The Largest Object in the Solar System

By Anupum Pant

On November 6th 1892, after being spotted by a British astronomer Edwin Holmes, comet Holmes was not seen again for several decades. Thus it came to be known as the lost comet. Out of the blue, more than 70 years later, the comet was again seen in the year 1964.

Now it is known that comet Holmes was captured by Jupiter several thousand years ago, and it never went back to the Kuiper belt. It is a Jupiter family comet. Every 6.88 years, the comet orbits the sun.

Even this year, on 27th of March, it was one of the most bright comets of the year. But it was something that happened back in the year 2007 which made it one of the most popular comets in the sky.

For a brief period, comet Holmes, which is also a part of our solar system, became the largest object in the solar system. Yes, even larger than the sun!

On November 9th 2007, the diameter of comet’s coma – a cloudy region surrounding the comet made up of very tiny shiny ice and dust particles – measured about 1.4 million km. The sun’s diameter rounded to the nearest hundred is estimated to be 1.392 million km. Agreed the coma wasn’t as massive as the sun, but the size of it did measure slightly more than the sun at that time.

It indeed is a great achievement to become the largest object in the solar system (for some time) for an object that is just a tiny mass of ice and dust that is only about 3.6 km wide.

That day, the cloud around it erupted due to a mysterious outburst which still puzzles scientists. Such outbursts have been seen in the past too and are thought to have been originated as a result of its collision with a meteor (or probably due to an internal steam eruption).

via [space]

15 Craziest Ways to Charge Your Phone [Part 1]

By Anupum Pant

What was considered a remarkable method some years back, today, using solar cells to charge your phone has gone too main stream. How about doing it with a flamethrower, or moon light maybe? Brace yourselves up for an unusually long and interesting compendium of some the most craziest things you could use to charge your phone. And of course, I thank science for bringing these things into the world.

Here, I’ve compiled a few crazy ways to charge your phone. Feel free to contribute any others you know and point out ignorance in the comments section below.

Note: The absurd methods I’ve collected here may set your phone on fire, or worse. So, please do not try them at home. If you do, and succeed in melting your phone, do not blame me for it. Or rather, read whatever you can find about it, before experimenting.

1. Moon Light

What if photovoltaic cells were so efficient that they could draw electricity from the moon-light all night? Well, here you go.
A German architect named André Broessel worked on a project for 3 years to put together a novel process of drawing solar energy that would be far more efficient than the existing ones. In the end, he came out with this perfectly spherical glass ball filled with water, which can use up whatever minimum light it receives to create electricity. So, on a cloudy day or even at night (using light from sun reflected by the moon), with this set up on your terrace you’ll be making electricity 24X7. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about the sun or moon moving in the sky. It comes with a tracking system which adjusts itself to capture the light.
It is basically a super-refined version of one of those solar death rays I talked about a few days back.

Your phone is small; this is something which could make whole skyscrapers go off-grid. So, go and give it away on Indie GoGo whatever little you can contribute to the project.

2. Hand Cranked

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With the amazing moon light capture device for the future, now let us move on to this hand cranked variant of a mobile power bank, you can buy right now. For everyday use, this backup battery pack comes with a hand turbine power generator that will keep you all charged up all the time. It contains a rechargeable 2000 mAh lithium battery for power which can be cranked up for about a minute to create 4 minutes of battery life out of thin air. If you were expecting free energy, in the end, it is important to know that with this device, to bring your phone from completely dead to 100% battery would require nearly an effort equivalent to a full-body workout.
Also, I found a cheaper variant, which works on a similar principle but isn’t documented well on the internet. It got “India talking” for obvious reasons (costs only $7). They call it the RotoCharger.
If you are looking for an easier way, read on.

3. Lightning

Yes, the same thing that Raijin (雷神) drops on earth 100 times every seconds,  is 3 miles long and carries a current of 10,000 Amps at 100 million Volts, was used to charge a Nokia phone. Last year, scientists from the University of Southampton teamed up with Nokia to try and harness the energy of a lightning bolt to charge a phone. They succeeded in charging a Nokia Lumia 925 with a 200,000 volt lightning bolt, created in the laboratory.

Here is a YouTube video posted by Nokia’s official YouTube channel demonstrating the same:

4. Wind/Air

IfanBlog

In a recent development, researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a micro-windmill made up of a nickel alloy. It is so small that you could put 10 of them could on a grain of rice. According to them, in the future, hundreds of these tiny windmills could end up in the housing of your smart phones and power them using wind energy.

Earlier, undergrads from Nirma University of Ahmedabad in India had developed an eco-friendly headgear that used a little fan for harnessing wind energy. As it also uses solar energy, at just $22, it is indeed a great device for charging your phone on the move.

Talking about devices that can harness wind energy on the move, the iFan is one ingenious device that comes to mind. It can be mounted on a bicycle or can be held outside a car window to charge your iPhone.

Lung Power: Talking about air, there is this clever gadget that transforms the air from your lungs into energy to charge your phone. Created by Inventor Joco Paulo Lammoglia, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, AIRE mask can harnesses the wind power created by breathing and converts it into electricity to run anything from your iPod to your mobile.

5. Body Heat

body heat phone charger

Working on the same principle as the flashlight without batteries, a jacket developed by Stephen Beeby, Professor of Electronic Systems at the University of Southampton, uses thermoelectricity to power your phone. According to the professor, you have to sleep for quite some time to find a fully charged phone:

Eight hours in the sleeping bag, roughly speaking, will provide 24 minutes of talk time and 11 hours of standby time. That’s assuming the inside of the sleeping bag is 37 degrees – human body temperature.

6. Sound

soundcharge tee

In theory, talking to your can generate energy to charge a phone. Although to win a substantial amount of battery life from this prototype, you’ll have to scream at the top of your voice. According the lead researcher, Sang-Woo Kim of Sungkyunkwan University’s nanotechnology institute who invented it, it requires 100 decibels to generate 50 milli-volts of electricity. That’s enough to give a Smartphone battery a little support, is still far from what a normal wall plug charger could give you. The researchers are really confident about taking this technology to the next level and making it viable for practical use.

Another one: GotWind’s Sound Charge t-shirt converts sound into electricity. A person wearing this can charge a device battery while thrashing around in the mosh pit. A textbook sized panel of Piezoelectric film in the front acts like a microphone. It absorbs sound waves and converts them into electricity through the compression of interlaced quartz crystals. This electricity is then fed into an external power bank. [Video]

7. Shake

There was a time when kinetic wrist watches were the fad. Today, how cool would it be if you could shake up your phone for an extra boost?
So, Researchers at Virginia Tech tried to make a charger that draws energy from a piezoelectric material and could convert vibrations into energy. They say, when it is done, simple taps on the phone screen or keyboard would produce enough energy to deal with emergencies.

But, long before the researchers announced this, the world had seen nPower PEG. Apparently, it is the world’s 1st human-powered charger for hand-held electronics. It gives you access to backup battery power even when you’re away from home by using the energy you generate while walking, running, or biking to charge your smart phone, music player, GPS, or other devices.

Ah! I’ve written too much for the day. Remember to check back next week for the 2nd part of this post. 

The Day When The Whole World Saw Auroras

By Anupum Pant

The record of geomagnetic storms has been kept for around 160 years now and among all the flares observed till date, the Carrington event was the most powerful ever.

The Carrington super flare

The 1859 Solar Superstorm, or the Carrington Event, was an enormous magnetic shock wave sent towards the Earth by the Sun. It caused a massive disturbance in Earth’s magnetosphere. The effects of this super flare observed here on earth were literally awesome.

Effects

Story: While studying sunspots on Sept 1, 1859 Richard Carrington, an astronomer observed a blinding white light that appeared over local parts of the sun. And 5 minutes later, it was all gone. As if nothing had happened.

Before dawn the next day, skies all over planet lit up. The lights in the sky were so brilliant that people said they could read text like they could read it in the daylight. Red, green and purple auroras pulsated even at  tropical areas like Cuba, Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii. The whole world saw auroras that day.

An American newspaper reported:

The phenomenon was very similar to the display on Sunday night, though at times the light was, if possible, more brilliant, and the prismatic hues more varied and gorgeous. The light appeared to cover the whole firmament, apparently like a luminous cloud, through which the stars of the larger magnitude indistinctly shone. The light was greater than that of the moon at its full, but had an indescribable softness and delicacy that seemed to envelop everything upon which it rested. Between 12 and 1 o’clock, when the display was at its full brilliancy, the quiet streets of the city resting under this strange light, presented a beautiful as well as singular appearance. – from Wikipedia.

Telegraph systems all over the world went out of control. Some discharges shocked telegraph operators and fires were reported at few places. Due to the temporary disturbance in the magnetic field, current was induced in the wires and machines disconnected from the batteries still allowed telegraphs to be sent.

Luckily in those times, we did not have any satellites, or more importantly, any humans up in the sky; they would have been fried.

What if it happened now?

Today, electronic technologies have become far more refined and have moved into the common man’s life. If an event of such sizes takes place now, power lines and long-distance telephone cables could get seriously affected by it. A similar event of a little lesser intensity happened in 1989 – It was Friday the 13th and several ill effects were experienced.

Radar, cell phone communications, and GPS receivers could get disrupted. Humans in space would be in great danger. Astronauts, after having observed a flash of light would have only minutes to find shelter – probably a properly shielded spacecraft.

Scientists say that there is little we can do to protect our things from a storm like this. It is estimated that re-occurrence of a Carrington class event today, could cost the world economy around $2.6 trillion.

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