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NASA

Chinese Scientists 'Teleport' an Object Into Space

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NASA

It's no Harry-Potter-style apparition, but we're still impressed: Researchers in China have found a way to transmit particles from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 300 miles above the planet. They described the process in a new paper shared on the preprint server arXiv. 

When we think about teleportation, we often think of the fantastic or futuristic plot device in which a person vanishes in one place and reappears, fully formed, in another. Quantum teleportation is sort of like that. But instead of sending a whole, solid person, quantum teleportation sends information about a quantum particle—such complete information that a new version of the particle can be created on the other end.

The process relies on what's known as quantum entanglement. That's when two particles are connected by a bond so strong that altering one particle will alter the other, even when those particles are separated by inches, or oceans, or space. It's a phenomenon so strange that Albert Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance."

Scientists have been tapping into this spooky action for some time now, transmitting photons and other particles (or their informational essence, anyway) from Point A to Point B. But until now, Point B has always been here, on Earth.

The Micius satellite, named for a 4th-century BCE Chinese philosopher, was launched from the desert sands of the Gobi in 2016. Aboard the satellite, which runs only at night, researchers had tucked a receiving device. If it worked, the receiver would transform the satellite into a very special Point B.

Researchers set up Point A at a ground station in Tibet and spent a month trying to get their photons to teleport. They made millions of attempts and succeeded not once, but more than 900 times. Instruments aboard Micius recorded the appearance of new photon after new photon.

While this success may not get us closer toward wizarding-style transportation, it's a huge leap forward in the ability to rapidly transmit information.

"This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet," the scientists write in their paper.

In other words: One day, we might be complaining because our quantum internet is too slow. Stranger things have happened.

[h/t The Independent]

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Space
The New ISS Mascot: This Incredibly Cute Camera Drone
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JAXA/NASA

There's a new resident of the International Space Station, and it's definitely the cutest one there. The JEM Internal Ball Camera, or Int-Ball, is a spherical autonomous drone designed to act as the space station's roving photographer. The Japanese space agency JAXA released the first pictures of it on the station on July 14, as Engadget reports.

Int-Ball was delivered to Japan's Kibo module on ISS as part of a payload launched on June 4. It records both video and photos while moving through the microgravity of the space station. More importantly, it can both work autonomously or be controlled from Earth. The imagery can be seen in close to real-time on the Earth, so ground control can see what's happening on the station from the astronauts' point of view, offering guidance and help should anything go wrong.

The 3D-printed ball, which measures just 6 inches in diameter, has two "eyes" surrounding its camera so the astronauts can tell exactly what it's recording. (Not to mention adding to its cuteness factor.) It's propelled by 12 fans and navigates through the station using special pink targets mounted to walls and doors as reference points.

Astronauts spend about 10 percent of their workday photographing what's happening on the ISS, according to JAXA, but the drone camera could significantly reduce that time. The goal is to eliminate the task from astronauts' job descriptions entirely. Instead of documenting their work themselves, astronauts could focus on their research while the Int-Ball does the documenting for them.

[h/t Engadget]

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NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran © PUBLIC DOMAIN
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Here's the Closest View of Jupiter's Great Red Spot That Humans Have Ever Seen
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NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran © PUBLIC DOMAIN

NASA's Juno spacecraft completed perijove 7 yesterday, flying nearest to Jupiter in its 53-day orbit and collecting intimate science a mere 5600 miles above the gas giant's cloud tops. This flyby took the spacecraft directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a centuries-old, 10,000-mile-wide vermilion vortex that has long perplexed scientists. Among the storm's unknowns are its depth and perpetuating forces. The first raw images of the Earth-sized hurricane were released today.

"This is a storm that we've been tracking ever since the dawn of modern astronomy, and we're the first generation to get this exquisite level of detail," Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist at the University of Leicester, tells Mental Floss. He says that from the spacecraft's perspective, the Great Red Spot would have stretched from horizon to horizon.

Juno has thus far given us a startling new vision of Jupiter—one of teeming teals and swirling storms—and caused scientists to sharpen their pencils and rewrite much of what they knew about the solar system's largest planet. Today's initial image data promise no less a revolution in the scientific understanding of Jupiter.

What does the Great Red Spot look like from an expert's perspective? "I see a swirl of red cloud material as the vortex spirals anti-clockwise, a deep-red heart that coincides with the calm center of the powerful winds, and clusters of small-scale clouds that stand above the red depths," says Fletcher. "There's even evidence of waves in the spiral arms in these breathtaking images. It's an incredible level of detail in an image that's set to become instantly iconic."

sequential views of the great red spot of jupiter
Enhanced, filtered, and color-adjusted images of the Great Red Spot, in sequential order, showing the changing view from the spacecraft as it passed over the 10,000-mile-wide storm.
Ted Stryk © PUBLIC DOMAIN

Today's image release is just a taste of what is to come, of course. The spacecraft had all nine of its science instruments active during the pass, and data are being blasted back to the Deep Space Network at the speed of light. "For me, the real science always starts with spectroscopy," says Fletcher, "assessing the fingerprints of the gaseous composition and aerosols that are present within the storm." Juno's science payload allows scientists to peer hundreds of miles beneath Jupiter's clouds. "For years we've tried to understand how deep [the Great Red Spot] penetrates into the atmosphere, and what might be sustaining it. By probing below the clouds with the microwave instrument, we might just find the answers we've been looking for."

The Juno spacecraft launched on August 5, 2011 and achieved orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The next flyby of Jupiter will take place on September 1. It will mark the spacecraft's eighth orbit and seventh science flyby.

Want to see more amazing images? Head over to NASA's JunoCam.

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