astronomy” because the data “will open the floodgates for new science, for new findings of our universe, of our Milky Way.”
Some of the map’s new insights came close to home, such as a catalogue of more than 156,000 asteroids in our Solar System “whose orbits the instrument has calculated with incomparable precision,” Francois Mignard, a member of the Gaia team, said.
But Gaia also sees beyond the Milky Way, spotting 2.9 million other galaxies as well as 1.9 million quasars — the stunningly bright hearts of galaxies powered by supermassive black holes.
The Gaia spacecraft is nestled in a strategically positioned orbit 1.5 million kilometers (937,000 miles) from Earth, where it has been watching the skies since it was launched by the ESA in 2013.
The observation of starquakes, massive vibrations that change the shape of the distant stars, was “one of the most surprising discoveries coming out of the new data,” the ESA said.
Gaia was not built to observe starquakes but still detected the strange phenomenon on thousands of stars, including some that should not have any — at least according to our current understanding of the universe.
“We have a fantastic new gold mine to do the asteroseismology of hundreds of thousands of stars in our Milky War galaxy,” said Gaia team member Conny Aerts.
Gaia has surveyed more than 1.8 billion stars but that only represents around one percent of the stars in the Milky Way, which is about 100,000 light years across.
The probe is equipped with two telescopes as well as a billion-pixel camera, which captures images sharp enough to gauge the diameter of a single strand of human hair 1,000 kilometers away.
It also has a range of other instruments that allow it to not just map the stars, but measure their movements, chemical compositions and ages.
The incredibly precise data “allows us to look more than 10 billion years into the past history of our own Milky Way,” said Anthony Brown, the chair of the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium which sifted through the massive amount of data.
The results from Gaia are already “far beyond what we expected” at this point, Mignard said.
They show that our galaxy is not moving smoothly through the universe as had been thought but is instead “turbulent” and “restless,” he said.
“It has had a lot of accidents in its life and still has them” as it interacts with other galaxies, he added. “Perhaps it will never be in a stationary state.”
“Our galaxy is indeed a living entity, where objects are born, where they die,” Aerts said.
“The surrounding galaxies are continuously interacting with our galaxy and sometimes also falling inside it.”
Around 50 scientific papers were published alongside the new data, with many more expected in the coming years.
Gaia’s observations have fueled thousands of studies since its first dataset was released in 2016.
The second dataset in 2018 allowed astronomers to show that the Milky Way merged with another galaxy in a violent collision around 10 billion years ago.
It took the team five years to deliver the latest data, which was observed from 2014 to 2017.
The final dataset will be released in 2030, after Gaia finishes its mission surveying the skies in 2025.
Monday’s release confirmed only two new exoplanets — and 200 other potential candidates — but far more are expected in the future.
“In principle Gaia, especially when it goes on for the full 10 years, should be capable of detecting tens of thousands of exoplanets down to Jupiter’s mass,” Brown said.


FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels
Updated 28 November 2022

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels
  • As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong FIFA World Cup, even its camels are working overtime

MESAIEED, Qatar: Shaheen stretched out on the sand and closed his eyes, but there was little time to rest for the camel. World Cup fans coming in droves to the desert outside Doha were ready for their perfect Instagram moment: riding a camel on the rolling dunes.
As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong World Cup, even its camels are working overtime. Visitors in numbers the tiny emirate has never before seen are rushing to finish a bucket list of Gulf tourist experiences between games: ride on a camel’s back, take pictures with falcons and wander through the alleyways of traditional markets.
On a recent Friday afternoon, hundreds of visitors in football uniforms or draped in flags waited for their turn to mount the humpbacked animals. Camels that did not rise were forced up by their handlers. When one camel let out a loud grunt, a woman from Australia shrieked, “it sounds like they’re being violated!” Nearby, a group of men from Mexico dressed in white Qatari thobes and headdresses took selfies.
“It’s really an amazing feeling because you feel so tall,” 28-year-old Juan Gaul said after his ride. The Argentine fan was visiting Qatar for a week from Australia.
Cashing in on the opportunity are the animals’ handlers who, thanks to the World Cup, are making several times more than they normally would.
“There’s a lot of money coming in,” said Ali Jaber Al-Ali, a 49-year-old Bedouin camel herder from Sudan. “Thank god, but it’s a lot of pressure.”
Al-Ali came to Qatar 15 years ago but has worked with camels since he was a child. On an average weekday before the World Cup, Al-Ali said his company would offer around 20 rides per day and 50 on weekends. Since the World Cup started, Al-Ali and the men he works with are providing 500 rides in the morning and another 500 in the evening. The company went from having 15 camels to 60, he said.
“Tour guides want to move things fast,” Al-Ali said, “so they add pressure on us.”
As crowds formed around them, many camels sat statue-like with cloth muzzles covering their mouths and bright saddles on their bodies. The smell of dung filled the air.
Like other Gulf cultures, camels once provided Qataris a vital form of transport and helped in the exploration and development of trade routes. Today, the ungulates figure into cultural pastimes: camel racing is a popular sport that takes place on old-school tracks outside the city.
Al-Ali said he knows when an animal is tired — usually if it refuses to get up or sits back down after rising to its feet. He can identify each camel by its facial features.
“I am a Bedouin. I come from a family of Bedouins who care for camels. I grew up loving them,” Al-Ali said.
But the sudden rise in tourists means there’s less time to rest between rides, he said. A short ride lasts just 10 minutes while longer ones run 20 to 30 minutes long.
Normally, Al-Ali said a camel can rest after five rides. “Now, people are saying we can’t wait ... because they have other plans they need to go to in the middle of the desert,” he said.
Since the World Cup started, the animals are taken for 15 to 20 — sometimes even 40 rides — without a break.
His day starts around 4:30 a.m., when he feeds the animals and gets them ready for customers. Some tourists have been arriving at dawn, Al-Ali said, hoping to get the perfect sunrise shot, “so we have to work with them and take photos for them.”
From midday until 2 p.m., both handlers and camels rest, he said. “Then we start getting ready for the afternoon battle.”
But not every visitor has been taken by the experience.
Pablo Corigliano, a 47-year-old real estate agent from Buenos Aires, said he was hoping for something more authentic. The excursions start on a stretch of desert by the side of a highway, not far from the industrial city of Mesaieed and its vast oil refineries.
“I was expecting something more wild,” said Corigliano. “I thought I would be crossing the desert, but when I arrived, I saw a typical tourist point.”
Soon after, Corigliano and a group of friends looked for a dune buggy to race into the desert.


Ex-Miss Croatia challenges Qatari authorities with provoking outfits at World Cup

Ex-Miss Croatia challenges Qatari authorities with provoking outfits at World Cup
Updated 28 November 2022

Ex-Miss Croatia challenges Qatari authorities with provoking outfits at World Cup

Ex-Miss Croatia challenges Qatari authorities with provoking outfits at World Cup
  • Organizers in Doha must “respect my way of life,” beauty queen says in social media post

DOHA: A former winner of the Miss Croatias pageant came under intense scrutiny after challenging Qatar’s stringent World Cup dress code rules with provocative clothing, bluntly stating the host nation “needs to respect my way of life.”

Ivana Knoll, 30, has been a regular sight for sore eyes throughout World Cups — gaining fame for her racey outfits donning her native country’s colours.

“You are in Qatar not in Croatia, you have to respect the rules, it is a Muslim country”, one user posted, another told her “if you did not know that it is forbidden to wear these clothes in an Arab country, and you must respect our customs, traditions and religion.”

Another user called it "disrespectful to the Qatari culture".

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ivana Knöll (@knolldoll)

 

Qatar has a strict dress code when it comes to tourists attending the sporting event, requiring attendees to keep modest with their outfits.

The gulf nation’s tourism board reiterated to football fans that they must “show respect for local culture by avoiding excessively revealing clothing in public.” 

Knoll stated on social media that the country needs to respect her way of life, and that its “unfair for all fans.”

The beauty queen-turned-model wore a figure-revealing dress to Croatia’s stalemate-ending opener against Morocco, and proceeded to post the images on Instagram while tagging FIFA.


FIFA World Cup: Wales fan dies in Qatar after ‘medical incident’

FIFA World Cup: Wales fan dies in Qatar after ‘medical incident’
Updated 28 November 2022

FIFA World Cup: Wales fan dies in Qatar after ‘medical incident’

FIFA World Cup: Wales fan dies in Qatar after ‘medical incident’
  • Kevin Davies, 62, had not attended the Wales match against Iran after feeling ill
  • He was rushed to Doha Hamad General Hospital after ‘medical incident’ at apartment where he was staying

LONDON: The UK Foreign Office is supporting the family of a Wales fan who died in Qatar on Friday while attending the World Cup, Sky News has reported.
Kevin Davies, 62, from the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire, was rushed to Doha Hamad General Hospital on Friday following what is being described as a “medical incident” at the apartment where he was staying. He had not attended the Wales match against Iran after feeling ill.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said British officials are “supporting the family of a British man who has died in Qatar.”
Noel Mooney, CEO of the Football Association of Wales, tweeted: “So sorry to hear that one of our supporters has passed away here. Our condolences go to the family and of course we are here to support however we can.”
It is believed more than 2,500 Wales supporters have gone to Qatar for the World Cup — Wales’ first since 1958 — which has seen them draw with the US and lose to Iran.


NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials

NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials
Updated 26 November 2022

NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials

NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials
  • “The orbit is distant in that Orion will fly about 40,000 miles above the Moon,” NASA said

WASHINGTON: NASA’s Orion spacecraft was placed in lunar orbit Friday, officials said, as the much-delayed Moon mission proceeded successfully.
A little over a week after the spacecraft blasted off from Florida bound for the Moon, flight controllers “successfully performed a burn to insert Orion into a distant retrograde orbit,” the US space agency said on its web site.
The spacecraft is to take astronauts to the Moon in the coming years — the first to set foot on its surface since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
This first test flight, without a crew on board, aims to ensure that the vehicle is safe.
“The orbit is distant in that Orion will fly about 40,000 miles above the Moon,” NASA said.
While in lunar orbit, flight controllers will monitor key systems and perform checkouts while in the environment of deep space, the agency said.
It will take Orion about a week to complete half an orbit around the Moon. It will then exit the orbit for the return journey home, according to NASA.
On Saturday, the ship is expected to go up to 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, a record for a habitable capsule. The current record is held by the Apollo 13 spacecraft at 248,655 miles (400,171 km) from Earth.
It will then begin the journey back to Earth, with a landing in the Pacific Ocean scheduled for December 11, after just over 25 days of flight.
The success of this mission will determine the future of the Artemis 2 mission, which will take astronauts around the Moon without landing, then Artemis 3, which will finally mark the return of humans to the lunar surface.
Those missions are scheduled to take place in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

 


Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars
Updated 25 November 2022

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars
  • The unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals
  • They point visitors in the right direction on their search for public

DOHA: The World Cup 2010 in South Africa had Shakira. The 1998 tournament in France had Ricky Martin.
For many fans, the unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals, better known as Last Mile Marshals.
Seated all over Doha on high chairs more commonly used by lifeguards at swimming pools, these migrant workers have become a staple of the Middle East’s first World Cup.
They point visitors flooding into this Arabian Peninsula nation in the right direction on their search for public transportation. It’s an important crowd control measure as some 1.2 million fans are expected to inundate Qatar, a country home to 3 million people.
The vast majority of the marshals come from Kenya and Ghana. They say they responded to job ads in August and September, ahead of the World Cup.
After a monotonous start, some marshals now sing or chant their instructions to fans. Bullhorns they carry blast out the recorded message again, and again, and again.


The instructions spark laughter among fans who often join in with the chants.
“Which way?” the fans chant.
“This way,” ushers respond, pointing a giant foam finger toward a station on Doha’s new massive underground metro built for the tournament.
The exchange then finds its rhythm and turns into almost a song: “Metro, metro, metro, this way, this way, this way.”
Abubakar Abbas of Kenya says it all started as a way of easing boredom during his first days of work.
“The fans were just passing by without any engagement,” Abbas said from his high chair outside the Souq Waqif metro station, “So I decided to come up with an idea where I can engage the fans and be interesting at the same time. That’s how I came up with the idea and thank God it is trending now.”
Qatar’s World Cup has already produced memorable moments on the pitch, including Argentina’s surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia and Germany’s loss to Japan.
Outside the stadiums, the marshals trance-like chant is stuck in people’s head.
“Even when I sleep at night, I hear ‘metro, metro, metro’ ringing in my head,” he said.