Friday, July 29, 2005

New world may be double Pluto's size

An object possibly twice the size of Pluto has been found - hiding in plain sight. The discovery could be the biggest world in the Kuiper belt of rocky objects that orbit the outer reaches of the solar system.
The find suggests more such objects are waiting to be discovered and is likely to reignite the fierce debate about what constitutes a planet.
On Thursday, an email with the subject, "Big TNO discovery, urgent" was sent to a popular astronomy mailing list. The message described the discovery of a "very bright" object that was creeping along slowly beyond the orbit of Neptune - making it a Trans-Neptunian Object, or TNO.
Its exact size cannot be determined because the reflectivity of its surface is not known. But if the reflectivity is as dim as most other distant, rocky objects that have been studied, it could be twice as wide as Pluto, which is about 2300 kilometres across.
Sleepless night
Jose-Luis Ortiz, an astronomer at the Sierra Nevada Observatory in Spain, and colleagues discovered the object when they re-analysed observations they had made in 2003. Then, they scoured older archives and found the object in images dating back to 1955.
Based on these so-called "precoveries", they calculated the object's orbit and sent urgent emails asking people around the globe to observe the new find.
Amateur observers Salvador Sanchez, Reiner Stoss, and Jaime Nomen found it on Thursday using a 30-centimetre telescope in Mallorca, Spain. "I am not going to sleep tonight," said Stoss, a mechanical engineering student in Darmstadt, Germany. "To find an object bigger than Pluto - it's like the X Prize," he said, referring to the $10 million prize for private spaceflight won in 2004.
The observations were then verified by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center (MPC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, which designated the object 2003 EL61.
Time to move
The MPC reports the object is about 51 Astronomical Units from the Sun - 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Its orbit brings it comes as close to the Sun as 35 AU, while Pluto maintains an average distance of about 39 AU. "Someone should have found this before," Brian Marsden, director of the MPC, told New Scientist.
One reason they did not is the object's speed, suggests Stoss. Many surveys of Near Earth Objects take a trio of images spaced 20 minutes apart to search for telltale movement in relation to background stars.
But 2003 EL61 is too far away to detect its progress in that time. Ortiz's survey compares images taken a day apart. "They give the object time to move," Stoss says.
Another reason may be the plane of the object's orbit, says Tommy Grav, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, US. That plane is tilted by 28° with respect to the orbital plane of most planets, where surveys tend to scan the skies for Near Earth Objects.
Off kilter
2003 EL61 is even more off-kilter than Pluto, which orbits in a plane tilted by 17°. "Pluto was pushed out of the plane of the solar system when Neptune moved outwards" soon after the solar system formed, Grav told New Scientist. "It's possible this object has suffered something similar."
The discovery, coupled with other recent finds such as Sedna and Quaoar, suggests other large objects may lurk in the murky region beyond Neptune.
"Some people have claimed we'd never find something as bright as this out there," says Grav. "But there may be something even further out that's moving so slowly we haven't seen it yet."
And the discovery is likely to revive previous fierce debates about what constitutes a planet and even how astronomical objects are named. "But don't even start that discussion," Stoss jokes. He says future observations of the object's colour and brightness could reveal its true size, shape, rotation period, and any companion moons.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Software : Windows Vista Beta Goes Live

The first Beta of Microsoft Vista (formerly known as Longhorn) is rolling out. Here is some details I found :

"The long-awaited first beta for the Windows Vista client release, which was formerly known as Longhorn, officially goes live Wednesday, hitting some 20,000 technical beta testers. Microsoft also Wednesday released the first beta of the as-yet un-renamed Windows "Longhorn" Server to a limited number of participants..."

"This beta is designed for developers and IT professionals, since many of the end-user features will not show up until Beta 2," Sullivan said. "This beta is really about the platform, about the fundamentals; it is a kick-the-tires test release for developers and IT pros."

"Microsoft is also making the Windows Vista beta available to its MSDN and TechNet subscriber base, which number about 500,000, but they are not official beta testers and so the expectations regarding feedback are lower for them. "

"The beta does, however, contain anti-phishing filter technology that works against an established list of known phishing sites from law enforcement and industry groups. Users will be alerted by an icon that notes suspicious pages. A message will come up to inform them why this page is suspicious or blocked. However, users will be able to access blocked pages if they so choose, Sullivan said.

He also confirmed that Microsoft plans to have the final product generally available for the 2006 holiday season. While exact system requirements for the operating system will not be released before the middle of next year, Sullivan stuck to the guidelines previously announced of 512MB or more of RAM, a dedicated graphics card with DirectX 9.0 support, and a modern, Intel Pentium- or AMD Athlon-based PC. "

" The Windows Vista development team has spent a lot of time on security, and the beta will include features like User Account Protection, which lets administrators deploy PCs set up to give end users only the privileges they need to perform their tasks.

Windows Service Hardening monitors critical Windows services for abnormal activity in the file system, registry and network that could be used to allow malware to persist on a machine or propagate to other machines, he said. "

" The beta also includes anti-malware features to detect and remove viruses and other types of malicious software from the computer, while data protection technologies reduce the risk that data on laptops or on other computers will be viewed by unauthorized users, even if the laptop is lost or stolen."

" The Windows Pre-installation Environment enables administrators to configure Windows offline as well as diagnose and troubleshoot hardware problems before launching the setup process, while the Application Compatibility Toolkit helps administrators quickly identify, analyze and resolve any issues with non-standard applications being migrated to Windows Vista, Sullivan said. "

"A new Speech Recognizer feature due to be built into Vista will provide "speech recognition within Windows and any applications that choose to use it," according to the documentation. "

Vista Beta 1 also will include a driver protection feature that will prevent the operating system from loading drivers "that are known to cause stability problems." Microsoft is planning to include a list of problematic drivers in a Driver Protection List database that will be part of Vista.

"Driver Protection checks this database during Windows operating system upgrades and while the operating system is running. These checks are performed to determine whether to load a driver under this software," according to the privacy documentation.

A feature called "Network Location Awareness Service" is designed to collect network information, "such as the DNS suffix of your computer, bandwidth availability, and intranet connectivity," and make this information available through an application programming interface to applications that may require this information.

A "Games Explorer," designed to list all the games stored on a user's computer, also will be part of Vista Beta 1. The Games Explorer will keep track of the last time each game was played, allowing users to sort or filter the display of games.

Sources :,1895,1841029,00.asp,1895,1840867,00.asp

Yay ! Now I will be able to sort my games better ...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blog number 2,544,556,434,234,564

Hi Web!

Welcome to Fabrulana's blog. I have been planning a website for a long time now and seeing as I am not getting to it, I thought the least I could do to get started is to start a blog. My blog will cover various things as they popup to me on a day by day basis. I have a variety of interests and will discuss stuff like computer games, music, movies, programming, interesting sites etc. I'll try and do at least a post per day.