With the help of 192 lasers, scientists have made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion.
Researchers working on fusion energy at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California revealed on Tuesday that they have achieved a long-awaited breakthrough in simulating the sun's power in a lab.
This prompted enthusiasm among the general people since fusion, the nuclear reaction that creates stars, has long been discussed by scientists as a potential future source of abundant energy.
The outcome that was revealed on Tuesday is the first fusion reaction that took place in a lab environment and really created more energy than it consumed to initiate the reaction.
If fusion can be implemented on a large scale, it will provide a source of energy that is free of the harmful long-lived radioactive waste produced by today's nuclear power plants, which use the splitting of uranium to produce energy, as well as the pollution and greenhouse gases brought on by the burning of fossil fuels.
The planets' atmospheres are heated and illuminated by sunlight produced by the continuous fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium within the sun and stars. Fusion proves to be a very clean energy source in Earth's experimental reactors and laser laboratories.
However, there was always a nagging qualification. Scientists' experiments used up more energy than the fusion reactions produced in all of their attempts to regulate the chaotic power of fusion.
This changed on December 5 at 1:03 in the morning when 192 massive lasers at the laboratory's National Ignition Facility blasted a tiny cylinder the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen coated in diamond.
The cylinder was vaporized by the laser beams that entered it from the top and bottom. The heavier types of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium, were compressed into a fuel pellet the size of a BB as a result of the internal onslaught of X-rays that were produced.
The hydrogen pellet was bombarded with 2.05 megajoules of energy, or about a pound of TNT, in a brief period of time that lasted less than 100 trillionths of a second. A flood of neutron particles, a byproduct of fusion, came out, each carrying around 3 megajoules of energy, an increase in energy of 1.5.
This went above what laser fusion specialists refer to as the ignition threshold, or the point at which the energy produced by fusion equals the energy of the incoming lasers that initiate the reaction.
The National Ignition Facility's development began in 1997, and the successful experiment eventually achieves the ignition aim that was pledged at that time. However, when operations started in 2009, the facility barely produced any fusion energy, which was an embarrassing letdown given the federal government's $3.5 billion investment.
Scientists from Livermore finally reported some progress in 2014, but the amount of energy generated was negligible — only enough to power a 60-watt light bulb for five minutes. Over the following few years, there was very little advancement.
The facility then produced a far larger energy burst in August of last year, equal to 70% of the energy from the laser light.
The program director for weapons physics and design at Livermore, Mark Herrmann, stated in an interview that the researchers then carried out a series of experiments to better understand the unexpected success in August and that they worked to increase laser energy by almost 10% and improve the design of the hydrogen targets.
In September, the first laser shot at 2.05 megajoules was made, and that first attempt generated 1.2 megajoules of fusion energy. The spherical hydrogen pellet was not crushed equally, and some of it practically squirted out the side and did not reach fusion temperatures, according to analyses.
The researchers made certain modifications that they thought would improve the results.
According to Dr. Herrmann, "the forecast before the shot was that it may go up by a factor of two." Actually, it increased a little bit more than that.
The National Ignition Facility's primary objective is to carry out experiments that will aid in the maintenance of American nuclear weapons. The implications for generating energy right away are therefore uncertain.
Fusion would effectively be an emissions-free source of energy, reducing the need for coal and gas-burning power plants that annually release billions of tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
But if ever, it will be a while before fusion is accessible on a broad, practical basis.
According to the majority of climate scientists and decision-makers, the world must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius or the even more ambitious aim of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Tokamaks are doughnut-shaped reactors that have been the mainstay of fusion research up to now. A plasma is a cloud of positively charged nuclei and negatively charged electrons created when hydrogen gas is heated to temperatures high enough to remove the electrons from the hydrogen nuclei. As the nuclei fuse together, energy is released as neutrons that shoot outward are trapped by magnetic fields inside the doughnut-shaped plasma.
Although the work at NIF uses a different methodology, not much has been done to make the concept of a laser fusion power plant a reality up to this point. Technology and science both face very big obstacles, according to Dr. Budil.
Although NIF is the most potent laser in the world, it is also the slowest and least effective since it uses technology that is many decades old.
The device, which is roughly the size of a sports stadium, is made to conduct simple scientific experiments rather than serve as a model for the production of power.
Ten shots every week on average. A commercial laser fusion plant would require substantially faster lasers, maybe 10 times faster, capable of firing at a machine gun pace.
Additionally, NIF still uses a lot more energy than the fusion reactions do.
Even though the most recent experiment yielded a net energy gain in comparison to the energy of the 2.05 megajoules in the entering laser beams, NIF still needed to draw 300 megajoules from the electrical grid in order to produce the brief laser pulse.
Even while other kinds of lasers are more effective, researchers say a practical laser fusion power plant will likely need far bigger energy increases than the 1.5 seen in this most recent fusion pulse.
Different iterations of the NIF experiment are being studied by researchers elsewhere. The hydrogen might be heated more effectively using other kinds of lasers with different wavelengths.
Some scientists prefer a "direct drive" strategy for laser fusion, in which the laser light heats the hydrogen directly. The hydrogen would absorb more energy as a result, but this could potentially lead to unstable fusion processes.
The scientists working on the nuclear stockpile, which is the NIF's main objective, will benefit from the findings that were announced on Tuesday. Scientists are trying to replace the data they used to get from underground nuclear bomb detonations, which the United States ceased in 1992, by conducting these nuclear reactions in a lab at a less damaging scale.
Dr. Herrmann stated that the facility's increased fusion output will generate more data "that allows us to preserve the confidence in our nuclear deterrent without the necessity for further underground testing." The output, which is 30,000 trillion watts of power, "creates very harsh situations in itself" that are more akin to nuclear weapons exploding.
The purpose of this particular Livermore experiment, according to Riccardo Betti, chief scientist of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester, who was not participating, is to show that a thermonuclear fuel may be ignited for the first time in a laboratory setting.
And this was completed, he continued. "So this is a fantastic outcome."
CC : Kenneth Chang , NY times
The Crew-5 astronaut mission from SpaceX has reached the International Space Station.
The ISS is now home to a varied international crew that will stay there for five months.
On October 5th, the Crew-5 mission was launched from Florida's NASA Kennedy Space Center, carrying a Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. After a 29-hour orbital chase, that Dragon, called Endurance, finally connected with the International Space Station (ISS) today, October 6.
At 5:01 p.m. EDT , Endurance made contact with the forward port of the station's Harmony module as the two spacecraft flew over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa. Ten minutes later, the docking process was finished.
Around 6:45 p.m., the hatches between Endurance and the ISS were opened. EDT, and approximately 10 minutes later, the Crew-5 astronauts—Nicole NASA's Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan's Koichi Wakata, and cosmonaut Anna Kikina—flew onto the orbiting lab. They'll spend five months residing aboard the ISS.
Mann, the first Native American woman in space, and Kikina, the first cosmonaut to fly aboard a SpaceX Dragon, have the honor of carrying personal mantles for this journey. Both, as well as Cassada, are first-time space travelers; Wakata has gone to space five times.
SpaceX's Crew-3 mission was also transported to and from the ISS by the Dragon Endurance. Four Crew Dragon capsules, which are updated and put through testing before each subsequent flight, are used by SpaceX. The components used by Endurance during flight were a brand-new heat shield, parachutes, and nose cone.
Although Falcon 9 with a brand-new first stage was used for the Crew-5 liftoff, SpaceX is also well known for using older rockets. The booster was dazzling white and clear of the soot that is typically seen on the company's reflown first stages. It was painted with NASA's worm insignia.
Seven crew members, including four from SpaceX's Crew-4 mission, are already on board the ISS when the Crew-5 astronauts arrive. The countdown to Crew-4's departure from the station, which will occur in roughly a week, starts with the arrival of Crew-5, according to Sarah Walker, director for Dragon mission management at SpaceX.
The exact timing of Crew-4's splashdown return off the coast of Florida is dependent on weather, Walker said during yesterday's post-launch press conference.
CC: NASA, Josh D
NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft makes significant progress approaching its 2024 launch
One step closer to departing on its trip to Jupiter's ice moon is NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft.
Life on Earth requires three things to thrive: a source of energy like sunlight, a liquid solvent like water, and elements like carbon that can form complex molecules known as organics.
To find out if Europa can support life, NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft will fly in 2024 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The main body of Europa Clipper is an aluminum cylinder that clocks in at 10 feet (3 meters) tall and 5 feet (1.5 m) wide.
Early in June, the spacecraft body arrived at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in southern California after being outfitted with integrated electronics, cabling, and a propulsion system.
"It's an exciting time for the whole project team and a huge milestone," Jordan Evans, the mission's project manager at JPL, said in a statement(opens in new tab). "This delivery brings us one step closer to launch and the Europa Clipper science investigation."
Now that Europa Clipper is assembled, engineers and technicians will begin connecting the mission's nine science instruments in order to get the spacecraft ready for launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in October 2024.
The Europa Clipper, which takes its name from the three-masted, ocean-going merchant ships of the 19th century, intends to make roughly 50 flybys of Jupiter's icy moon Europa, which is thought to have an interior ocean with twice as much water as the total volume of Earth's seas.
With its expected arrival in the Jupiter system in 2030, the spacecraft will employ its collection of instruments to gather information about Europa's atmosphere, surface, and interior in order to start addressing questions about the moon's habitability.
Additionally, the Europa Clipper will scan Europa's broken and crisscrossed crust for any prospective water plumes that might be spewing samples of the hypothesized deep ocean.
One of the scientific community's major priorities has long been an expedition to Europa. Members of the Planetary Society contributed to the success of the expedition by writing tens of thousands of letters to their congressional representatives, hosting conferences in Washington, D.C., and lobbying with Congress to get funding for the mission. In 2015, NASA gave the project official approval.
cc : NASA, JPL/Caltech, Andrew J
Since 1989, when the NASA probe Voyager 2 passed by Neptune on its way out of the solar system, no spacecraft has made a stop at the planet. The furthest planet in our solar system, Neptune, is four times as wide as Earth. Astronomers were anxious to find out more information about the ice giant, and Voyager 2's observations whetted their appetites.
The James Webb Space Telescope viewed this distant planet on Wednesday September 21st,2022 with its mighty, gold-plated eye. Some of our best views of Neptune in the past 30 years have been made possible by the power of this infrared telescope, the biggest and most sophisticated telescope ever sent into space. In the past thirty years, numerous photographs of Neptune have been captured by both ground-based observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope. However, the Webb's observations of Neptune from July offer a previously unheard-before look at the planet in infrared light. In just a few minutes, the telescope was able to capture a close-up image of Neptune, and it only took another 20 minutes to capture a larger image, which showed not just the planet but also a vast number of galaxies that extended into space behind it. “It’s aesthetically fascinating to see those distant galaxies and get a sense for how small the ice giant appears,” said Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which runs the Webb telescope.
The Neptune rings, which are most noticeable in the telescope's perspective because of the planet's orientation to Earth, are visible encircling it at a slight inclination. Astronomers will be able to measure the ring's reflectance using the Webb telescope, providing a unique perspective on this far-off spectacle. The dimensions and material of these thin bands, which are most likely formed of ice and other debris, may be revealed by new photos.
Brilliant lights can be seen all across the planet that soar high into the planet's skies and can last for days. These bright spots are thought to be methane ice clouds. "Nobody really knows what these things are,” said Patrick Irwin, a planetary physicist at Oxford University. “They seem to come and go, a bit like cirrus clouds on Earth.” The Webb telescope’s future observations could uncover how they form and what they are made of.
The 14 moons of Neptune are also visible in Webb pictures. The largest moon of the planet, Triton, is the brightest and is thought to have been drawn into the solar system by Neptune's gravity in the early solar system's history. Triton's frozen nitrogen surface makes it appear as a star in infrared photos, shining brighter than Neptune itself because methane makes the planet appear darker in infrared images. There isn't much to learn about Triton from this picture because NASA recently decided against sending a spacecraft to examine it. Future Webb observations, however, should provide some indication of the makeup of Triton's surface and may reveal variations that point to geological activity. These images of Neptune are just the latest in Webb’s tour of the solar system.
The observatory will be able to see far more of our solar system, including Saturn, Uranus, and even distant, frigid planets beyond Neptune, such the dwarf planet Pluto.
CC to : NASA,ESA
Muscle Oxygen Saturation
Many of us base a lot of our training and zone-setting on Heart Rate. Muscle Oxygen Saturation, however, is a different statistic that can offer more in-depth, real-time insight into performance. Training with heart rate has a number of restrictions that SmO2 monitoring does not. Unlike heart rate, which is a systemic measurement, SmO2 not only may be targeted to individual muscles but also provides readings in real-time. This enables athletes to pinpoint the precise moment the body transitions from anaerobic to aerobic metabolism during an interval, as well as the precise speed and length at which that period is most successful.