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News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Venus is the closest planet to our own, both literally—it's the nearest—and in terms of its size and mass, earning it the nickname "Earth's twin." But given that our sister world experiences average temperatures of 462 degrees Celsius (864 degrees Fahrenheit), crushing 90-bar pressures, and suffocating clouds of carbon dioxide laced with sulfuric acid rain, it's no wonder that Venus has not inspired the same frontier spirit as say, Mars. Indeed, proposed Venus missions have been repeatedly snubbed in favor of others to the red planet, asteroids, and less wholly nightmarish worlds. Now, NASA and the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute (IKI) are teaming up on a project called Venera-D, which makes the case that Venus is as valuable an exploration target as any alien world, perhaps more so because the planet's runaway greenhouse gas effect, which generates its harsh conditions, can inform our efforts to prevent a similar problem on Earth. I visited IKI in Moscow on March 1 to learn more about Venera-D and many other ongoing projects. Though IKI is on track to land on Mars, with the ExoMars 2020 rover, long before Venera-D is projected to land on Venus, there was still much enthusiasm for pursuing a new mission to our sister world. Two weeks after my visit, representatives of NASA, IKI, and the Russian space agency Roscosmos convened there to discuss further collaboration on Venera-D, which was first proposed by Russian planetary scientist Vasily Moroz in 2003. This Russian/American partnership, formed in 2015, is called the Venera-D Joint Science Definition Team (JSDT). In January 2017, it released a thorough report of the two nations' shared objectives on Venus, which include extended observations of the surface environment over a period of months, precise measurements of atmospheric aerosols and composition, and a solution to the longstanding mystery of atmospheric superrotation, a phenomenon in which wind speeds on Venus outpace the planet's rotation by a factor of 60. "Right now, [Venera-D] is in a concept phase," said NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist David Senske, the US co-chair of the Venera-D JSDT, in a phone interview with Motherboard. "It's not a mission yet. We're working on proof of concept, and seeing where we can fit in the 'sweet spot' science." "The next phase will focus on refining the science, refining how you might capture that science in terms of instruments, and the Russians will be working more in terms of refining what a mission concept looks like," he said. To that end, IKI planetary scientist Ludmila Zasova, the Russian co-chair of the JSDT, called the March meeting "very successful." "Venus is like your oven at home on autoclean mode" "The decision to sponsor the work for the next two years (2017-18) was taken both by NASA and by Roscosmos," Zasova told me over email. "Our efforts were highly appreciated, so we hope that we made one step in the direction of the mission being realized." At the moment, the earliest possible launch date would be in 2026, Zasova said. Venera-D would resume the Soviet Venera program that ran from 1961 to 1984, and remains the only spaceflight series to have successfully transmitted pictures and information from the surface of Venus. It would also build on the Soviet Vega twin missions of the mid-1980s, which included atmospheric balloons and lander components. Russia's rich history of Venus exploration is brought to life in IKI's museum with mockups of its iconic landers and balloons used in past missions. This latest incarnation is designed to outlast its predecessors by integrating cutting-edge, durable technology into a spacecraft platform that could survive for months, or even years, in the orbital, atmospheric, and surface environment of Venus. In fact, the "D" in Venera-D stands for "Dolgozhivuschaya," meaning "long-lived." The baseline mission would be an orbiter and a lander, but additional elements might include "an aerial platform with solar batteries flying in the clouds, small long-lived stations (with several months' lifetime) on the surface, and a sub-satellite in orbit," Zasova told me. This potential aerial platform is called the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform (VAMP), and is currently being developed by the aerospace company Northrop Grumman. VAMP would be able to spend up to a year gliding above Venus at altitudes of 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) where conditions are surprisingly Earthlike, in contrast to the inferno that lies below. All this is a welcome change for the Venera-D project, which has suffered repeated delays over the last decade. The team's report notes that the mission was held up by reduced availability of high-temperature electronics that could survive the punishing surroundings on Venus. These systems were in development during the Soviet period, but their production in Russia had lapsed by the time Venera-D was pitched to the Russian Academy of Sciences in the early 2000s. "Venus is a tough nut to crack," Senske said. "It's like your oven at home on autoclean mode. It really is tough to get down there. It's easier, say for Mars, to do technology for extreme cold, but extreme heat has been a slower evolution over time." Designing rovers like Opportunity or Curiosity, which can rumble along for years at a time in Mars' chilly weather, is a much easier task than building a robot that can withstand the lead-melting temperatures of Venus any longer than the runtime of a standard feature film. Tibor Kremic, an electrical engineer at NASA's Glenn Research Center, is helping to bridge this particular technological divide. As the lead scientist on Venera-D's Long-Life Station lander, Kremic is working out the kinks of heat-resistant electronic systems that could endure Venus's surface for at least two months—though he said in theory, these stations could operate indefinitely. "Our goals for Venera D are to try to get at least 60 days because that would allow us to capture one of the day-to-night transitions, and see how conditions may change for the measurements we're making at that time," Kremic told me over the phone. "The orbiter is intended to last for about three years, so if we can get to that, it'd be awesome." "Could the uncontrolled greenhouse effect transform Earth's climate to a Venus-like one?" "But anything more than a couple hours is a step forward," he added, referring to the record set by Venera 13, which landed on Venus in 1982, transmitting images and data back to Earth for 127 minutes before perishing from the planet's brutal onslaught of heat, pressure, and toxicity. The Long-Life Station concept relies on robust silicon carbide as "the backbone of its electronics," Kremic said, as opposed to the silicon systems of the original landers. Early versions of these modules have already been road-tested in Venus simulators at Glenn, with favorable results. "We've shown that the basic elements last for thousands of hours and we're in the process of developing the more complicated ones, where you can actually take the measurements, process the data, and communicate it," Kremic said. It's hard to overstate the scientific potential of such extended robotic lifetimes on Venus. Some of the most persistent mysteries in planetary science are hidden behind this world's thick veil of atmospheric cover. Examples include the identity of the so-called "unknown ultraviolet absorber" that eats up UV light in the atmosphere, or the mechanisms governing Venus's aforementioned superrotation effect. The planet's extremely long day period—equal to 243 Earth days—also requires long-lived modules just to watch one full day go by. Read More: Venus Is a Nightmarish Hellscape, Which Is Exactly Why We Should Study It The Venera-D team also hopes to understand the planet's enigmatic past, including its potential to have hosted liquid water in its infant years. It may even have been the first life-bearing world in the solar system, and could be a key model for assessing Earth's future habitability, according to Zasova. "Curiously, the sister-twin planets, Earth and Venus, obtained a similar composition of protoplanetary material at their formation," she told me, "but nevertheless they have a very different atmospheres and surface conditions now. Indeed, we have a comfortable climate for life on Earth and a 'hellish' one on Venus. Could the uncontrolled greenhouse effect transform Earth's climate to a Venus-like one?" Senske is also intrigued by Venus as a powerful analog to Earth. "The big question is: Why isn't Venus [like] the Earth?" he said. "In order to understand how solar systems form and evolve—and what makes a zone habitable in solar systems—Venus is a key piece of the puzzle." After years of being passed over in favor of Mars and other missions, "Venus is coming back around," Senske predicted. Motherboard is nominated for three Webby Awards for Best Science YouTube Channel , Best Drama , Best Tech/Science Podcast . Please vote for us!


News Article | December 23, 2016
Site: www.prnewswire.co.uk

ICA Gruppen has signed an agreement  to acquire UAB Palink, which operates the grocery retail business IKI, for a consideration of 213 million euro on a cash and debt free basis. The acquisition of IKI means that ICA Gruppen through Rimi Baltic will become the second largest player in the growing Lithuanian grocery retail market, from beingthe fourth largest currently. Lithuania is the largest market in the Baltic region, but also the country in which Rimi Baltic has had the lowest market share. This implies a quick upscaling of the business and enables significant cost synergies. IKI is characterised by well-developed stores with a high service level and a broad assortment. Moreover, IKI's store network is a good complement to Rimi's existing store network. The acquisition benefits Rimi's and IKI's customers and is creating value for ICA Gruppen's shareholders, says Per Strömberg, CEO of ICA Gruppen. UAB Palink is acquired for 213 million euro on a cash and debt free basis, corresponding to an EBITDA-multiple of approximately 6.1 times and an EBIT-multiple of approximately 11.6 times for the twelve months ending in September 2016. IKI is the second largest player in the Lithuanian grocery retail market with a market share of approximately 15 per cent during 2015 and a nationwide store network of approximately 230 stores. Rimi had a market share of approximately 8 per cent in Lithuania during 2015. IKI had net sales of 630 million euro, an EBITDA of 35 million euro and an EBIT of 18 million euro during the twelve months ending in September 2016. The transaction is expected to generate yearly cost synergies of approximately 15 million euro when fully realized in 2020. The synergies are mainly related to increased purchasing volumes, more efficient logistics and marketing. The acquisition is expected to lead to one-off costs of approximately 40 million euro and related investments amounting to approximately 25 million euro during 2017-2019. The transaction will be financed using a combination of ICA Gruppen's available cash and existing credit facilities. Completion is subject to competition authority approval, which is expected to be received no later than the fourth quarter 2017. SEB Corporate Finance and SUMMA Advisers have acted as financial advisors and Gernandt & Danielsson and Valiunas Ellex have acted as legal advisors to ICA Gruppen in connection to the transaction. A telephone conference about the transaction will be held by CEO Per Strömberg, CSO Liv Forhaug and CFO Sven Lindskog on Friday, the 23rd of December 2016 at 08:30. Dial-in details: UK: +442030089801, SE: +46856642662. You can also follow the conference on www.icagruppen.se For further information, please contact: Rimi Baltic operates a grocery retail business in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania through the store concepts Rimi Hypermarket, Rimi Supermarket as well as Supernetto and Säästumarket. There are 262 stores in total: 88 in Estonia, 118 in Latvia and 56 in Lithuania. IKI is one of Lithuania's leading grocery retail chains and was founded in 1991 by three brothers, George, Oliver and Nicolas Ortiz. The current owners are Rewe, Coop Switzerland, Colruyt Group, Unilec, CONAD, and UAB Baltisches Haus. The store network consists of approximately 230 stores and IKI has approximately 7,000 employees. IKI currently has three store formats: IKI Premium Supermarket, IKI Supermarket and IKI Express. Lithuania has approximately three million inhabitants. The grocery retail market had sales of approximately four billion euro during the twelve months ending in September 2016 according to official Lithuanian country statistics. This information is such that ICA Gruppen AB is obligated to make public pursuant to the EU Market Abuse Regulation and the Swedish Securities Market Act. The information was submitted for publication at time 06.30 on Friday, December 23nd 2016. This information was brought to you by Cision http://news.cision.com http://news.cision.com/ica-gruppen-ab/r/ica-gruppen-to-acquire-the-lithuanian-grocery-retail-chain-iki,c2156136 The following files are available for download:


News Article | November 18, 2016
Site: phys.org

The two sources studied, 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53, belong to a rather special class of transient X-ray pulsars. These stars alternately act as weak X-ray sources, undergo giant outbursts, and disappear from sight completely. The transitions of pulsars between different states provide valuable information about their magnetic field and the temperature of the surrounding matter. Such information is indispensable, as the immensely strong magnetic fields and extremely high temperatures make direct measurements impossible in a laboratory on Earth. The name of a pulsar is preceded by a letter designating the first observatory to discover it, which is followed by a numerical code containing the coordinates of the pulsar. The "V" refers to Vela 5B, a US military satellite that was launched to spy on the Soviets. As for the "4U" in the other name, it stands for the fourth Uhuru catalog, compiled by the first observatory in orbit dedicated specifically to X-ray astronomy. Following the discovery of the first pulsar, it was originally known as "LGM-1" (for "little green men"), because it was a source of regular radio pulses, leading scientists to believe that they might have received a signal from intelligent extraterrestrials. An X-ray pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star with a strong magnetic field. A neutron star can be part of a binary system. In a process that astrophysicists call accretion, the neutron star can channel gas from its normal star companion. The attracted gas spirals toward the neutron star, forming an accretion disk, which is disrupted at the magnetosphere radius. During accretion, the matter penetrates to a certain extent into the magnetosphere, "freezes into it," and flows along the lines of the magnetic field toward the magnetic poles of the neutron star. Falling toward the poles, the gas is heated to several hundred million degrees, which causes the emission of X-rays. If the magnetic axis of a neutron star is skewed relative to its rotational axis, the X-ray beams it emits rotate in a manner that resembles the way beacons work. For an "onshore" observer, the source appears to be sending signals at regular intervals ranging from fractions of a second to several minutes. A neutron star is one of the possible remnants left behind by a supernova. It can be formed at the end of stellar evolution, if the original star was massive enough to allow gravitation to compress the stellar matter enough to make electrons combine with protons yielding neutrons. The magnetic field of a neutron star can be more than 10 orders of magnitude stronger that any magnetic field that could be achieved on Earth. In a binary system, an X-ray pulsar is observed when the neutron star is accreting matter from its normal star companion—often a giant or a supergiant characterized by a strong stellar wind (ejection of matter into space). Alternatively, it can be a smaller star like our own sun that has filled its Roche lobe—the region beyond which it is unable to hold on to the matter attracted by the gravity of the neutron star companion. The 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53 pulsars are irregular X-ray sources (transients), owing to the fact that their stellar companions belong to the rather unusual Be star class. The axial rotation of a Be star is so rapid that it occasionally starts "bulging" at the equator, and a gas disk is formed around it, filling the Roche lobe. The neutron star starts rapidly accreting the gas from its "donor" companion, causing a sharp increase in X-ray emission called an X-ray outburst. At some point, after the matter in the equatorial bulge starts to deplete, the accretion disk becomes exhausted, and the gas can no longer fall onto the neutron star due to the influence of the magnetic field and the centrifugal force. This gives rise to a phenomenon known as the "propeller effect"—the pulsar enters a state in which accretion does not occur, and the X-ray source is no longer observed. Astronomers use the term "luminosity" to refer to the total amount of energy emitted by a celestial body per unit time. The red line in the diagram represents the threshold luminosity for the 4U 0115+63 pulsar. Observations of the other source (V 0332+53) produced similar results. The blue lines mark the moments in time when the distance between the pulsar and the companion was at a minimum. This proximity of the companion star might cause the neutron star to go into overdrive and resume emission (see diagram), provided that sufficient amounts of matter are still available for accretion. The Russian scientists used the X-ray telescope (XRT) on NASA's Swift space observatory to measure the threshold luminosity that marks the transition of a pulsar to the propeller regime. This parameter depends on the magnetic field and the rotational period of the pulsar. The rotational periods of the sources in this study are known based on the intervals between the pulses that we can register, 3.6 s in the case of 4U 0115+63 and 4.3 s for V 0332+53. Knowing both the threshold luminosity and the rotational period, one can calculate the strength of the magnetic field. The research findings are in agreement with the values obtained using other methods. However, the luminosity was only reduced by a factor of 200, as compared to the expected 400 times reduction. The researchers hypothesized that there could be two possible explanations for this discrepancy. First, the neutron star surface could become an additional source of X-rays, as it cools down following an outburst. Second, the propeller effect could leave some room for matter transfer between the two stars, as opposed to sealing the neutron star off completely. In other words, an unaccounted mechanism could be enabling accretion to continue to a certain extent. The transition of a pulsar into the propeller mode is challenging to observe, as the low luminosity state cannot be detected easily. For 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53, this was attempted following the previous outbursts of these sources. However, the instruments available at the time were not sensitive enough to see the pulsars in the "off-mode." This study is the first to demonstrate reliably that these two sources do, indeed, "black out." Moreover, the researchers showed that knowledge of the luminosity that marks the transition of pulsars into the propeller regime can be used to learn more about the structure and intensity of the magnetic fields around neutron stars. Prof. Dr. Alexander Lutovinov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of Laboratory at the Space Research Institute (IKI RAS) and a professor at MIPT, comments, "Knowledge of the structure of the magnetic fields of neutron stars is of paramount importance for our understanding of their formation and evolution. In this research, we determined the dipole magnetic field component, which is linked to the propeller effect, for two neutron stars. We demonstrate that this independently calculated value can be compared to the available results of magnetic field measurements based on the detection of cyclotron lines in the spectra of sources. By doing this, it is possible to estimate the contribution of the other, higher-order components in the field structure." More information: S. S. Tsygankov et al, Propeller effect in two brightest transient X-ray pulsars: 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2016). DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201628236


News Article | November 17, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

An international team of astrophysicists including Russian scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), MIPT, and Pulkovo Observatory of RAS has detected an abrupt decrease of pulsar luminosity following giant outbursts. The phenomenon is associated with the so-called "propeller effect," which was predicted more than 40 years ago. However, this is the first study to reliably observe the transition of the two X-ray pulsars 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53 to the "propeller regime." The results of the observations, the conclusions reached by the researchers, and the relevant calculations were published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The two sources studied, 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53, belong to a rather special class of transient X-ray pulsars. These stars alternately act as weak X-ray sources, undergo giant outbursts, and disappear from sight completely. The transitions of pulsars between different states provide valuable information about their magnetic field and the temperature of the surrounding matter. Such information is indispensable, as the immensely strong magnetic fields and extremely high temperatures make direct measurements impossible in a laboratory on Earth. The name of a pulsar is preceded by a letter designating the first observatory to discover it, which is followed by a numerical code containing the coordinates of the pulsar. The "V" refers to Vela 5B, a US military satellite that was launched to spy on the Soviets. As for the "4U" in the other name, it stands for the fourth Uhuru catalog, compiled by the first observatory in orbit dedicated specifically to X-ray astronomy. Following the discovery of the first pulsar, it was originally known as "LGM-1" (for "little green men"), because it was a source of regular radio pulses, leading scientists to believe that they might have received a signal from intelligent extraterrestrials. An X-ray pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star with a strong magnetic field. A neutron star can be part of a binary system. In a process that astrophysicists call accretion, the neutron star can channel gas from its normal star companion. The attracted gas spirals toward the neutron star forming an accretion disk, which is disrupted at the magnetosphere radius. During accretion the matter penetrates to a certain extent into the magnetosphere, "freezes into it," and flows along the lines of the magnetic field toward the magnetic poles of the neutron star. Falling toward the poles, the gas is heated to several hundred million degrees, which causes the emission of X-rays. If the magnetic axis of a neutron star is skewed relative to its rotational axis, the X-ray beams it emits rotate in a manner that resembles the way beacons work. For an "onshore" observer, the source appears to be sending signals at regular intervals ranging from fractions of a second to several minutes. A neutron star is one of the possible remnants left behind by a supernova. It can be formed at the end of stellar evolution, if the original star was massive enough to allow gravitation to compress the stellar matter enough to make electrons combine with protons yielding neutrons. The magnetic field of a neutron star can be more than ten orders of magnitude stronger that any magnetic field that could be achieved on Earth. A binary system where the normal star has filled its Roche lobe. In a binary system, an X-ray pulsar is observed when the neutron star is accreting matter from its normal star companion--often a giant or a supergiant characterized by a strong stellar wind (ejection of matter into space). Alternatively, it can be a smaller star like our own Sun that has filled its Roche lobe--the region beyond which it is unable to hold on to the matter attracted by the gravity of the neutron star companion. A NASA video showing the accretion of matter by a pulsar from its companion star. The 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53 pulsars are irregular X-ray sources (transients), owing to the fact that their stellar companions belong to the rather unusual Be star class. The axial rotation of a Be star is so rapid that it occasionally starts "bulging" at the equator, whereby a gas disk is formed around it, filling the Roche lobe. The neutron star starts rapidly accreting the gas from its "donor" companion, causing a sharp increase in X-ray emission called an X-ray outburst. At some point, after the matter in the equatorial bulge starts to deplete, the accretion disk becomes exhausted, and the gas can no longer fall onto the neutron star due to the influence of the magnetic field and the centrifugal force. This gives rise to a phenomenon known as the "propeller effect": the pulsar enters a state where accretion does not occur, and the X-ray source is no longer observed. Astronomers use the term "luminosity" to refer to the total amount of energy emitted by a celestial body per unit time. The red line in the diagram represents the threshold luminosity for the 4U 0115+63 pulsar. Observations of the other source (V 0332+53) produced similar results. The blue lines mark the moments in time, when the distance between the pulsar and the companion was at a minimum. This proximity of the companion star might cause the neutron star to go into overdrive and resume emission (see diagram), provided that sufficient amounts of matter are still available for accretion. The Russian scientists used the X-ray telescope (XRT) based on NASA's Swift space observatory to measure the threshold luminosity that marks the transition of a pulsar to the propeller regime. This parameter depends on the magnetic field and the rotational period of the pulsar. The rotational periods of the sources in this study are known based on the intervals between the pulses that we can register: 3.6 s in the case of 4U 0115+63 and 4.3 s for V 0332+53. Knowing both the threshold luminosity and the rotational period, one can calculate the strength of the magnetic field. The research findings are in agreement with the values obtained using other methods. However, the luminosity was only reduced by a factor of 200, as compared to the expected 400 times reduction. The researchers hypothesized that there could be two possible explanations for this discrepancy. Firstly, the neutron star surface could become an additional source of X-rays, as it cools down following an outburst. Secondly, the propeller effect could leave some room for matter transfer between the two stars, as opposed to sealing the neutron star off completely. In other words, an unaccounted for mechanism could be involved enabling accretion to continue to a certain extent. The transition of a pulsar into the propeller mode is challenging to observe, as the low luminosity state cannot be detected easily. For 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53, this was attempted following the previous outbursts of these sources. However, the instruments available at the time were not sensitive enough to see the pulsars in the "off-mode." This study is the first to demonstrate reliably that these two sources do indeed "black out." Moreover, the researchers showed that knowledge of the luminosity that marks the transition of pulsars into the propeller regime can be used to learn more about the structure and intensity of the magnetic fields around neutron stars. Prof. Dr. Alexander Lutovinov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of Laboratory at the Space Research Institute (IKI RAS) and a professor at MIPT, comments, "Knowledge of the structure of the magnetic fields of neutron stars is of paramount importance for our understanding of their formation and evolution. In this research, we determined the dipole magnetic field component, which is linked to the propeller effect, for two neutron stars. We demonstrate that this independently calculated value can be compared to the available results of magnetic field measurements based on the detection of cyclotron lines in the spectra of sources. By doing this, it is possible to estimate the contribution of the other, higher-order components in the field structure."


News Article | November 18, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

An international team of astrophysicists including Russian scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), MIPT, and Pulkovo Observatory of RAS has detected an abrupt decrease of pulsar luminosity following giant outbursts. The phenomenon is associated with the so-called "propeller effect," which was predicted more than 40 years ago. However, this is the first study to reliably observe the transition of the two X-ray pulsars 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53 to the "propeller regime." The results of the observations, the conclusions reached by the researchers, and the relevant calculations were published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The two sources studied, 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53, belong to a rather special class of transient X-ray pulsars. These stars alternately act as weak X-ray sources, undergo giant outbursts, and disappear from sight completely. The transitions of pulsars between different states provide valuable information about their magnetic field and the temperature of the surrounding matter. Such information is indispensable, as the immensely strong magnetic fields and extremely high temperatures make direct measurements impossible in a laboratory on Earth. The name of a pulsar is preceded by a letter designating the first observatory to discover it, which is followed by a numerical code containing the coordinates of the pulsar. The "V" refers to Vela 5B, a US military satellite that was launched to spy on the Soviets. As for the "4U" in the other name, it stands for the fourth Uhuru catalog, compiled by the first observatory in orbit dedicated specifically to X-ray astronomy. Following the discovery of the first pulsar, it was originally known as "LGM-1" (for "little green men"), because it was a source of regular radio pulses, leading scientists to believe that they might have received a signal from intelligent extraterrestrials. An X-ray pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star with a strong magnetic field. A neutron star can be part of a binary system. In a process that astrophysicists call accretion, the neutron star can channel gas from its normal star companion. The attracted gas spirals toward the neutron star forming an accretion disk, which is disrupted at the magnetosphere radius. During accretion the matter penetrates to a certain extent into the magnetosphere, "freezes into it," and flows along the lines of the magnetic field toward the magnetic poles of the neutron star. Falling toward the poles, the gas is heated to several hundred million degrees, which causes the emission of X-rays. If the magnetic axis of a neutron star is skewed relative to its rotational axis, the X-ray beams it emits rotate in a manner that resembles the way beacons work. For an "onshore" observer, the source appears to be sending signals at regular intervals ranging from fractions of a second to several minutes. A neutron star is one of the possible remnants left behind by a supernova. It can be formed at the end of stellar evolution, if the original star was massive enough to allow gravitation to compress the stellar matter enough to make electrons combine with protons yielding neutrons. The magnetic field of a neutron star can be more than ten orders of magnitude stronger that any magnetic field that could be achieved on Earth. A binary system where the normal star has filled its Roche lobe. In a binary system, an X-ray pulsar is observed when the neutron star is accreting matter from its normal star companion--often a giant or a supergiant characterized by a strong stellar wind (ejection of matter into space). Alternatively, it can be a smaller star like our own Sun that has filled its Roche lobe--the region beyond which it is unable to hold on to the matter attracted by the gravity of the neutron star companion. A NASA video showing the accretion of matter by a pulsar from its companion star. The 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53 pulsars are irregular X-ray sources (transients), owing to the fact that their stellar companions belong to the rather unusual Be star class. The axial rotation of a Be star is so rapid that it occasionally starts "bulging" at the equator, whereby a gas disk is formed around it, filling the Roche lobe. The neutron star starts rapidly accreting the gas from its "donor" companion, causing a sharp increase in X-ray emission called an X-ray outburst. At some point, after the matter in the equatorial bulge starts to deplete, the accretion disk becomes exhausted, and the gas can no longer fall onto the neutron star due to the influence of the magnetic field and the centrifugal force. This gives rise to a phenomenon known as the "propeller effect": the pulsar enters a state where accretion does not occur, and the X-ray source is no longer observed. Astronomers use the term "luminosity" to refer to the total amount of energy emitted by a celestial body per unit time. The red line in the diagram represents the threshold luminosity for the 4U 0115+63 pulsar. Observations of the other source (V 0332+53) produced similar results. The blue lines mark the moments in time, when the distance between the pulsar and the companion was at a minimum. This proximity of the companion star might cause the neutron star to go into overdrive and resume emission (see diagram), provided that sufficient amounts of matter are still available for accretion. The Russian scientists used the X-ray telescope (XRT) based on NASA's Swift space observatory to measure the threshold luminosity that marks the transition of a pulsar to the propeller regime. This parameter depends on the magnetic field and the rotational period of the pulsar. The rotational periods of the sources in this study are known based on the intervals between the pulses that we can register: 3.6 s in the case of 4U 0115+63 and 4.3 s for V 0332+53. Knowing both the threshold luminosity and the rotational period, one can calculate the strength of the magnetic field. The research findings are in agreement with the values obtained using other methods. However, the luminosity was only reduced by a factor of 200, as compared to the expected 400 times reduction. The researchers hypothesized that there could be two possible explanations for this discrepancy. Firstly, the neutron star surface could become an additional source of X-rays, as it cools down following an outburst. Secondly, the propeller effect could leave some room for matter transfer between the two stars, as opposed to sealing the neutron star off completely. In other words, an unaccounted for mechanism could be involved enabling accretion to continue to a certain extent. The transition of a pulsar into the propeller mode is challenging to observe, as the low luminosity state cannot be detected easily. For 4U 0115+63 and V 0332+53, this was attempted following the previous outbursts of these sources. However, the instruments available at the time were not sensitive enough to see the pulsars in the "off-mode." This study is the first to demonstrate reliably that these two sources do indeed "black out." Moreover, the researchers showed that knowledge of the luminosity that marks the transition of pulsars into the propeller regime can be used to learn more about the structure and intensity of the magnetic fields around neutron stars. Prof. Dr. Alexander Lutovinov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of Laboratory at the Space Research Institute (IKI RAS) and a professor at MIPT, comments, "Knowledge of the structure of the magnetic fields of neutron stars is of paramount importance for our understanding of their formation and evolution. In this research, we determined the dipole magnetic field component, which is linked to the propeller effect, for two neutron stars. We demonstrate that this independently calculated value can be compared to the available results of magnetic field measurements based on the detection of cyclotron lines in the spectra of sources. By doing this, it is possible to estimate the contribution of the other, higher-order components in the field structure."


News Article | September 21, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI RAS), the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) have shown that diffusion of gas particles during the formation of the first structures in the early Universe could have impacted the relative abundance of helium and hydrogen in the first galaxies. According to their calculations, the diffusion-induced element abundance changes are comparable to the precision of current cosmological measurements. This means that the observed hydrogen and helium abundance may differ from theoretical predictions. The research was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The scientists want to know what role diffusion played in the formation of the first stars and galaxies. The reason for their heightened interest is that the accuracy of direct measurements of primordial elements abundance has been steadily improving. To describe the state of the Universe during all stages of its development, physicists assign values to the so-called cosmological parameters. Among them are the Hubble parameter, which determines the rate of expansion of the Universe, and the parameters that specify the matter and dark energy content in the Universe. The values of these parameters vary with time. Knowing their right values for the different stages of the evolution of the Universe would allow physicists to arrive at a correct cosmological model and peer billions of years into the past or into the future. Techniques have been developed to compute the value of the cosmological parameters with a high degree of precision. One of these techniques is the direct observation of primordial elements abundance. This allows scientists to determine the baryon-to-photon ratio, which reveals the contribution of ordinary (baryonic) matter to the overall matter-energy density of the Universe. According to the standard cosmological theory, a process called nucleosynthesis occurred a few minutes after the Big Bang: protons and neutrons coupled into nuclei, forming the primordial plasma made of hydrogen, some helium and a small amount of deuterium and lithium. This epoch is of particular interest to physicists because it is the earliest stage of the evolution of the Universe for which reliable observational data is available. Pavel Medvedev, Sergey Sazonov and Marat Gilfanov proposed that, as the first galaxies were forming, diffusion of gas could take place, effecting a change in the ratio of primordial helium to hydrogen. "Galaxy formation begins with a contraction of dark matter, which is followed by an inflow of gas that is gravitationally attracted towards the centre of the future galaxy. We believe diffusion is possible in this flowing gas. As a consequence, particles of different masses move at different velocities. Suppose there is only hydrogen and helium in the gas. As helium is a heavier particle, it accretes faster than hydrogen, driven by the gravitational field of the forming galaxy. This means that when the galaxy is formed, the helium-to-hydrogen ratio in it is going to differ from that predicted by the nucleosynthesis theory," says Sergey Sazonov of the IKI and MIPT. The scientists examined particle diffusion in the gas during galaxy formation in the early Universe. They estimated the changes in relative helium abundance, which could be induced by this phenomenon, for galaxies of different masses. Their research shows that these changes could be on the order of 0.01 percent or less in the case of diffusion in cold gas. However, if the gas was heated to several thousand degrees during the epoch when the first galaxies were formed (several hundred million years after the Big Bang), then diffusion-driven helium abundance changes could be on the order of 0.1 percent. One possible mechanism involving the preheating of gas is the transfer of energy from the first supernovae to the environment via cosmic rays. This was proposed in a recent paper by Sazonov and Sunyaev. Primordial helium abundance is normally inferred from the measurements of interstellar gas in the galaxies close to our own where star formation does not occur. Otherwise, scientists would not be looking at primordial elements, because the composition of the interstellar medium would have been enriched by the products of thermonuclear fusion in stars. The direct measurements of primordial helium abundance enable physicists to constrain cosmological parameters and test the Big Bang nucleosynthesis (BBN) theory. As stated above, cosmological parameters determine the state of the Universe at any given time. That is why finding their precise values is one of the main objectives of cosmology. The diffusion-induced changes are comparable to the precision of current predictions of helium abundance. This means that the effect proposed by the authors could account for galactic helium content changes that are within the accuracy of observations. For this reason, any higher accuracy future predictions that are based on measured data will have to take this effect into account.


News Article | December 7, 2016
Site: www.prweb.com

In an effort to connect critical links between needs, opportunity and action, international organizations are coming together to identify opportunities to increase agricultural production while protecting natural resources with the launch of Solution Search. This global crowd-sourcing competition, launched today, is designed to spotlight the most promising approaches to conservation and development challenges. This year’s contest aims to focus on biodiversity-friendly resource solutions within the agricultural sector. Solution Search: Farming for Biodiversity, seeks entries that showcase innovative solutions in sustainable farming, while promoting behaviors that strengthen biodiversity across the agricultural sector. This theme is part of an overarching initiative of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and a focus of this year’s 13th annual Conference of Parties (COP) which aims to shine a spotlight on the critical need for cross-cutting conservation solutions across political, economic, and social spheres. "Solution Search is an online prize competition designed to crowdsource solutions to pressing conservation and human development challenges,” says Brett Jenks, President and CEO of Rare. “Practitioners are creating great solutions all over the world, but they rarely write them up or share them, so they almost never get replicated, much less scaled.” The contest will run in direct partnership with IFOAM-Organics International, with additional partners Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat, Save the Children, Blue Solutions, the Global Island Partnership, and Panorama, joining from across the globe. “Organic farmers have been showing us for years that it is possible to nourish soils, grow nutritious food and safeguard biodiversity,” says André Leu, President of IFOAM Organics International. “This competition is a great opportunity for them and the entire organic movement to showcase tried and tested innovative solutions that can bring true sustainability to our food and farming systems.” This year’s Solution Search judging panel includes, Cristiana Paşca Palmer (Minister of Environment, Waters and Forests for Romania and incoming Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Dieversity), Danielle Nierenberg (Co-Founder and President of Food Tank), Dr. Naoko Ishii (CEO and Chairperson of Global Environmental Facility), and Ilona Porsché, (Head of Blue Solutions Initiative), who said of her involvement, "I am excited to participate in this year’s Solution Search contest, and offer our technical expertise in sourcing, documenting and sharing solutions." Additional judges include Per Olsson, (Theme leader, Stockholm Resilience Center), Juan Pablo Bonilla (Sector Manager, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Inter-American Development Bank), Bonnie McClafferty (Director, Agriculture and Nutrition, GAIN) and Pedro Alvarez Icaza L., (General Coordinator for Biological Corridors and Resources, CONABIO - Mexico). Over the next nine months, the Solution Search partners will be soliciting entries, working with expert judges to narrow the field and asking the public to weigh in and vote as well.    The grand prize winner will receive $30,000, and there will be four category prizes of $15,000. There will be an early entrant prize of $5,000 to the best entry received by February 10, 2017. All prize money must be used to further the winner’s solution and organization’s goals. All finalists will win a trip to New York City to attend a capacity-building workshop and awards ceremony alongside some of the biggest names in conservation and development. This contest is part of a larger project run in joint partnership by Rare and IFOAM-Organics International, and is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI), a German initiative supported by The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. Over three years, the partners will work together to identify these promising approaches and then host capacity-building workshops across the globe to spread these effective solutions. This workshop series – known as Campaigning for Conservation, will aim to further empower local practitioners to raise awareness of the value of biodiversity and to conduct social marketing campaigns promoting behavior change in support of the identified solutions. All entries to this contest will become part of a larger network of stakeholders engaged in supporting biodiversity-friendly agriculture. Visit solutionsearch.org to learn more, apply, or nominate a fellow organization with a chance to win a $1,000 nomination prize yourself. Ranked in the top 25 NGOs in the world by NGO ADVISORS, Rare is an innovative conservation organization that implements proven conservation solutions and trains local leaders in communities worldwide. Through its signature social marketing campaigns (called Pride campaigns), Rare inspires people to take pride in the species and habitats that make their community unique, while also introducing practical alternatives to environmentally destructive practices. Employees of local governments or non-profit organizations receive extensive training on fisheries management, campaign planning and social marketing to communities. They are equipped to deliver community-based solutions based on natural and social science, while leveraging policy and market forces to accelerate positive environmental change through programs in clean water, sustainable agriculture, and coastal fisheries. To learn more about Rare, please visit http://www.rare.org. For more information and downloadable imagery, please visit our electronic press kit at https://www.rare.org/en-press-kit. Since 1972, IFOAM - Organics International has occupied an unchallenged position as the only international umbrella organisation within the organic agriculture sector, uniting an enormous diversity of relevant stakeholders and key actors. IFOAM - Organics International implements the will of its broad-based constituency, close to 800 Affiliates in 125 countries, in a fair, inclusive and participatory manner. IFOAM’s vision is worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound agriculture systems, which will support the projects overarching goal to mainstream biodiversity into the agricultural sector. Through their extensive experi-ence working with smallholders, family farms and cooperatives in the sector, and by building local capacity through their Leadership Courses, IFOAM has the right knowledge, expertise, institutional structure and products to support the project. Since 2008, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) has been financing climate and biodiversity projects in developing and newly industrialising countries, as well as in countries in transition. Based on a decision taken by the German parliament (Bundestag), a sum of at least 120 million euros is available for use by the initiative annually. For the first few years the IKI was financed through the auctioning of emission allowances, but it is now funded from the budget of the BMUB. The IKI is a key element of Germany’s climate financing and the funding commitments in the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Initiative places clear emphasis on climate change mitigation, adaption to the impacts of climate change and the protection of biological diversity. These efforts provide various co-benefits, particularly the improvement of living conditions in partner countries. The IKI focuses on four areas: mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the impacts of climate change, conserving natural carbon sinks with a focus on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), as well as conserving biological diversity. New projects are primarily selected through a two-stage procedure that takes place once a year. Priority is given to activities that support creating an international climate protection architecture, to transparency, and to innovative and transferable solutions that have an impact beyond the individual project. The IKI cooperates closely with partner countries and supports consensus building for a comprehensive international climate agreement and the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Moreover, it is the goal of the IKI to create as many synergies as possible between climate protection and biodiversity conservation.


News Article | September 22, 2016
Site: phys.org

Scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI RAS), the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) have shown that diffusion of gas particles during the formation of the first structures in the early universe could have impacted the relative abundance of helium and hydrogen in the first galaxies.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.businesswire.com

BERLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)--For many finance institutions renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies – as main drivers of the global climate mitigation efforts - are still a new business field to be tackled. The Green Finance Specialist, developed by the German company Renewables Academy AG (RENAC), skills finance staff on how to evaluate and execute green energy finance through a combination of a 20-week online training and a 3-day face-to-face training. The degree deals with technology specific risk mitigation schemes, technical and financial due diligence of projects and climate finance options. The Green Finance Specialist is offered within the project Green Banking – Capacity Building on Green Energy and Climate Finance (2015 – 2018). Green Banking is implemented by RENAC within the German International Climate Initiative (IKI) with the support of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. The objective is to increase the availability of finance for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam. Selected participants will receive a scholarship to join the programme. This degree is currently in process of accreditation by the Finance Accreditation Agency (FAA). Further Green Banking scholarship opportunities include Train-the-Trainer seminars, Online Trainings, Blended Learning courses (combination of Online Training and Face-to-Face Trainings in the partner countries), and B2B Delegation Tours to Germany. “Overall, I gained significant and valuable knowledge on energy efficiency financing during the Green Banking training”, said Hanna Lambok Yolanda, Senior Advisor at the Renewable Energy Support Programme for ASEAN (Indonesia), who participated in the Blended Learning Course 2016. “It has equipped me with cutting-edge knowledge for my daily work as well as for my future professional career.” RENAC, based in Berlin, Germany, is a leading international provider for training and capacity building in renewable energy and energy efficiency. For further information on Green Banking, please visit RENAC’s website. Interested professionals can apply for the different training opportunities until the 31 March 2017.


News Article | November 25, 2016
Site: www.businesswire.com

SOLNA, Sweden--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Regulatory News: ICA Gruppen (STO:ICA) today confirms, after reports in local media in Lithuania, that discussions are ongoing with the owners of Palink, over a potential acquisition of the Lithuanian grocery chain IKI. No agreement has been reached and it is not possible to state with certainty that an agreement will be reached. Further information will be published when there is anything substantial to communicate. This information is such that ICA Gruppen AB i

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