Our Sun’s Quirky Tilt Means Planet Nine Might Actually Exist

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 Our Sun’s Quirky Tilt Means Planet Nine Might Actually Exist

Thursday 11:55am

Artist’s impression of the hypothetical Planet Nine. (Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC))

New research links the odd and unexplained six-degree tilt of our Sun to an undiscovered planet in the outer reaches of our solar system. It’s even more evidence that planet Nine is for real.

A new paper published in the Astrophysical Journal posits the hypothesis that a large and distant planet at the outer reaches of the solar system is causing the unusual tilt of our sun.

All planets in our solar system orbit in a flat plane with respect to the sun (give or take a few degrees), but that plane is tilted six-degrees with respect to the sun. The reason for this crooked angle hasn’t been explained. However, as Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin, Mike Brown, and graduate student Elizabeth Bailey show in their new study, a large planet far, far away could produce this very effect.

Earlier this year, Batygin and Brown rocked the science world when theypresented evidence pointing to the existence of an undiscovered planet—one about 10 times the size of Earth and with an orbital period of around 15,000 years. The smoking gun was the unlikely orbital configuration of celestial objects in orbit beyond the Kuiper Belt—configurations that could only be explained through the presence of a large gravitational body in the outer reaches of the solar system.

In their latest study, the researchers claim that Planet Nine’s gravitational effects are also being felt at the very core of the solar system. “Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment,” noted Bailey in a statement.

The solar system’s tilt has troubled astronomers for years, and they’ve been unable to come up with satisfactory explanations. Normally, because other planets in the solar system reside along a flat plane, their angular momentum helps to keep the whole disk spinning smoothly.

Planet Nine—if it exists—is in an orbit that’s about 30 degrees off from the other planets’ orbital plane. Over the course of 4.5 billion years, this has produced the quirky six-degree angle in the sun’s tilt. (Image: E. Bailey et al., 2016)

But Planet Nine, and its unusual—albeit hypothetical—orbit, is adding a wobble to our solar system—one 4.5 billion years in the making. Previous calculations suggest that Planet Nine’s orbit is about 30 degrees off kilter from the other planets’ orbital plane. Intriguingly, given the hypothesized size, distance, and orbital angle of planet Nine, a six-degree stellar tilt fits perfectly.

“It continues to amaze us; every time we look carefully we continue to find that Planet Nine explains something about the solar system that had long been a mystery,” said Batygin.

Looking ahead, astronomers would like to figure out how Planet Nine achieved its strange and distant orbit. One theory is that Jupiter kicked it out as the gas giant migrated inwards in the early days of the solar system. Astronomers also need direct evidence of the camera shy Planet Nine in the form of an actual sighting. Encouragingly, Brown and Batygin are working with astronomers to do exactly that.

[Astrophysical Journal]

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Watch a Japanese Hand Plane Shave Wood Impossibly Thin

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Watch a Japanese Hand Plane Shave Wood Impossibly Thin

Thursday 4:05pm


Japanese hand planes or kannas are remarkable tools that can shave off layers of wood so ridiculously thin that they look like tissue paper. The wood shaving in the GIF above is only 8 microns thick which almost sounds like an impossible measurement because even human hair has a diameter of about 50 microns.

Kannas are used in carpentry to shave down wood and create a smooth finish, because the tools can maintain the wood’s natural pattern. (Sandpaper scrubs that all away.) It looks fun to use because it turns the stuff of trees into translucent curls of nothingness.

There are also hand planing competitions in Japan, which look like they get pretty intense.

Learn Three Magic Tricks You Can Easily Do With a Pen

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Learn Three Magic Tricks You Can Easily Do With a Pen

Thursday 7:32pm


Magic is mostly just how good you are with your hands. Here are three really easy magic tricks that you can pull with just a pen: making it disappear, making it appear out of nowhere, and making it look super small. Oscar Owenbreaks down the techniques for each and they only involve super quick finger movements. The alternate angle reveals how easy it is.

Of course, it takes a lot more practice to make it look as fluid as Owen, but with a little bit of time and some finger exercises, you might even fool yourself into believing in magic.

[Oscar Owen via BoingBoing]

This Is Why Half the Internet Shut Down Today

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This Is Why Half the Internet Shut Down Today

Yesterday 8:36am

Image: Getty

Twitter, Spotify and Reddit, and a huge swath of other websites were down or screwed up this morning. This was happening as hackers unleashed a large distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the servers of Dyn, a major DNS host. It’s probably safe to assume that the two situations are related.

Update 4:22 PM EST: Looks like this is probably going to get even worse before it gets any better. Dyn says they are being hit with a third wave of attacks. Dyn told CNBC the attack is “well planned and executed, coming from tens of millions IP addresses at same time.”

Update 12:28 PM EST: Dyn says it is investigating yet another attack, causing the same massive outages experienced this morning. Based on emails from Gizmodo readers, this new wave of attacks seems to be affecting the West Coast of the United States and Europe. It’s so far unclear how the two attacks are related, but the outages are very similar.

In order to understand how one DDoS attack could take out so many websites, you have to understand how Domain Name Servers (DNS) work. Basically, they act as the Internet’s phone book and facilitate your request to go to a certain webpage and make sure you are taken to the right place. If the DNS provider that handles requests for Twitter is down, well, good luck getting to Twitter. Some websites are coming back for some users, but it doesn’t look like the problem is fully resolved.

Dyn posted this update on its website: “Starting at 11:10 UTC on October 21th-Friday 2016 we began monitoring and mitigating a DDoS attack against our Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure. Some customers may experience increased DNS query latency and delayed zone propagation during this time. Updates will be posted as information becomes available.”

Here’s a list of websites that readers have told us they are having trouble accessing:

  • ActBlue
  • Basecamp
  • Big cartel
  • Box
  • Business Insider
  • CNN
  • Cleveland.com
  • Etsy
  • Github
  • Grubhub
  • Guardian.co.uk
  • HBO Now
  • Iheart.com (iHeartRadio)
  • Imgur
  • Intercom
  • Intercom.com
  • Okta
  • PayPal
  • People.com
  • Pinterest
  • Playstation Network
  • Recode
  • Reddit
  • Seamless
  • Spotify
  • Squarespace Customer Sites
  • Starbucks rewards/gift cards
  • Storify.com
  • The Verge
  • Twillo
  • Twitter
  • Urbandictionary.com (lol)
  • Weebly
  • Wired.com
  • Wix Customer Sites
  • Yammer
  • Yelp
  • Zendesk.com
  • Zoho CRM
  • Credit Karma
  • Eventbrite
  • Netflix
  • NHL.com
  • Fox News
  • Disqus
  • Shopify
  • Soundcloud
  • Atom.io
  • Ancersty.com
  • ConstantContact
  • Indeed.com
  • New York Times
  • Weather.com
  • WSJ.com
  • time.com
  • xbox.com
  • dailynews.com
  • Wikia
  • donorschoose.org
  • Wufoo.com
  • Genonebiology.com
  • BBC
  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Eve Online
  • PagerDuty
  • Kayak
  • youneedabudget.com
  • Speed Test
  • Freshbooks
  • Braintree
  • Blue Host
  • Qualtrics
  • SBNation
  • Salsify.com
  • Zillow.com
  • nimbleschedule.com
  • Vox.com
  • Livestream.com
  • IndieGoGo
  • Fortune
  • CNBC.com
  • FT.com
  • Survey Monkey
  • Paragon Game
  • Runescape

Here’s an internet outage map from DownDetector as of 12:46 PM EST:

Here’s a gif that shows the internet outage at 9:00 AM EST versus 12:30 PM EST:

At the time of publication Dyn said that it was still dealing with the problem.

What websites are down for you? Send a tip to william.turton@gizmodo.com.

Update 9:05 AM EST: Judging by emails from readers, this problem seems to be getting worse.

Update 9:43 AM EST: Dyn says the issue has been resolved.

Update 12:19 PM EST: Dyn says the issue is resolved, but multiple readers are messaging me to say they’re still having trouble accessing websites.

Update 12:25pm EST: It’s happening again. (see above)

Staff Writer, Gizmodo | william.turton@gizmodo.com

PGP Fingerprint: 88DF AB75 FAFC 1D10 4C45 A875 CA45 ABE6 B08D 8E52|PGP Key
OTR Fingerprint: 47F02E79 399AB8FA CC2A4DEF 4573B25F 18AB41D2

Earthquake Faults Around San Francisco Are Dangerously Interconnected

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Earthquake Faults Around San Francisco Are Dangerously Interconnected

Yesterday 11:34am

San Francisco as seen from the ISS. (Image: NASA/Scott Kelly)

Geologists have discovered that two deadly faults beneath San Francisco—the Hayward and Rodgers Creek faults—may be linked. Should one slip, it could trigger the other fault to collapse as well, causing an earthquake even larger than the one that struck back in 1989.

Geologists are very familiar with the Hayward Fault and its potential to unleash devastation along the populated subdivisions just east of San Francisco, but a new paper published in Science Advances by researchers from the US Geological Survey shows that a less-appreciated neighbor to the north, the Rodgers Creek Fault, may be connected. The discovery of a “missing link” between the two faults could change the way city officials plan for the next big earthquake in the Bay area.

Scientists are quite certain that the next major earthquake to strike the region will probably result from a rupture in either the the Hayward or Rodgers Creek faults, but as the new research from USGS geologist Janet Watt and colleagues shows, these faults, which now appear to be interconnected, could rupture simultaneously. If that were to happen, it would produce a magnitude 7.4 quake along their combined 118 miles (190 km).

A quake of this strength would cause extensive damage and loss of life. And at a magnitude 7.4, such a quake would be five times stronger than the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which led to 63 deaths and nearly $10 billion in damages.

The Hayward Fault stretches from San Jose to San Pablo Bay, passing through Berkeley and Oakland. New research it extends far enough northwards to join with the Rodgers Creek fault. (Image: USGS)

Previous work suggested that the two faults were separated by a two-mile wide buffer under the bay. The Hayward Fault stretches for 62 miles (100 km) from San Jose to San Pablo Bay, passing through Berkeley and Oakland, while the Rodgers Creek Fault runs 56 miles (90 km) north of the bay through the heart of northern California.

Watt’s team used high-resolution subsurface imaging to visualize the Hayward fault as it runs under San Pablo Bay. To their surprise, they discovered a previously undetected strand of the fault that bends toward and connects with the Rodgers Creek fault. Using computer models, the researchers found that the stress patterns fit in perfectly with visual observations of fault deformation and seismic activity in the area.

Because they’re interconnected, these two faults basically act as one, making it considerably easier for an earthquake rupture at either the northern or southern portions of the two faults to continue straight on through.

[Science Advances]

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Two Space Agencies Will Try to Make a Historic Landing on Mars Next Week

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Two Space Agencies Will Try to Make a Historic Landing on Mars Next Week

How things will hopefully go down for the Schiaparelli lander on October 19th. Image: ESA

A joint mission led by the European Space Agency and Roscosmos arrives at Mars next week, and its first order of business will be to make history. If all goes well, NASA is about to lose its bragging rights as the only space agency to successfully land probes on the Red Planet.

ExoMars, an astrobiology mission designed to hunt for signs of geologic and biological activity on Mars, is on track to reach orbit on October 19th. When it arrives, the mission’s two components—a Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and a Schiaparelli lander—will part ways. The TGO will insert itself into a low-altitude orbit and begin scanning the Martian atmosphere for methane, water vapor, and other trace gases. Schiaparelli, meanwhile, will attempt to reach the surface in one piece.

Landing on Mars is hard, and neither the ESA nor the Russians have a great track record. In the 1960s and 70s, the Soviet Union sent a slew of probes to the Red Planet, all of which crashed, died shortly after impact, or missed their target entirely. In 2003, the ESA’s Beagle 2 lander made it to the surface, but its solar panels failed to deploy, and it lost contact with Earth. In 2011, the Russians launched a space probe intended for Mars’ moon Phobos. It never made it out of low Earth orbit, eventually falling back and burning up in our atmosphere.


In other words, ExoMars is arriving at its destination with some baggage and a lot to prove. On October 16th, Schiaparelli and TGO will separate. Three days later, the lander will enter Mars’ atmosphere. The angle has to be absolutely perfect, otherwise the probe will come in too hot and burn up, or bounce back into space. If all goes well, Schiaparelli with then deploy a braking parachute, followed by three sets of hydrazine thrusters. All the while, it will becollecting data to characterize the structure of the Martian atmosphere and itsintended landing site.

The entire sequence is pre-programmed, and Schiaparelli only has one shot. There are no do-overs should anything go wrong.

Lucky for the ESA and Roscosmos, Schiaparelli’s main goal is demonstrate landing technology. If there is a problem, engineers will study it carefully and incorporate whatever lessons they learn into the next phase of the ExoMars mission—a bigger and longer-lived science lander that ships off in 2020. So while everyone is hoping to stick the landing next week, failure to do so is not a catastrophe.

One way or another, this will be an exciting mission to watch.


Maddie is a staff writer at Gizmodo

Watch Two Space Agencies Attempt a Daredevil Landing on Mars This Morning [Updated]

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Watch Two Space Agencies Attempt a Daredevil Landing on Mars This Morning [Updated]

Wednesday 8:20am

Gif by Gizmodo via ESA

After a seven month journey, the ExoMars mission arrives in orbit around Mars today. Its first order of business? To attempt a historic, daredevil landingon the Red Planet.

A collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, ExoMars seeks to continue the search for biological and geologic activity on Mars, a planet often described as Earth’s little brother and which may have had a much warmer, wetter climate in the past. The first phase of the mission, which arrives today, consists of a Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and a Schiaparelli lander. On Sunday, these two craft broke free from each other, and today, they go their separate ways for good.

The big event for the TGO is the Mars Orbit Insertion, a 134 minute main engine burn beginning at 9:09am ET (1:09pm GMT) that’ll cause the craft to shed some 1,550 meters/second of velocity; enough to be captured into a highly eccentric orbit. If successful, it’ll be the second time the EU has placed a spacecraft in orbit around Mars. TGO will then spend the next year using aerobraking maneuvers to lower itself into a circular orbit some 250 miles (400 km) above the Red Planet’s surface. In December 2017, its main scientific mission, of sniffing out traces gases like methane in Mars’ atmosphere, will begin.

ESA fully expects the orbital insertion to go off without a hitch. Much less certain is the fate of the Schiaparelli lander, which will try to reach the surface in one piece in order to demonstrate entry, descent and landing technology the space agency will use to send a bigger, mobile rover to Mars in 2020. Schiaparelli’s only got one shot at this, and every step in a complex sequence of instructions has to go off perfectly to make it happen. Otherwise, the lander winds up a pile of rubble on the Red Planet, or a piece of wayward space junk in Mars’ backyard.

Schiaparelli lander descent sequence. Image: ESA/ATG medialab

At 10:42am EDT (2:42pm GMT), the lander is expected to make a ballistic entry into Mars’ atmosphere, at a speed of approximately 13,000 mph (21,000 kph). After a few minutes of fiery free-fall during which the lander’s precious instruments are protected by a slowly-vaporizing aeroshell, Schiaparelli will have slowed to around 1056 mph (1,700 kph) and be situated 6.8 miles (11 km) above the surface. At this point, a parachute deploys. The heat shield is released, and the craft’s Doppler radar is activated in order to determine distance to the ground and relative velocity, information that’ll later be used to activate the thrusters.

Finally, at an altitude of a little over 0.6 miles (1 km) and a speed of 155 mph (250 kph), Schiaparelli jettisons its parachute, ignites its three hydrazine thrusters, and descends to a height of 6.5 feet (2 meters) above the surface. The thrusters are then cut, and the lander drops, crunching into the ruddy soil at approximately the speed of an average runner. Start to finish, the entire sequence takes just under six minutes.

What Schiaparelli is expected to see as it falls to Mars. Images: NASA/JPL/MRO; simulation: ESA

Did I mention there’s zero margin for error? All ESA can do during these nail-biting moments is monitor the lander’s progress as closely as possible. To that end, the Mars Express orbiter will be listening for signals from Schiaparelli, as will scientists using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope located near Pune, India. During its main engine burn, the TGO will also be picking up radio signals from Schiaparelli, which will be stored aboard the spacecraft and analyzed later.

False color topographic map showing the Schiaparelli lander’s intended touchdown site in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars’ southern highlands. Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

If the lander is successful, it’ll be a historic moment for the ESA—the first time the space agency has made a controlled touchdown on the Red Planet. (Although it lost communication with the Earth before crashing, the Beagle 2 probedid make it to the surface in 2003.) And while Schiaparelli is mainly a technology demonstrator, it’s got enough battery juice to stay alive on the surface for a few days, collecting meteorological data and hopefully, beaming back some sweet footage of its harrowing descent.

Happily, those of us without direct access to a spacecraft or a radio telescope can still follow along via the interwebs, with live coverageprovided by the ESA starting today at 9am EDT (1pm GMT). Text updates on the Schiaparelli lander and the TGO are being issued here, and via Twitter @esaoperations, @ESA_ExoMars, @ESA_TGO and @ESA_EDM. Tomorrow, a follow-up press conference beginning at (oof) 4am EDT (8am GMT) will give us a full status report on Schiaparelli, along with photos to prove the landing wasn’t faked.

The action starts pretty soon, so grab some coffee, settle in, and watch the ESA try to make history.


Update 11:14am ET: Well folks, the first signal from Mars Express that could have confirmed a successful touch-down apparently never came. According to ESA, a signal from Schiaparelli was traced to “near the arrival on the surface of Mars,” before mysteriously cutting out. However, we shouldn’t despair: a TGO telemetry transmission, due in less than an hour, could offer more information. Other sources of data are expected to trickle in throughout the day.

This doesn’t mean the lander failed, we simply don’t know its status yet. Let the nail biting wait continue.

Update 12:40pm ET: We just received word that the TGO signal is coming in loud and clear. The ESA has two satellites around Mars!


The status of the Schiaparelli lander remains uncertain as engineers continue to analyze data streaming in from Mars Express, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and elsewhere. “We have received some data,” ExoMars project manager Don McCoy said over the live stream moments ago, adding that engineers have seen “a series of indicators of the entry, parachute deployment, [and] release of the aeroshell.”

“We can’t conclude the real status of the [lander],” McCoy continued. “But indeed it did enter the atmosphere and operate mostly as we understood it.”

Guess we’ll just have to keep waiting.

Maddie is a staff writer at Gizmodo