Added 1 new A* page:One up side of working ahead and posting just one page a day to cover me for the upcoming transition to episode 13 is that I at least get the page posted a bit earlier in the day. =P|
I saw an article recently saying that the University of California, San Diego is working on building the world's largest antimatter trap; I've talked a few times about the ALPHA antimatter-trapping experiment at CERN, and this article I linked about it before doesn't say how many antiparticles it holds, exactly, but various particle or proton figures given there relative to the trap are in the 30 million to 1 billion range. The UCSD trap, on the other hand, "will be able to store more than a trillion antimatter particles at once"; one difference in its design is that it will be a "multicell" trap, with multiple magnetic "bottle" fields, each holding "ten of billions" of antiparticles. So if it comes off, it *sounds* like it could greatly accelerate (little joke there :p) antimatter research by making more of the stuff available for observation and testing.
NASA's MESSENGER craft that I mentioned recently as approaching Mercury is now in orbit around our solar system's innermost planet--the first craft to accomplish that feat. The article says it will start sending pictures back in April, which should be neat. It also mentions that MESSENGER and Voyager 2--NASA's 1977 probe, now winging outward at the far edge of the solar system--"exchanged tweets," which is, uh, well...weird. :P
Speaking of NASA probes going out, NASA's Stardust probe, which I have also mentioned before, having visited an asteroid and not just one but TWO comets, will conduct one final test: according to this NASA news article, it will fire its engines until its fuel is depleted. That will help NASA check how close their fuel use estimates have been to how much the craft--which has fired its rockets 2 million times, and covered over 5.5 billion space kilometers (3.5 billion miles)--has actually used, since apparently "no one has invented an entirely reliable fuel gauge for spacecraft." Huh! This final burn will leave Stardust drifting somewhere between Earth and Mars; once it runs out of fuel, it won't be able to maneuver to keep its solar panels pointed at the sun, and will consequently run out of power within hours. So farewell, Stardust! You've been one of the most successful space probes in history, and I'll miss writing about your adventures around the solar system.