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Simferopol, Ukraine (CNN) – Men in military uniforms patrolled the main airport in Ukraine’s Russian-majority Crimea region Friday, a move that Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called part of an “armed invasion” by Russian forces.
NASA announces 715 new Planets discovered by Kepler Telescope
I love Astronomy. Wish I was smart enough to really study it. The title of my blog is somewhat related. Drake equation was formulated basically meaning in its simplest form that if the Universe if infinitely big the odds of there not being other life out there is infinitely small.
Yesterday NASA announced it had located 715 new Planets with the help of Kepler Space Telescope.
The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. The equation was written in 1961 by Frank Drake not for purposes of quantifying the number of civilizations, but intended as a way to stimulate scientific dialogue at the world’s first SETI meeting, in Green Bank, West Virginia. The equation summarizes the main concepts which scientists must contemplate when considering the question of other radio-communicative life. The Drake equation has proved controversial since several of its factors are currently unknown, and estimates of their values span a very wide range. This has led critics to label the equation a guesstimate, or even meaningless.
Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The spacecraft, named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched on March 7, 2009.
Designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way to discover dozens of Earth-size extrasolar planets in or near the habitable zone and estimate how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets, Kepler’s sole instrument is a photometer that continually monitors the brightness of over 145,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view. This data is transmitted to Earth, then analyzed to detect periodic dimming caused by extrasolar planets that cross in front of their host star.
Kepler is part of NASA’s Discovery Program of relatively low-cost, focused primary science missions. The telescope’s construction and initial operation were managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with Ball Aerospace responsible for developing the Kepler flight system. The Ames Research Center is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations since December 2009, and science data analysis. The initial planned lifetime was 3.5 years, but greater than expected noise in the data, from both the stars and the spacecraft, meant additional time was needed to fulfill all mission goals. Initially, in 2012, the mission was expected to last until 2016, but this would only be possible if all remaining reaction wheels used for pointing the spacecraft remained reliable. On May 11, 2013, a second of four reaction wheels failed, disabling the collection of science data and threatening the continuation of the mission.
As of February 2014, Kepler had found 961 confirmed exoplanets in more than 76 stellar systems, along with a further 3,601 unconfirmed planet candidates. In November 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way Galaxy. 11 billion of these estimated planets may be orbiting sun-like stars. The nearest such planet may be 12 light-years away, according to the scientists..
The NASA announcement
A huge new haul of planets has joined the tally of alien worlds discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, scientists announced today. All of the new planets are members of multiplanet systems—stars with more than one orbiting satellite. Researchers used a new method for weeding out false signals from among the candidate planets found by Kepler, allowing them to add hundreds of “validated” planets to the count of Kepler’s finds. “We studied just over 1,200 systems, and from there we were able to validate 719 planets,” says Jason Rowe of NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., who led the research. “This is the biggest haul ever.”*
Kepler launched in 2009 and stopped taking data last year after two of its stabilizing reaction wheels failed. Its relatively short lifetime, however, has already offered up a wealth of discovery, including more than 3,500 planetary candidates as well as 246 worlds confirmed by follow-up observations. The new harvest brings its tally of true planets to over 1,000.
Kepler searches for planets by measuring stellar brightness dips caused when a planet passes in front of a star, briefly dimming the star’s light. This technique, called the transiting method, is more than 90 percent accurate, but sometimes a nonplanet can fool the telescope. One of the most common reasons for a “false positive” is an eclipsing binary—a pair of orbiting stars that sometimes cross in front of one another from our perspective—lying along the same line of sight as the foreground star Kepler is studying. Eclipsing binaries dim when one star passes in front of the other, mimicking the dimming effect a planet would have.
Stars with a single planet can be hard to distinguish from eclipsing binaries. But multiplanet systems are far less likely to be frauds. “It happens, but it’s unlikely that you have two eclipsing binaries in the background of the same star,” says Francois Fressin of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who was not involved in the study. “That simple fact tremendously increases the odds that they are bona fide planets.” It is also possible to have an eclipsing binary and a star with a planet lying right on top of one another, albeit extremely unlikely. “Based on that argument we started to get into the statistics to see if we can quantify that and see how many we can pull out and say with very good confidence they are validated planets,” Rowe says.
Scientific American article on NASA announcement
Further reading in Time
This is somewhat alarming to me. I am getting the sense Russia is not gonna let this resolve without a fight. One of the biggest Naval Stations in the World is located in the Crimean region of the Ukraine. It is a Russian naval station.
Russia’s order for 150,000 troops to test their combat readiness near Ukraine’s border has prompted a blunt warning from the United States that any military intervention in the crisis-torn nation would be a “grave mistake”.
Vladimir Putin’s announcement of huge new war games came as Ukraine’s protest leaders named a millionaire former banker to head its new government after the country’s pro-Russian president went into hiding.
The new government, which is expected to be formally approved by parliament today, will face the hugely complicated task of restoring stability in a country that is not only deeply divided politically but on the verge of financial collapse. Its fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital last week.
In Kiev’s Independence Square, the heart of the protest movement against Mr Yanukovych, the interim leaders who seized control after he disappeared proposed Arseniy Yatsenyuk, 39, as the country’s new prime minister. He served as economy minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker before Mr Yanukovych took office in 2010 and is widely viewed as a technocratic reformer who enjoys the support of the US.
Across Ukraine, the divided allegiances between Russia and the West were on full display as fistfights broke out between pro and anti-Russia protesters in the strategic Crimea peninsula.
Amid the tensions, President Putin put the military on alert for massive exercises involving most of the military units in western Russia and announced measures to tighten security at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
The manoeuvres will involve some 150,000 troops, 880 tanks, 90 aircraft and 80 navy ships and are intended to ��check the troops’ readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security”, defence minister Sergei Shoigu said.
But the move prompted a sharp rebuke from US secretary of state John Kerry. “Any kind of military intervention that would violate the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine would be a huge, a grave mistake,” he said. “The territorial integrity of Ukraine needs to be respected.”
Russian Wargames on border with Ukraine. 150,000 troops
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Russia on Thursday that it must be transparent about military exercises on its border with Ukraine.
The popular uprising in Kiev has reignited Cold War rivalries between East and West, with Russia announcing emergency drills of combat troops and the United States pledging a $1 billion loan deal to the West-leaning interim government.
“I am closely watching Russia’s military exercises along the Ukrainian border,” Hagel told a NATO press conference on Thursday.
“I expect Russia to be transparent about these activities and I urge them not to take any steps that could be misinterpreted, or lead to miscalculation during a very delicate time, a time of great tension.”
Hagel watching developments closely
Just when you think it won’t get more serious
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Russia sent fighter jets to patrol the border with Ukraine, reportedly gave shelter to the country’s fugitive president and stood by as pro-Russian gunmen stormed offices of a strategic region, deepening the crisis for Ukraine’s new government even as it was being formed.
The moves pose an immediate challenge to Ukraine’s new authorities as they seek to set up an interim government for the country, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West. Some 150,000 Russian soldiers carried out military exercises and fighter jets patrolled the border.
A respected Russian news organization reported that President Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven out of Kiev by a three-month protest movement, was staying in a Kremlin sanatorium just outside Moscow.
“I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists,” Yanukovych said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies on Thursday. He said he still considers himself president.
Shortly after, the same three Russian news agencies quoted an unnamed Russian official saying that Yanukovych’s request for protection “was satisfied on the territory of Russia.”
Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as acting president after Yanukovych’s flight, condemned the takeover of government buildings in Crimea as a “crime against the government of Ukraine.” He warned that any move by Russian troops off of their base in Crimea “will be considered a military aggression.”
“Unidentified people with automatic weapons, explosives and grenades have taken over the governmental buildings and the Parliament building in the autonomous region of Crimea,” he said. “I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings.”
In Kiev, lawmakers were expected to approve the new government that will face the hugely complicated task of restoring stability in a country that is not only deeply divided politically but on the verge of financial collapse.
Protest leaders said Wednesday that they would propose Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the country’s new prime minister. The 39-year-old served as economy minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker before Yanukovych took office in 2010, and is widely viewed as a technocratic reformer who enjoys the support of the U.S.
Yanukovych fled after riot police attacked protesters in Kiev’s central square, killing more than 80 people, and European and Russian officials intervened. He has not been seen publicly since Saturday, when he said he remained the legitimately elected president — a position that has been backed by Russia.
Russia’s respected RBK news organization reported Wednesday evening that Yanukovych was staying at the Barvikha sanatorium, which is run by the presidential administration’s property department. The spokesman for this department, Viktor Khrekov, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he has no information about this.
The RBK report was impossible to confirm, but security at the Ukraina Hotel was unusually heavy late Wednesday, with police watching from parked vehicles outside and guards posted throughout the lobby. Some of Yanukovych’s allies, also reported to have been at the hotel, may have still been there.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman also said he had no information about Yanukovych’s reported arrival in Moscow.
In a clear warning to Ukraine, Putin on Wednesday ordered massive military exercises involving most of the military units in western Russia. On Thursday, as part of the exercises, 90 fighter jets were put on combat alert and were patrolling the border with Ukraine, Russian news agencies quoted the Defense Ministry as saying.
The military also announced measures to tighten security at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean peninsula in southeastern Ukraine.
The military maneuvers prompted a sharp rebuke from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who warned Russiathat any military intervention in Ukraine would be a “grave mistake.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced concern Thursday about the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and vowed to protect their interests. State-owned ITAR-Tass news agency quoted a statement read at a session of the ministry’s board on Thursday, saying that Russia “will have a firm and uncompromising response to violations of the rights of compatriots by foreign states.”
Russian jet fighters deploy at border of Ukraine
Very concerning. Very. I was going to post about GCHQ storing billions of images taken from Yahoo users over the last 8 years without warrant but this news dwarfs it to some degree.
Importance of Russian Black Sea Fleet
This is one of if not the major reason this area of the Ukraine is so vital to Russian strategic interests. Location, Location, Location
With recent protests in Ukraine’s Crimea demanding secession or reunification with Russia, much attention has been focused on Moscow’s naval base on the peninsula. What happens to the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol after the fall of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych is part of a bigger Crimean picture. There are certainly political and ethno-cultural reasons for Moscow to desire continued influence in the Crimea, but the purely military-strategic importance of Sevastopol to Russia’s broader military strategy has in fact weakened in recent years.
Founded by imperial Russia 230 years ago, the base has always been a crucial outlet for the Russian navy. Headquartered here and travelling through the Bosporus Strait, the Black Sea Fleet has access to the Mediterranean within a day’s sailing, as opposed to the weeks it would take from the Northern Fleet’s bases on the Kola peninsula.
For this reason, the base at Sevastopol has allowed Moscow to exert influence over the Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans and Middle East. The importance of the Mediterranean to Russia was highlighted in 2013, when amid the civil war in Syria Moscow declared the creation of a ‘permanent task force’ for the sea and bolstered its presence to ten vessels. In August 2008, it was the Black Sea Fleet that provided the 13 vessels used to defeat the small Georgian navy and land troops in Abkhazia and Poti during the brief war.
This flotilla was likely the maximum deployable force for the fleet at the time; many of the fleet’s vessels are ageing and in need of maintenance. Handheld photos taken by intrepid Institute staff confirm that while the minesweepers and Kilo-class submarine based in Sevastopol appear, at first glance, to be in good order, some of the auxiliary craft have visible signs of ageing. Some of the largest vessels in the fleet, such as the cruiser Kerch and the destroyer Smetlivy, are now at least four decades old. Perhaps for this reason, the Black Sea fleet is set to benefit from significant investment in coming years. Six advanced Kilo-class submarines are on order to be delivered to the BSF, and the second of the two Mistral-class amphibious assault vessels will be part of this fleet.
However, there are also reasons to question the unique importance of Sevastopol specifically to Russia’s broad military strategy.
Firstly, there is the size of the Black Sea Fleet, which is only the second smallest fleet in Russia’s five naval organisations (only the Caspian Sea Flotilla is smaller in terms of combat vessels).
Secondly, and more importantly, options exist for Russia to base the vessels on its own Black Sea coast. For this reason, the port of Novorossiysk has seen considerable investment since 2008 to construct an artificial peninsula and breakwater and dredge areas of the port to enable the basing of more and larger vessels there. In fact, the six new submarines and the Mistral (ironically, to be named Sevastopol) will all be based in Novorossiysk. The Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, Moskva, may also be transferred there.
The expansion of Novorossiysk has been under way for more than five years, as the 20-year deadline for the 1997 Russia-Ukraine agreement on the use of Sevastopol began to loom larger. Even though a new agreement was reached in 2010 to allow for Russian leasing of Sevastopol until 2042, the completion of Novorossiysk’s expansion indicates that Moscow is already hedging its bets on the use of the Crimea as its BSF headquarters. The Ukrainian government had already placed restrictions and costs on Russian vessels based or transiting through the port, such as the fact that transferral of new ships to or upgrading of current vessels in Sevastopol requires Ukrainian consent. Such restrictions obviously do not exist on Russian territory.
Importance of Black Sea fleet