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Happy New Year 2017.
X-ray vision can reveal birth of supernovae
Astronomers have discovered new evidence that X-ray detectors in space could be the first to witness new supernovae that signal the death of massive stars. Researchers led by the University of Leicester have measured an excess of X-ray radiation in the first few minutes of collapsing massive stars, which may be the signature of the supernova shock wave first escaping from the star. "The most massive stars can be tens to a hundred times larger than the Sun. When one of these giants runs out of hydrogen gas it collapses catastrophically and explodes as a supernova, blowing off its outer layers which enrich the Universe," researcher Dr Rhaana Starling said. "But this is no ordinary supernova; in the explosion narrowly confined streams of material are forced out of the poles of the star at almost the speed of light. 

"These so-called relativistic jets give rise to brief flashes of energetic gamma-radiation called gamma-ray bursts, which are picked up by monitoring instruments in Space, that in turn alert astronomers," Starling said in a statement. Gamma-ray bursts are known to arise in stellar deaths because coincident supernovae are seen with ground-based optical telescopes about ten to twenty days after the high energy flash. The true moment of birth of a supernova, when the star's surface reacts to the core collapse, often termed the supernova shock breakout, is missed. Only the most energetic supernovae go hand-in-hand with gamma-ray bursts, but for this sub-class it may be possible to identify X-ray emission signatures of the supernova in its infancy. If the supernova could be detected earlier, by using the X-ray early warning system, astronomers could monitor the event as it happens and pinpoint the drivers behind one of the most violent events in our Universe. 

The X-ray detectors being used for this research are on the X-Ray Telescope on-board the Swift satellite. Data from Swift of a number of gamma-ray bursts with visible supernovae have shown an excess in X-rays received compared with expectations. This excess is thermal emission, also known as blackbody radiation. "We were surprised to find thermal X-rays coming from a gamma-ray burst, and even more surprising is that all confirmed cases so far are those with a secure supernova identification from optical data," said Starling.
Now, LCD embedded contact lenses that can display text messages
Researchers have developed new technology that will allow information, like text messages from a mobile phone, to be projected onto a contact lens worn in the human eye. Ghent University’s centre of microsystems technology has developed a spherical curved LCD display that can be embedded in contact lenses and handle projected images using wireless technology. “Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working towards real applications, possibly available in only a few years,” the Telegraph quoted Professor Herbert De Smet as saying.
 
Unlike previous contact lens displays, which are limited to a few small pixels to make up an image, the new technology allows the whole curved surface of the lens to be used. One application suggested by the researchers is a “one pixel, fully covered contact lens acting as adaptable sunglasses.” “This is not science fiction,” Jelle De Smet, the chief researcher on the project, said. “This will never replace the cinema screen for films. But for specific applications it may be interesting to show images such as road directions or projecting text messages from our smart phones straight to our eye,” De Smet added.
Private firm plans 'affordable' lunar mission for $1.5 billion
A Colorado start-up run by former NASA managers plans to conduct missions to the moon for about $1.5 billion per expedition, a fraction of what a similar government-run operation would cost, company officials said on Thursday. "Our vision is to create a reliable and affordable U.S.-based commercial human lunar transportation system," said former Apollo flight director Gerry Griffin, who serves as chairman of the firm, named Golden Spike. The expeditions would use existing rockets and spacecraft now under development to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Depending on how many customers sign up, the company said it could be ready to fly its first mission by 2020. It did not elaborate on any existing or pending contracts with customers or suppliers.
 
The first mission would require an investment of $7 billion to $8 billion, said Golden Spike President Alan Stern, NASA's former associate administrator for science. Once established, mission costs would drop to about $1.5 billion to fly two people to the moon for up to two days. "This is a game-changer," Stern told reporters in Washington and on a conference call. "We can fly human lunar missions for the cost of a robotic mission." Stern declined to specify how many missions the company would need to sell to turn a profit.
 
"If we only sell three or four expeditions, it's completely upside down. We need to sell a bunch. But we do not need to sell ridiculous numbers," he said. A market study shows 15 to 25 nations can afford lunar exploration and may want to do so, he added. Potential customers include civilian space agencies, corporations, research institutes and some extremely wealthy individuals. "We can make it affordable for mid-sized countries like a Korea, an Indonesia, or a South Africa to be in the business of lunar exploration, which would cost them a great deal more to invent that capability," Stern said.
 
In addition to advance ticket sales, the company is counting on advertising and marketing campaigns to raise funds. Golden Spike is not the first company proposing privately funded missions to the moon. Other firms include Moon Express, a mining outfit, and companies participating in a Google-sponsored competition to land a robotic probe on the satellite. "If I could find investors to get started with, we would be going back to the moon within 10 or 15 years to harvest its energy resources and use them back here on Earth," former Apollo astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt told Reuters in a separate interview. "The return of investment has to be fairly high because of the perceived risk - in addition to the actual risk to that investment capital - but nevertheless I believe it's possible that it could be done," Schmitt said.