by Ryan Whitwam

Image for post
Image for post

Astronomers are getting very good at hunting for exoplanets with a little help from powerful ground and space-based telescopes. We’re no longer finding one planet here and there — we’re discovering entire solar systems. TRAPPIST-1 has been of particular interest with its system of seven planets, discovered in 2016 and 2017. A new study has confirmed that all these planets are small and rocky like Earth, and they’re all surprisingly similar to each other.

The TRAPPIST-1 system was originally spotted using the TRAPPIST telescope in Chile. At the time, astronomers believed all the planets would turn out to be rocky, and several are in the habitable zone of the star. TRAPPIST-1 is a red dwarf, so those potentially habitable planets are all very close with solar years measured in Earth days. …


by Ryan Whitwam

Image for post
Image for post

NASA’s Perseverance explorer will land on the red planet on Feb. 18, but the rover won’t be the only newly arrived robotic explorer. The wheeled robot carries the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity on its belly, and NASA has posted a handy list of things to know about this mission. Although, several of the six facts seem to drive home that NASA doesn’t really know if Ingenuity is going to work. In fact, it could still be seen as a success at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory even if it crashes on its first flight.

Here are the six things NASA thinks you need to know about Ingenuity before it touches down. …


by Joel Hruska

Image for post
Image for post
(Credit: onurdongel/Getty Images)

New work in robotics research at MIT suggests that long-term bottlenecks in robot responsiveness could be alleviated through the use of dedicated hardware accelerators. The research team also suggests it’s possible to develop a general methodology for programming robot responsiveness to create specific templates, which would then be deployed into various robot models. The researchers envision a combined hardware-software approach to the problem of motion planning.

“A performance gap of an order of magnitude has emerged in motion planning and control: robot joint actuators react at kHz rates,” according to the research team, “but promising online techniques for complex robots e.g., …


by Joel Hruska

Image for post
Image for post

There’s a rumor that Intel is planning to outsource Core i3 production to TSMC’s 5nm node. This would be the first time the chip giant has built one of its Core CPUs on a different company’s process node. Intel originally planned to announce its future foundry plans on January 21, but this may have changed with the recent appointment of Pat Gelsinger as CEO.

TrendForce reports that Intel is specifically moving the Core i3 to TSMC 5nm for 2H 2021, with a plan to shift mid-range and high-end products to TSMC’s 3nm node in the second half of 2022. TSMC recently reported that its 3nm development is “on track with good progress.” Unlike Samsung, which is adopting gate-all-around (GAA) FETs, TSMC will continue to use FinFET at the 3nm node, albeit FinFET with “innovative features” intended to improve overall performance. …


by Ryan Whitwam

Image for post
Image for post

NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011 and embarked on two projects that would eventually restore its access to space. There’s the Commercial Crew Program, which recently led to the SpaceX Dragon successfully transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The Space Launch System (SLS), which is NASA’s upcoming heavy-lift rocket, has been slower to take shape. In its first major engine test over the weekend, the SLS had to shut down after just one minute of a planned eight-minute test. NASA doesn’t want to call it a failure, but plenty of others are.

The SLS is a heavy-lift rocket similar to the Saturn V or SpaceX Falcon Heavy. In the last decade, NASA has spent over $17 billion on the SLS. When complete, it will have enough power to send humans to the moon again and launch large payloads to the outer solar system. The vessel will have a pair of solid rocket boosters, the design of which has already been tested, but there’s less that can go wrong with solid boosters. The test over the weekend focused on the core stage’s four RS-25 engines (above), the same model used on the Space Shuttle. …


by Ryan Whitwam

Image for post
Image for post

NASA’s InSight lander has been studying the red planet for more than two years now. During that time, InSight has beamed back data on the planet’s seismic activity, weather, and even the sound of blowing wind. It was also supposed to relay data on the planet’s internal temperature, but NASA has announced that it’s giving up on that endeavor after being unable to get the heat probe to burrow into the fine Martian soil.

InSight made history when it arrived on Mars, deploying the first-ever seismic sensor (known as SEIS) on another planet. The team didn’t want to risk any mishaps, so they build a scale model of the landing zone to carefully plan out where they would deploy instruments. …


by Ryan Whitwam

Image for post
Image for post

Astronomers have discovered about 750,000 quasars, which are among the brightest and most energetic objects in the universe. Despite its uninspiring designation, J0313–1806 is distinct from other quasars. This recently spotted object is the oldest known quasar in the universe, with a supermassive black hole more than 13 billion years old. In fact, it’s so old and huge that scientists don’t know exactly how it could have formed.

The first quasars were discovered in the mid-20th century, but it wasn’t until several decades later that we began to understand what these objects were. A quasar is an active galactic nucleus in which the supermassive black hole that anchors the galaxy pulls in matter to form a gaseous accretion disk. All this matter colliding as it spirals into the black hole releases a torrent of electromagnetic energy that serves as the hallmark of these objects. …


by Joel Hruska

Image for post
Image for post

Qualcomm has announced that it will acquire Nuvia, one of several ARM-based startups we’ve had our eye on for some time. Qualcomm’s purchase of Nuvia caps a several-year saga in which the company has been both all-in on its custom CPU designs and conclusively out of that market.

Back in 2017, Qualcomm’s Centriq was supposed to challenge Intel’s server dominance with more cores, lower TDPs, and highly efficient performance per watt. That never happened — after developing, showing, and even shipping the parts, Qualcomm got cold feet and backed out of the market. …


by Ryan Whitwam

Image for post
Image for post

NASA builds its hardware to last. Missions like Curiosity, Hubble, and New Horizons have survived long past their initial design life. This allows NASA to wring out every bit of science from its most successful missions, and now you can add Juno and InSight to the list. NASA has given both robotic explorers a new lease on life, and Juno will expand its focus to include Jupiter’s moons.

The InSight mission launched in May 2018 and landed on the red planet later that year. It set down in Elysium Planitia, deploying the first-ever seismometer on another planet. It also has a tunneling temperature probe that has been a pain to get underground. …


by Ryan Whitwam

Image for post
Image for post

Many planetary scientists believe that Europa might be our best bet to find evidence of alien life in our own backyard. Although, it’s a big backyard, and the planned Europa Clipper mission needs a powerful rocket to reach the Jovian moon. Congress previously required that this mission launch on the massively delayed Space Launch System (SLS), but the most recent NASA budget has untied the agency’s hands.

Europa Clipper is an ambitious long-term robotic mission that aims to study Europa up close by way of multiple orbital flybys. NASA hopes to launch the spacecraft in 2024, sending it on a six-year journey to Jupiter. Once there, the spacecraft will spend at least four years swinging past Europa to scan its entire surface. …

About

ExtremeTech

ExtremeTech is the Web’s top destination for news and analysis of emerging science and technology trends, and important software, hardware, and gadgets.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store