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Update August 2017


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Science & Nature
 

Update August 12, 2017

Physicists find new particle with a double dose of charm

This image provided by CERN shows an artist’s conception of a new subatomic particle. The particle is the first of its kind to have two heavy quarks, both a type called “charm.” (CERN via AP)

Seth Borenstein

Washington (AP) - Scientists have found an extra charming new subatomic particle that they hope will help further explain a key force that binds matter together.

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe announced Thursday the fleeting discovery of a long theorized but never-before-seen type of baryon.

Baryons are subatomic particles made up of quarks. Protons and neutrons are the most common baryons. Quarks are even smaller particles that come in six types, two common types that are light and four heavier types.

The high-speed collisions at the world’s biggest atom smasher created for a fraction of a second a baryon particle called Xi cc, said Oxford physicist Guy Wilkinson, who is part of the experiment.

The particle has two heavy quarks - both of a type that are called “charm”- and a light one. In the natural world, baryons have at most one heavy quark.

It may have been brief, but in particle physics it lived for “an appreciably long time,” he said.

The two heavy quarks are in a dance that’s just like the interaction of a star system with two suns and the third lighter quark circles the dancing pair, Wilkinson said.

“People have looked for it for a long time,” Wilkinson said. He said this opens up a whole new “family” of baryons for physicists to find and study.

“It gives us a very unique and interesting laboratory to give us an interesting new angle on the behavior of the strong interaction (between particles), which is one of the key forces in nature,” Wilkinson said.

Chris Quigg, a theoretical physicist at the Fermilab near Chicago, who wasn’t part of the discovery team, praised the discovery and said “it gives us a lot to think about.”

The team has submitted a paper to the journal Physical Review Letters.

The Large Hadron Collider, located in a 27-kilometer (16.8-mile) tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border, was instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson. It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN.


Update August 5, 2017

Apollo 11 bag laced with moon dust sells for $1.8 million

The Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil Armstrong sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle. The lunar dust plus some tiny rocks that Armstrong also collected are zipped up in a small bag. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

New York (AP) - A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle.

The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space voyages. The buyer declined to be identified. The pre-sale estimate was $2 million to $4 million.

The artifact from the Apollo 11 mission had been misidentified and sold at an online government auction, and NASA had fought to get it back. But in December a federal judge ruled that it legally belonged to a Chicago-area woman who bought it in 2015 for $995.

Sotheby’s declined to identify the seller. However, details of the 2015 purchase were made public during the court case.

Investigators unknowingly hit the moon mother lode in 2003 while searching the garage of a man later convicted of stealing and selling museum artifacts, including some that were on loan from NASA.

The 12-by-8-inch (30-by-20-centimeter) bag was misidentified and sold at an online government auction.

Nancy Carlson, of Inverness, Illinois, got an ordinary-looking bag made of white Beta cloth and polyester with rubberized nylon and a brass zipper.

Carlson, a collector, knew the bag had been used in a space flight, but she didn’t know which one. She sent it to NASA for testing, and the government agency, discovering its importance, fought to keep it.

The artifact “belongs to the American people,” NASA said then.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten, in Wichita, Kansas, said that while it shouldn’t have gone up for auction he didn’t have the authority to reverse the sale. He ordered the government to return it.

The judge said the importance and desirability of the bag stemmed solely from the efforts of NASA employees whose “amazing technical achievements, skill and courage in landing astronauts on the moon and returning them safely have not been replicated in the almost half a century since the Apollo 11 landing.”

When it comes to moon landings, Thursday’s auction is far from the final frontier.

A group called For All Moonkind Inc. mentioned the moon bag this week while campaigning for “measures to preserve and protect the six Apollo lunar landing sites.” It plans to take up the issue this month at the Starship Congress 2017 in California.

Also getting out-of-this-world interest at the auction was the Flown Apollo 13 Flight Plan, with handwritten notations by all three crew members. It sold to an online bidder for $275,000, well above its pre-sale estimate high of $40,000.


What to drive on Mars? Rover to be displayed at DC museum

(NASA)

Washington (AP) - The type of vehicle that could explore the surface of Mars is going on display in Washington.

The National Air and Space Museum is featuring the Mars rover concept vehicle on Friday and Saturday. Friday is the museum’s annual “Mars Day!” celebration.

The museum says the rover weighs 5,500 pounds (2495 kilograms) and is nearly 11 feet (3 meters) tall. It was commissioned by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida as a traveling exhibit to inspire the public about space exploration and interplanetary travel.

The Washington Post reports the rover can separate in the middle, with the front end working as a scout vehicle and the rear end working as a laboratory. It runs on an electric motor fueled by solar panels and battery power.
 


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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Physicists find new particle with a double dose of charm


Apollo 11 bag laced with moon dust sells for $1.8 million

What to drive on Mars? Rover to be displayed at DC museum

 



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