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The probe is due to enter Ceres’ orbit on March 6. It has already begun sending back the first photos of the dwarf planet that NASA has snapped since 2004. Back then, pictures from the Hubble Telescope showed a white area. Later, photos revealed that the white area is really a bright spot. Now scientists say there is a second, slightly dimmer, yet still noticeably bright spot next to the first…and they don’t know what’s causing them.
"Ceres' bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations," Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a NASA statement.
The photos were taken on February 19, from a distance of about 29,000 miles. They are part of a series taken as Dawn observed Ceres completing one full rotation ‒ one of the dwarf planet’s days, which lasts about nine hours.
"The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres. This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us," said Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany.
The Dawn probe is set to begin a 16-month study of Ceres, the largest body in our solar system’s main asteroid belt, which floats between Mars and Jupiter. The dwarf planet has an average diameter of 590 miles (950 kilometers).
The images Dawn sends back will give scientists better and better views of Ceres. Researchers hope to gain a deeper understanding of its origin and evolution by studying its surface, including the mysterious bright spots.
“So what could the bright spots be, other than alien castaways signaling at us with flashlights?” Chris Taylor of Mashable asked.
Ceres is a water-heavy object believed to contain a large amount of ice. However, ice would reflect more than 40 percent of all light hitting it ‒ meaning the current amount of reflection that scientists have measured doesn’t add up. The difference may be accounted for by the resolution limit of Dawn's camera at this distance, Taylor reported. He added that salt patches or ice volcanoes are other potential causes of the glowing dots.
Images sent back to NASA in January were only 80 percent of Hubble’s resolution from over a decade ago, but new photos will be clearer as the probe gets closer to the dwarf planet.
Ceres falls into the same category of dwarf planets as Pluto. The classification, according to the International Astronomical Union, is for a celestial body that “is in orbit around the sun” and “has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape,” but is not able to “clear the neighborhood around its orbit.”
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Although it’s unclear exactly what the issue is at Lee Correctional Institution, multiple armed guards have been spotted on the ground as well as on the facility’s roof, local WLTX reported. The state Department of Corrections has confirmed that the prison is on lockdown as officials deal with the situation.
Local reporter Savannah Levins, meanwhile, tweeted that more than 15 police vehicles have sped onto prison grounds, and more are arriving.
— JR Berry WLTX (@JRBerryWLTX) February 26, 2015
— Scott Cooke (@cookescott) February 26, 2015
The prison, which houses more than 1,000 inmates, has been home to security incidents in the past. Back in 2012, inmates held a corrections office hostage in a closet for hours before officials were able to free him. He was injured but able to walk out of the prison before being airlifted to a hospital.
In 2003, two officers were also taken hostage, and one of the officers was stabbed in the arm with a homemade knife as a result.
Lee Correctional recently underwent significant renovations as officials attempted to boost security. According to local NBC affiliate News 2, approximately $237,000 was spent to construct two new guard towers at the facility in order to keep prisoners from escaping and also to try and keep banned substances from making their way inside.
A $2.2 million camera system has also been installed featuring technology that can detect an inmate’s body heat and keep an eye on them in the dark.
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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks are stalling while the White House assures its trading partners that this secret trade agreement won't be amended when it comes back to Congress for ratification after the President signs the deal. That's why the Executive is scrambling to get its allies in Congress to pass Fast Track. If they succeed, the U.S. Trade Representative can block remaining opportunities for the examination of the TPP's provisions by lawmakers who could ensure that this secret deal does not contain expansive copyright rules that would lock the U.S. into broken copyright rules that are already in bad need of reform.
The Fast Track bill is likely going to be introduced as early as next week—so it's time to speak out now. Congress needs to hear from their constituents that we expect them to hold the White House accountable for the TPP's restrictive digital policies. Unless this opaque, undemocratic process is fixed, and state officials uphold the interests of users rather than trampling our rights, we have no choice but to fight trade deals like the TPP.
You can get in touch with your elected representatives and call on them to oppose Fast Track trade authority for the TPP and other secretive, anti-user trade deals. We have also created a new tool for Twitter users to ask three key congressional leaders to come out against Fast Track. They are Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Steny Hoyer. Here's why we are targeting these three Congress members in particular.Target #1: Sen. Ron Wyden
Sen. Wyden is one of the leading defenders of users' rights and a staunch fighter for the free and open Internet in Congress. For the past several years, he has been one of the most outspoken lawmakers denouncing the secretive TPP negotiations, and has consistently raised concerns about the agreement's threat to users. As Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, where the Senate bill will be introduced, he has a significant amount of influence over the outcome of Fast Track. We need to call on him to continue to stand with users and fight back against any version of this bill that does not address critical problems in the trade negotiation process.
House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, has proven to be an outspoken defender of the free and open Internet this year, as she was one of the most vocal proponents to defend net neutrality. However, she has unfortunately been wishy-washy on Fast Track and the TPP. She needs to hear from users that the TPP also puts the Internet at risk from oppressive regulations. If she were to come out against Fast Track, that would be a strong signal for other House Democrats to follow her lead.
His voting record for digital rights has been pretty spotty, and so far Rep. Hoyer has been supportive of Fast Track. But as House Minority Whip, his opposition to Fast Track would also be hugely influential for Democrats in the House to come out against it as well.
Let them know that we're counting on them to defend the Internet from the White House's secret, anti-user deals. Once you're done tweeting at them (which you can of course do more than once!), remember to share these actions through your social networks. We can defeat this massive, anti-user trade deal, but we're going to need all the help we can get.Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceInternationalTrade AgreementsTrans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
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Children’s TV provider Nickeloedon is launching a new subscription-based streaming video service that will let toddlers (or adults with childish tastes) watch kid’s shows on a smartphone or tablet. Noggin launches March 5th, and subscriptions for the ad-free service run $5.99 per month. At launch Noggin will be iOS-only, which means you’ll need an iPhone, […]