MIGHTY TRENDING
Bill Bostock

WhatsApp message claiming the Queen died spread by confused Navy staffer

The viral WhatsApp message that claimed Queen Elizabeth II had died was started by a Royal Navy staff member who confused a practice drill for the real thing.

The false news spread across social media last Sunday, garnering thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and spawning several hashtags.

The cause of the false alarm was a misunderstanding by someone at Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton, Portsmouth News reported.

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MIGHTY TRENDING
David Choi

Russian secret agents were reportedly stationed in villages in the French Alps

US and European intelligence agencies discovered Russian military intelligence members to be working from the French Alps, according to an NBC News report published Thursday. News of the operation was first reported by French newspaper Le Monde.

Up to 15 members of the GRU, the Kremlin's military intelligence agency, had lived in the French Alps, where they established their base for European covert operations, according to the reports. Some of the alleged officers' names were previously published by Bellingcat, an independent investigative group.

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MIGHTY TRENDING
Sonam Sheth

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

The Justice Department on Thursday indicted two alleged Russian hackers who work for a Russian-backed cybercriminal group called Evil Corp.

Maksim Yakubets is accused of being involved in international computer hacking and bank fraud schemes spanning from May 2009 to the present. He is also alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.

Igor Turashev was indicted for his alleged role in the "Bugat" malware conspiracy. According to the FBI, Bugat is a "multifunction malware package that automates the theft of confidential personal and financial information ... from infected computers through the use of keystroke logging and web injects."

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How Iran openly attacked Saudi Arabia and got away with it

On Sept. 14, 2019, a swarm of drones and cruise missiles struck the world's largest oil processing facility inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There was little doubt in the Saudi's minds as to who the culprit could be. Their American allies agreed: the attack came from the Islamic Republic of Iran, their neighbor across the Persian Gulf. But the attack on the Saudi Aramco facility was less about making the Saudis pay and more about making their American allies pay.

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MIGHTY TRENDING
Morgan McFall-Johnsen

Record-breaking NASA sun probe could change Earth's electric grid

NASA's record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.

Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.

On Wednesday, NASA scientists announced the probe's biggest discoveries so far, in four papers published in the journal Nature.

The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun's atmosphere, including reversals of the sun's magnetic field and "bursts" in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.

'Bursty' solar wind bends the sun's magnetic field

This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth's electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.

By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.

"Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It's very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top," Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe's solar-wind data, said in a press call. "It's very hard to tell from halfway down."

A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.

NASA image

NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun's outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?

The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.

Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun's poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.

solar wind

The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.

NASA/SDO image

The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.

"We see that the solar wind is very bursty," Bale said. "It's bubbly. It's unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth."

The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.

"We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it," Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker's observations of solar wind, said in the call.

Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.

The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun's magnetic field.

The scientists call these events "switchbacks" because in the affected area the sun's magnetic field whips backward so that it's almost pointing directly at the sun.

The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury's orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.

"These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what's causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space," Kasper said.

The sun blowing out a coronal mass ejection.

NASA/GSFC image

Parker confirmed that there's a dust-free zone around the sun

Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars' orbits. That's because the sun's heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.

For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.

Still, this zone wasn't quite what scientists expected.

"What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth," Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. "We don't see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated."

That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.

An illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.

NASA/JHU/APL image

6 more years and 21 more flybys

More knowledge about solar wind and the sun's magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.

In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.

In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth's power grids and pipelines.

Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun's surface.

During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists' questions about the sun's corona and solar wind.

"As we get closer, we'll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions," Nicola Fox, NASA's director of heliophysics, said in the call. "Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun."

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING
aaron holmes

The FBI just issued a warning about your hacker-friendly smart TV

If you own a smart TV — or recently purchased one for the holidays — it's time to acquaint yourself with the risks associated with the devices, according to a new warning issued by the FBI.

Smart TVs connect to the internet, allowing users to access online apps, much like streaming services. And because they're internet-enabled, they can make users vulnerable to surveillance and attacks from bad actors, according to the FBI warning.

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MIGHTY TRENDING
Ellen Ioanes

Kim Jong Un rides a majestic horse and sends Christmas threats, I guess

North Korea has again lobbed a vague year-end threat at the Trump administration, saying the US can expect a "Christmas gift" if talks between US and North Korean officials don't lead to substantive concessions for North Korea.

As the year-end deadline that the hermit kingdom has given the US runs out, North Korea may renege on the only concession it has given President Donald Trump — the promise to abandon nuclear and long-range weapons testing.

In November, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea's state-run news outlet, released a statement saying that time was quickly running out for the US to resume talks that had stalled after Trump's much-touted visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in June. While US diplomats have said that tentative negotiations in Stockholm last month went well, North Korea's latest missive indicates otherwise.

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What changes when drug cartels are listed as foreign terrorists

Earlier in 2019, President Trump wanted to send U.S. troops into Mexico to assist the Mexican government in fighting drug cartel violence. But even after the brutal killing of an American family in Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined Trump's offer to accept American troops inside Mexico. Trump wanted to "wipe them off the face of the Earth," saying we just needed a "call from your great new President." But that call never came.

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How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history

They actually followed "untraceable" Bitcoin trails. It's a big win for the good guys.

It's not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you're going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.

Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they'd never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.

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