Analysis Reveals Elongated, Cigar-Like Shape for First Interstellar Asteroid


Bizarre Interstellar Asteroid Is Unlike Any Observed In Solar System

Bruce Dorminey, Contributor

This space rocket business wants to run like an airline
Analysis Reveals Elongated, Cigar-Like Shape for First Interstellar Asteroid
Astronomers are still debating the origins of the first confirmed interstellar object to pass through our solar system, now known as 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua). But an international observing team of professional astronomers says that this highly-elongated, 400-meter long asteroid may well have been wandering through the galaxy unattached to any star system for hundreds of millions of years. That is, long before its wholly unexpected encounter with our own solar system.
This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System.
Discovered only a month ago by astronomers using the Pan-STARRs1 telescope in Hawaii, an international team led by astronomer Karen Meech has made detailed measurements of its properties. “This thing is very strange, with a complex, convoluted shape,” Meech, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, said in a statement.

Among the strangest things about the object is its bizarre, elongated shape, estimated to be some ten times as long as it is wide. Spinning on its axis every 7.3 hours, its extreme brightness variations are unlike any known asteroid or comet from our own solar system.
“We also found that it had a reddish color, similar to objects in the outer solar system, and confirmed that it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it,” Meech said in a statement.
Thus, it apparently is an asteroid and not a comet. Thought to be dense, possibly rocky or with high metal content , the European Southern Observatory (ESO) reports it lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and that its surface is now dark and reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over millions of years.
These properties suggest that ‘Oumuamua is dense, composed of rock and possibly metals, has no water or ice, and that its surface was reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over hundreds of millions of years.

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Although such interstellar objects are thought to visit our solar system about once a year, it’s only been since next generation survey telescopes like Pan-STARRs have come online that astronomers have had a chance to spot them.
`Oumuamua dropped into our solar system from “above” the ecliptic, the plane where most planets and asteroids orbit the sun, and is now skipping away from the solar system, headed back to interstellar space, the University of Wisconsin reported last week.  The university noted that even to the largest telescopes, the object appears as a faint, fuzzy spot on a background of stars.
Yet observations are continuing. Thus, astronomers hope to more accurately determine from where it originated and exactly where it’s going next .
Both NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope will continue tracking the object this week. As of today, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) reports that ‘Oumuamua is traveling about 85,700 miles per hour relative to the Sun. JPL says its outbound location is now some 124 million miles from Earth, and some 20 degrees above the plane of the ecliptic — the geometric plane on which our planets orbit the Sun.
As for figuring out where it actually originated?
That may never be possible. But says that preliminary orbital calculations indicate that the object had come from the approximate direction of the bright star Vega, in the northern constellation of Lyra. But Vega was not even near that position an estimated 300,000 years ago when the asteroid passed through that region of the sky. So, where from which star system it ultimately originated will take more calculations and astronomical detective work.
As for where it’s heading?
It will pass Jupiter next may before traveling beyond the orbit of Saturn in January 2019. Once it leaves our solar system, JPL says it will be heading for the constellation of Pegasus.
Ground-based telescopes will continue to track it until mid-December or until it becomes too faint to be detected.
MORE FROMBruce Dorminey, Contributor


Man forgets where he parks his car – then finds it 20 years later


Man forgets where he parks his car – then finds it 20 years later
20 / 27

The Independent
Harry Cockburn
14 hrs ago



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Back in 1997 in the German city of Frankfurt, a man reported his car as stolen to the police.
Twenty years later, the authorities in the city have tracked down the missing vehicle, only to discover that the man who owned it had in fact, just forgotten where he’d parked the car and had assumed it had been stolen.

The vehicle was found in a garage in an old industrial building that is due to be demolished.
The car was in the way of the demolition so it was reported to the police who then investigated who the owner was.
According to German regional paper Augsberger Allgemein, the man, now 76-years-old, was driven by the police with his daughter to be reunited with the car.
Unfortunately the car was no longer functional and had to be scrapped. “The car can no longer be driven and will be sent to the scrap heap,” Frankfurt authorities said.
The incident is reminiscent of another German case, in which a man was reunited with his vehicle two years after parking up and going on a drinking binge in Munich, only to forget where he’d parked. He reported it missing and eventually police found the vehicle 4km (2.5 miles) away from where the man thought he’d parked it.
It had 40,000 euros (USD$47,000) in cash in the boot, along with 50,000 euros (USD$59,000) worth of tools.
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Earlier this year a man from Scotland lost his car after attending a Stoneroses gig in Manchester. He reportedly searched for the vehicle for 5 days before giving up. He even contacted the council and various companies in a bid to trace the vehicle.
He eventually reported the car stolen, but it was found six months later, exactly where he’d left it, though with parking fines estimated at over £5,000 (roughly USD$6,600).

Why do we need ‘accidental heroes’ to deal with global cyber-attacks? Evgeny Morozov

Big tech firms say they are the only providers of large cybersecurity services – even as their products are compromised. The conflict of interest is huge


Marcus Hutchins, an IT security blogger from Ilfracombe, became an ‘accidental hero’ when he halted the global cyber-attack that hit the NHS. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP

Saturday 20 May 2017 16.39 EDT
First published on Saturday 20 May 2017 16.32 EDT
To appreciate the perversity of our reliance on US technology giants, you just need to grapple with the fact that one of the likely winners in the global “cyber-outage” – caused by the series of crippling cyber-attacks that hit public and private institutions worldwide a week ago – might be the very company whose software was compromised – Microsoft.
The WannaCry ransomware used in the attack wreaked havoc on organisations including FedEx and Telefónica, as well as the NHS, where operations were cancelled, x-rays, test results and patient records became unavailable and phones did not work. In the end the global spread of the attack was halted by an “accidental hero”, a 22-year-old IT security blogger from Ilfracombe, Devon. Marcus Hutchins found and inadvertently activated a “kill switch” in the malware by registering a specific domain name hidden within the program.
But even before the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks, Microsoft – always seeking to deflate any responsibility for the flaws in its products – had been advocating the establishment of the digital equivalent of Geneva conventions that would protect civilians from cyber-attacks launched by nation states. At the same time, such agreements would allocate responsibility to big tech companies that would help to ensure safety online.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, who has been spearheading the company’s efforts over this, has even compared the tech sector to the Red Cross. “Just as the fourth Geneva convention recognised that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyber-attacks requires the active assistance of technology companies,” he wrote on the company’s blog in February.
In the wake of the WannaCry outage, Microsoft stepped up its rhetoric, with Smith and many others demanding immediate action by governments.
Yet something in this effort seems disingenuous as Microsoft is essentially asking to be given more duties and responsibilities by means of international legislation. And what company would voluntarily desire more such regulations imposed on its global operations?
However, the reasons for such humanitarian enthusiasm – which has become the trademark of the tech industry – are entirely selfish. First, it is an elaborate publicity exercise aimed at presenting cyber-attacks as natural and inevitable, or at least as something that only nation states are responsible for; tech companies, by this logic, are just the victims of sophisticated hacking attacks by the geniuses at intelligence agencies.
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This reasoning has little basis in reality: tech giants such as Microsoft enjoy so much market power – not least due to their extensive intellectual property holdings – that they hardly operate in a competitive market environment. This quickly eliminates any incentives to actually make their software as secure as possible, issue regular updates, retire outdated and compromised products early and so on. These firms are fat and lazy, and justify their rentier-like status with highfalutin talk of “disruption” and “innovation”, not to mention that the proprietary nature of their software makes it impossible to examine it for any possible flaws and backdoors.


Second, there is no sign that the US – which has the most sophisticated and extensive government-run hacking apparatus in the world – would sign up to these digital Geneva conventions. This, after all, is the same country that has been refusing to ratify several core protocols of the original Geneva conventions. But even if the Trump administration does miraculously decide to adhere to its digital equivalent – and it would be a miracle because all the evidence suggests Trump hates multilaterial treaties – there are few grounds to believe that the National Security Agency or the CIA would not simply ignore them.
Third, you cannot understand Microsoft’s desire for regulation without understanding what exactly it would entail. Essentially, the complexity of modern cyber-attacks has become so enormous that the only actors capable of shielding us from them are the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Even many seasoned security professionals now concede that for most cyber-attacks we might be safer using commercial services from big tech giants rather than, say, running our own email servers – a lesson learned by Hillary Clinton.
When artificial intelligence and machine learning become key ingredients in determining what is spam or a malicious attack, it is obvious that whoever controls those resources will also be the key service provider. In this field, there is little or no competition to the big US tech firms. A few Chinese companies are trying to catch up, but not very successfully because this battle also involves a global hunt for the talent and data needed to train the machine-learning systems. How did US tech firms develop this superb capability in artificial intelligence? Some of it has to do with the legacy of the cold war and the massive government funding that it spawned. But some of it comes from the particular nature of the business models, which are greatly facilitated by America’s insistence on the liberalisation of the global trade in services and the removal of any barriers to the free flow of data.

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These business models are quite brutal in their simplicity: firms such as Google and Facebook use advertising to pay for the provision of relatively trivial services, like search or email, in order then to extract and deploy the user data to develop non-trivial products and services, such as self-driving cars or advanced health analytics capable of diagnosing diseases early on.
In essence, the concentration of the most valuable resource of the new century – artificial intelligence – in Silicon Valley makes US tech firms impossible to disrupt, allowing them to create new opportunities for rent-extraction. In the case of cybersecurity and the “digital Geneva conventions”, Microsoft’s game plan is clear: once nation states formally recognise the company as the digital equivalent of the Red Cross, it should also lead to lucrative private contracts to offer cybersecurity protection – all of that, obviously, at a hefty fee. Thus, in addition to regularly extracting rent from the users of its software, Microsoft can now also extract additional rent from those very users for protecting the very software that they are renting in the first place – no one really buys or owns anything in the digital world, it all belongs to platform operators.

The conflict of interest here would be mind-boggling: the more insecure Microsoft’s software, the greater the demand for its cybersecurity services to protect it. Worse, governments – instead of doing something to curb such conflicts of interest – are only aggravating them. They allow tech companies to use their intelligence services as scapegoats while also creating a secondary market in cyberweapons that can then be used by petty criminals to instil terror and dread in the population. No wonder there are people demanding that some version of the digital Geneva conventions pass: the horrors, imposed by the tag team of government and industry, are just too painful to endure.
Cybersecurity that has been turned into a service is a perfect example of how the surveillance imperatives of modern governments – with the US leading the way – create almost infinite opportunities for monopolistic rent extraction by tech firms. In essence, every time you read that something is offered as a service – as in “cloud as a service” or “mobility as a service” – it is almost always a bland euphemism for legalised rent extraction that has a large tech company as the middle man.
Thanks to digitisation and automation, it is obvious that the future providers of most services are those that happen to own the data – and the advanced artificial intelligence powered by it. They might preach the values of brotherly love, decentralisation and hippiedom but the new giants of Silicon Valley are just the latest generation of rentiers who are far more likely to become a drag on the rest of the economy than to produce the infinite digital abundance that they promise.