BBC: The UK’s Reaction Engines Ltd (REL) has run successful tests on key parts of its experimental Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE). SABRE is designed as the engine for Skylon, a horizontal take-off and landing spacecraft. At low altitudes, the engine will operate like a jet, taking in oxygen as fuel from the air. Thus Skylon can launch with much less fuel onboard than traditional spacecraft. During the tests, REL demonstrated an innovative system for rapidly cooling the intake air, which will let the engine operate in air-breathing mode for as long as necessary. The cooling system uses an array of small pipes, through which helium passes. The helium extracts the heat from the air and drops the air temperature to -140 °C in 1/100th of a second. The flowing helium also prevents the buildup of ice on the surface of the pipes, which would reduce the effectiveness of the cooling. The European Space Agency served as an independent observer and confirmed the success of the testing. REL is primarily privately funded and will need to raise £250 million ($400 million) for the next stage of development of SABRE, a version of the engine which will show the viability of the engine in both air-breathing and traditional rocket modes.
MIT News: Collisions between protons and lead ions at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider may have produced a form of matter called a color-glass condensate, which is a liquid-like wave of gluon plasma. In 2 million collisions seen by the LHC’s Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), some of the resulting particles exhibited behavior that suggested they were entangled. A normal particle collision results in an explosion of particles. But in the lead–proton collisions, some pairs of exploded particles followed matching paths, meaning each particle communicated its direction to the other via entanglement. Gunther Roland of MIT, who led the group analyzing the CMS data, had seen similar shared-path behavior in proton–proton collisions and the collisions of nuclei of heavy elements such as lead and gold. Heavy nuclei collisions produce a quark–gluon plasma, and proton–proton collisions are believed to create a color-glass condensate. Both plasmas sweep up the entangled particles and push them down identical paths. Roland said that the color-glass condensate had not been expected in the lead–proton collisions, which were being done to establish a point of reference for lead–lead collisions. Roland’s group plans additional collisions to try to determine if the color-glass condensate is the cause of the entangled behavior.
Ars Technica: Until now, astronomers had observed that most massive galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers. However, recent observations of NGC 1277, a relatively small lenticular galaxy 220 million light-years away, indicate that it harbors one of the most massive black holes ever detected. Remco van den Bosch of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues studied high-resolution images captured by the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas. Their results appear online in Nature. According to their measurements, NGC 1277’s central black hole has a mass between 14 billion and 20 billion times that of the Sun. Because five other compact galaxies with properties similar to those of NGC1277 have been observed, the researchers are working to determine whether they, too, have supermassive black holes at their centers.
New York Times: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is holding its annual meeting this week and next in Doha, Qatar. The current meeting so far promises to be much lower in intensity than the previous three, which were held in Durban, South Africa, in 2011; Cancún, Mexico, in 2010; and Copenhagen in 2009. One of the main topics of discussion will be a global climate change treaty, the details of which the delegates pledged last year to work out by 2015. A number of issues still need to be resolved, including how to verify compliance and how to guarantee equity between rich and poor nations. Because the US is one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters—along with China—it is expected to play a huge role in the success or failure of the convention to reach an agreement.