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‘There is stuff’: Enduring mysteries trail US report on UFOs

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Enduring mysteries trail US report on UFOs. The blob, captured on distant, fluffy video by Navy pilots, seems to skitter just above the sea waves at improbable speed, with no discernible methods for propulsion or lift. “Goodness my gosh, man,” one aviator says to another as they giggle at the oddity. “What … right?”

Is it a bird? A plane? Super drone? An extraterrestrial something?

The US government has been taking a hard gander at unidentified flying objects like this one. A report summarizing what the US knows about “unidentified airborne phenomena” — better known as UFOs — is expected to be made public this month.

There won’t be an alien unmasking. Two officials briefed on the report say it tracked down no extraterrestrial connect to the sightings reported and captured on video. The report won’t preclude a connection to another country, according to the officials, who talked on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss it.

While the broad conclusions have now been reported, the full report may still present a broader picture of what the government knows. The anticipation surrounding the report shows how a topic normally confined to sci-fi and a small, often dismissed group of researchers has hit the mainstream.

Worried about national security threats from adversaries, lawmakers ordered an investigation and public accounting of phenomena that the government has been loath to talk about for generations.

“There is stuff flying in our airspace,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the senators who pressed for the probe, recently told Fox News. “We don’t know what it is. We need to discover.”

Congress late last year instructed the director of national intelligence to provide “a detailed analysis of unidentified elevated phenomena data” from multiple agencies and report in 180 days. That time is about up. The intelligence office wouldn’t say this past week when the full document will be out.

The bill passed by Congress asks the intelligence director for “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”

The chief concern is whether hostile countries are handling flying technology so advanced and strange that it befuddles and threatens the world’s largest military power. But when lawmakers talk about it, they tend to leave themselves a little squirm room in case it’s something else — whether more prosaic than a military rival or, you know, more cosmic.

“Right now there are a lot of unanswered questions,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California told NBC this week. “In the event that other nations have capabilities that we don’t know of, we want to discover. On the off chance that there’s some explanation other than that, we want to learn that, too.”

Luis Elizondo, former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, said he didn’t believe that the sightings were of a foreign power’s technology in part because it would have been almost impossible to stay discreet. Elizondo has accused the Defense Department of trying to discredit him and says there’s much more information that the US has kept classified.

“We live in an incredible universe,” Elizondo said. “There’s all sorts of hypotheses that suggest that the three dimensional universe which we live in isn’t quite so easy to clarify.”

But Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, is skeptical.

The science historian, a longtime analyst of UFO theories and other phenomena, said he’s seen too many blurry images of supposed alien encounters to be convinced by still more blurry footage of blobs from airplanes. This is a time, he notes, when several billion people worldwide have smartphones that take fresh images and satellites precisely render detail on the ground.

“Show me the body, show me the spacecraft, or show me the really high quality videos and photographs,” he said in an interview. “And I’ll believe.”

Mick West, a prominent researcher of unexplained phenomena and debunker of conspiracy theories, said it was right for the government to investigate and report on the potential national security implications of sightings captured in now-declassified videos.

“Any time there is some sort of unidentified object coming through military airspace, that’s a real issue that needs to be looked into,” he told AP.

“But the videos, despite the fact that they’re showing unidentified objects, they’re not appearance astounding unidentified objects.”

Pilots and sky-watchers have long reported sporadic sightings of UFOs in US airspace, seemingly at unusual speeds or trajectories. Much of the time, those mysteries evaporate under examination.

In 1960, the CIA said 6,500 objects had been reported to the US Air Force over the earlier 13 years. The Air Force concluded there was no evidence those sightings were “antagonistic or hostile” or related to “interplanetary space ships,” the CIA said.

Reports of UFOs have, of course, persisted from that point forward. Some people who study the topic contend investigations have been limited by the stigma of being linked to conspiracy theories or talk of little green men storming Earth. They note that the government has a history of stonewalling and lying about the unexplained.

It took 50 years for the government to offer what it hoped was a full debunking of claims that alien bodies were recovered at a crash site in New Mexico in 1947. In 1997, the Air Force said the Roswell “bodies? were fakers used in parachute tests, recent ancestors of the car-crash fakers of today.

Retired Air Force Col. Richard Weaver, who wrote one of the official reports on the Roswell bits of gossip, tried to assure the public that the government isn’t competent enough to cover up a certified alien sighting. “We have a hard time leaving well enough alone,” he said, “let alone putting together a decent conspiracy.”

A recent turning point came in December 2017, when The New York Times revealed a five-year Pentagon program to investigate UFOs. The Pentagon subsequently released videos, leaked earlier, of military pilots encountering shadowy objects they couldn’t identify.

One was the video clasp of the aviators tracking the blob above the sea off the US coast in 2015, dubbed Gofast. In another from that year, labeled Gimbal, an unexplained object is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the breeze. “There’s an entire fleet of them,” one naval aviator tells another, though only one indistinct object is appeared. “It’s rotating.”

In 2019, the Navy announced it would create a formal process for its pilots to report unidentified ethereal phenomena, or UAPs. Last August, the Defense Department created a task force dedicated to the matter. The mission was to “detect, examine and catalog UAPs” that could endanger the US

In a period of increasingly sophisticated drone aircraft, now seen as a risk to sensitive domestic military sites, for example, nuclear missile bases, the focus has been more on foreign rivals than on any supposed visitors from another planet. Yet the formation of the task force stood as a rare acknowledgment from the government that UFOs posed a potential national security concern.

More recently, a story on CBS’ “an hour” featured the declassified videos and raised questions about what intelligence the US government has.

Rubio, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and its former chairman, said it is important for investigators to follow up on the reports of its pilots and disclose the discoveries. “I’m going off what our military men and their radars and their eyesight is telling them,” Rubio said. “There are multiple highly trained, highly competent people.”

Yet things in the sky are very often not what they seem. Shermer rattles off instances of how phenomena that appear otherworldly may be tediously of this Earth.

“Ninety to 95% of all UFO sightings,” he said, “can be explained as weather balloons, flares, sky lanterns, planes flying in formation, secret military aircraft, birds reflecting the sun, planes reflecting the sun, blimps, helicopters, the planets Venus or Mars, meteors or meteorite space garbage, satellites, swamp gas … ball lightning, ice crystals reflecting light off clouds, lights on the ground or lights reflected on a cockpit window, temperature inversions, punch clouds.”

“For any of these things to be real, we need something more than these grainy videos and blurry photographs,” he said.

“We need really some hard evidence, extraordinary evidence, because this would be one of the most extraordinary claims ever on the off chance that it was true.”

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China’s Shenzhou-12 with three astronauts blasts into space

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China’s Shenzhou-12 with three astronauts blasts into space. China has effectively launched the Shenzhou-12 – its first manned mission in five years – further accelerating its space program to rival the United States.

Shenzhou-12, signifying “Divine Vessel”, lifted off at about 01:22 GMT on Thursday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, according to the live video broadcast on state television, CCTV.

The launch was carried with a Long March-2F carrier rocket.

The spacecraft carried three male astronauts – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo.

In the CCTV live video, two of the three astronauts made an “Alright” hand gesture as Shenzhou crossed the Earth’s atmosphere and following the critical separation of the four boosters.

“The flight was perfectly smooth,” Chen Shanguang, deputy director of China’s manned space program, was quoted by news reports as saying.

“This is the first step. There are many challenges ahead.”

After entering orbit, the spaceship will conduct a fast automated “rendezvous and mooring with the in-orbit space station core module Tianhe”, according to CCTV.

The astronauts will be stationed in the core module and remain in orbit for three months.

Significant space power by 2030

State-owned Global Times publication quoted Gao Xu, deputy director designer of the Shenzhou-12, as saying that the development of the manned spacecraft followed “the highest standards in the country’s space industry.”

The Shenzhou-12 is made up of three sections – an orbiter module, a return module and a propelling module, and has 14 sub-systems onboard.

In the Global Times interview, Gao referred to the spacecraft as a “vessel of life”, as it won’t only ship the three astronauts to the orbiting Tianhe core module, but is also expected to carry them home to Earth in approximately 90 days.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Jonti Horner, a space expert from Australia’s University of Southern Queensland, said that the advances being made by China’s program is “incredible”.

“I think China has, in the last 12 months, really put itself front and center in space exploration,” he said, noting how Beijing is fruitful in its first attempt to send a manned aircraft to space, while noting that the country has also sent its first mission in Mars in recent weeks.

China began construction of the space station this year with the launch of Tianhe – the first and largest of the station’s three modules – in late April.

Nie, who comes from central Hubei province and is a former air force pilot, is the lead of the mission.

The Shenzhou-12 is Nie’s third space outing, after the Shenzhou-6 mission in 2005 and the Shenzhou-10 mission in 2013, according to the Xinhua news agency.

It is Liu’s second mission to space, his first being the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, which featured a landmark spacewalk. It is Tang’s first excursion into space.

China’s last crewed flight mission was in 2016 when two men – Chen Dong and Jing Haipeng – were sent by means of the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft to Tiangong-2, a prototype of the space station where they later stayed for about a month.

Beijing’s point is for the country to become a significant spacefaring power by 2030, turning space into the newest frontier of its rivalry with the United States.

In May, China became the second country to put a rover on Mars, two years after landing the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

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Are we alone? Citizen scientists discover two planets orbiting Sun-like star

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One of the biggest questions in astronomy has been: Are we alone? While planet hunters continue to search for habitable zones in the system, another discovery is creating a buzz in the scientific community. Citizen scientists, part of the Planet Hunters TESS project, have discovered two exoplanets orbiting a Sun-like star.

The new discovery published in Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society lists over twelve citizen scientists, who participated in the project led by Nasa.

The star dubbed as HD 152843 is about 352 light-years away from Earth and is about a similar mass as the Sun, but about 1.5 times bigger and brighter. Orbiting this massive star are two exotic worlds and, whenever compared to our Sun, they exist in the orbit of Mercury.

Planet b is 3.4 times bigger than Earth but like the size of Neptune and orbits the star in 12 days. In the mean time, Planet c is at a farther distance and 5.8 times bigger than Earth, orbiting HD 152843 in about 19-35 days.

In the interim, to confirm the presence of two planets and the accuracy of the data, scientists used the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher for the Northern hemisphere (HARPS-N) telescope in Spain and the Extreme Precision Spectrometer at Lowell Observatory.

“We’re taking baby steps towards the direction of discovering an Earth-like planet and studying its atmosphere and continue to push the boundaries of what we can see,” lead author of the paper, Nora Eisner, a doctoral student in astrophysics at the University of Oxford said. She added that studying them together is interesting to constrain theories of how planets both form and advance over time.

Also Read: Greenhouse emissions contracting stratosphere: Ozone layer at risk as study predicts further decline

Scientists are continuing observations to confirm the mass of these two planets and are hopeful that once the James Webb Telescope, liable to be launched later this year, begins operation they will actually want to peer deep and take a gander at what sorts of particles make up the atmosphere in this system.

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Apple announces iOS 15 with new Messages, Photos, and Notifications features

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Apple announces iOS 15 with new Messages, Photos, and Notifications features. Apple has begun its WorldWide Developers Conference for this year with a focus on the new version of its operating system for iPhones. iOS 15 now boasts of a number of new features across its apps and services.

As presented by Apple VP Craig Federighi, the iOS 15 carries upgrades to FaceTime, Focus, Messages, Photos and more. Here is the way these updates promise to elevate the user experience for iPhones.

FaceTime

Apple has set out to settle on FaceTime decisions seem more natural to its users. For this, the company announced the Spatial Audio feature for FaceTime. The feature will ensure that the sound from FaceTime calls is spread out to emulate where the speaker is with respect to the mic, giving a surround sound experience to the listener.

In addition, FaceTime now comes with Voice Isolation. The feature will assist give with outing voice from a person in a video call. It will do as such by reducing noise from the background and isolating the speaker’s voice, much like what is observed on voice calls.

In case users might want to include all voices and noise, they can switch to Wide Spectrum and every sound picked by the mic will be conveyed to the listener for what it’s worth.

For the app, there is also another Grid View that will show every attendee in a large size tile format to monitor who is saying what. Apple has also introduced Portrait Mode on FaceTime to make attendees stand out from their background in a video call.

FaceTime will now also allow users to share joins, much like connections for Zoom meetings. Apple says that these connections will work on any platform.

A big update for FaceTime is the new SharePlay that will allow shared experiences on a FaceTime call. Users can now listen to music, watch movies and videos, or share their screen on FaceTime with their friends. The apps will be opened within FaceTime, while the FaceTime controls will appear in a tab-like format on the top. Apple says that it is working with Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, nBA and other content providers for increasing support to this feature.

Messages

Messages will now show multiple photos shared in a chat in another collage design. In addition, Apple has introduced Shared Stacks to it, which will bring over content shared with the user from Messages, to their News app and Photos app for show.

This implies Shared Stacks will show shared articles in the News section, Safari, Apple News and other platforms.

Focus

Apple has enhanced the operations of Focus to give a more personalized experience to the user according to their schedule. For instance, another Notification Summary will use on device intelligence depending on user patterns to summarize notifications that can be delivered collectively at a set time.

This is coupled with new statuses for Focus, which means you can decide to see notifications from certain apps at a particular time of the day, making your phone functions more explicit to routines like workouts, office or your personal time. These changes will take effect across the home screen, notification preferences, across devices.

In addition, Do Not Disturb will now let others know your status through the Messages app. It will even let them bypass the DND and ping you in case of an important interaction.

Photos

iOS 15 introduces Live Text to Photos, that will now let users pick out text seen in images, which can further be copied and used as text in other apps. Photos will now also appear in Spotlight search, in any event, letting users search for text within these images.

Photos Memories has also been upgraded to create on-tap videos using music from Apple Music. While vieweing, users can tap and hold these recollections for pausing photos, while the music continues to play. Music can also be selected personally by the users.

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