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Rosetta's Comet Compared to Downtown LA

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You might have heard that this week, for the first time ever, mankind landed a probe on a comet. But long before that happened, the spacecraft that took the Philae probe to Comet 67P/C-G, Rosetta, was in orbit around the comet's nucleus—and Matt Wang made this incredible graphic that compares the size of the comet to downtown Los Angeles. Wang created the image in 2011 by combining a photo of LA with a photo of the comet snapped by Rosetta before the rendezvous.

If you're still having trouble visualizing what the comet looks like, check out this graphic from the New York Times, which shows 67P/C-G compared to 2.5 mile-long Central Park. You can find precise measurements of the comet here.

The mission ran into an unexpected snafu when the robotic Philae probe touched down not once but three times before coming to rest in a shadow, where it's receiving just 1 to 2 hours of sunlight a day instead of the expected 6 to 7. The paltry amount of sunlight isn't enough sunlight to charge its secondary batteries, which could jeopardize the mission.

[via @Amazing_Maps]

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JAXA/NASA
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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
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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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