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  • What's New In Robotics This Week - 15.06.2018

     -Manufacturing & Cobot Roundup 
    -ARM announces funding awardees
    -RIA's Top 6 Robotics Trends
    -Meet HuggieBot
    -Comedy Improv Bot 
    -And much more!  


    Manufacturing & cobot roundup 

    Pittsburgh-based Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) announced the awardees of its first round of funding for advanced manufacturing research projects.  ARM has awarded US$2.8 million to four project teams, while the teams will contribute approximately US$4 million in cost-share. (H/T Advanced Manufacturing

    Two of the projects are focused on human-robot collaboration.

    'Smart Companion Robot for Automotive Assembly' brings experts from Clemson University Siemens, BMW, and Yaskawa together to build a new intelligent mobile manipulator robotic system (dubbed 'Smart Companion Robot'), "to assist and augment human associates in automotive final assembly, where intensive manual manipulation remains the mainstay."  Here's video from last year of a prototype... 


    The second project --'iWired'-- will see experts from United Technologies Research Center, University of Connecticut and ABB combine efforts to "use perception-enabled collaborative robotics that leverage dexterous manipulation" to automate assembly in wire harness production for the aerospace sector. 


    ABB launched what it describes as the "world’s first commercial modular enabled process automation solution", which combines "an orchestration layer and a module layer integrated with the technology of module type packages." 

    Two UR10 cobots from Universal Robots have been implemented at automaker Group PSA’s Sochaux plant in France.  The cobots are used in screw-driving applications on body-in-white assembly lines to increase performance and reduce production costs.... 



    The Robotic Industries Association published its "Top 6 Future Trends In Robotic Automation" this week, with collaborative robots expected to "play a key role" in the near term: 

    6. Collaborative Robots Will Continue to Grow in Popularity

    Collaborative robots can work safely alongside humans and are often far cheaper than their industrial counterparts. As collaborative robots become more capable in tough industrial settings, they will see greater adoption by manufacturers with strict ROI requirements.

    It seems as though just a few years ago, there was a real question mark over the viability of cobot solutions.  A handful of analysts would talk about cobots as a potentially viable future technology to watch.   

    But over the past few years, cobots been "stealing the show" on a regular basis at trade events and conferences.  In the same time period, real-world case study after real-world case study have strengthened the argument in support of human-robot collaboration in manufacturing environments. 


    Fast forward to mid-2018. Universal Robots' CTO and Cofounder Esben H. Østergaard has just received the Engelberger Award. Cobot sales are continuing to rise --from 5% share of the $14 billion industrial-robot market in 2017 to 27% of a $33 billion market by 2025, according to estimates from Minneapolis-based venture-capital firm Loup Ventures.

    Perhaps the most notable shift of all is that the general consensus among analysts, trade organizations and end-users has changed:  Not only are cobots a proven technology that's here to stay, but human-robot collaboration is a critical component of future success in the manufacturing sector.  


    BA Systèmes' 'Platform for Robot Controller Construction' (PRC2) project has been developing Europe's "first mobile cobot"... 



    Japanese robot makers Fanuc and Yaskawa Electric are beating their main rivals --ABB and KUKA-- in profit margin, according to a report in
     Nikkei Asian Review:   

    In the current fiscal year, Fanuc's net profit-to-sales ratio is projected at 24% and Yaskawa's at 10%, according to data from QUICK-FactSet. ABB's margin is forecast at 7% and Kuka's at 4%. 

    In-house production of core component motors helps the Japanese players secure wider margins, said Yoshinao Ibara of Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities. Fanuc's thoroughly automated production processes also contribute to high profitability.

    Boise State University announced a partnership with Taiwanese robotics firm NEXCOM to create the NexCOBOT-Idaho AI Robot Innovation Space in the university’s school of engineering. 

    OmniPainter is a new, autonomous painting robot for manufacturing finishing lines that uses 3D vision and AI to self-program itself and paint any objects suspended on an overhead conveyor... 





    A team of Hong Kong-based engineers have developed the world’s first robotics system capable of performing brain surgery inside an MRI scanner, according to a report in South China Morning Post

    The new system could pave the way for more accurate and efficient treatment of illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.  

    Hong Kong

    Caption: PhD candidate Guo Ziyan and consultant neurosurgeon Dr Danny Chan Tat-ming show off their creation. Photo: Felix Wong

    The European Parliament approved European Union-wide rules for drone safety, a move that's expected to bring clarity to both drone makers and end users. 

    Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have demonstrated distributed real time control of multiple drones in an adversarial environment... 


    If you've had a tough week or your team hasn't qualified for World Cup 2018, I have two bots just for you.  

    Created by the Haptic Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, 'HuggieBot' is a modified PR2 bot that provides humans with life- and health-enhancing hugs.  (NBC has more.) 



    Next up is Blueberry, a bot from the University of Alberta, Canada that is studying the art of comedy improv... 




    I'll be back next week with more robotics news for automatica.  Until then...

    Five vids for Friday  

    1.  Festo revealed the gorgeous BionicFinWave, a robot inspired by the undulating fin movements of cuttlefish. 




    2.  The Robotics Innovation Center is part of the Bremen location of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, where exerts develop "mobile, next generation robotic systems which are able to safely cooperate with humans and to solve complex tasks independently." 




    3.  With bee populations diving in North America, Dropcopter Drones are being used to pollinate an apple orchard in New York.





    4.   Robotics expert Sethu Vijayakumar's TEDx explores the types of robotic technology we would need to use on unmanned Mars missions to prepare for human deployment to the planet. 




    5.  A recent Google Talk --featuring Jens Ludwig, Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab on the controversial topic of applying machine learning to crime reduction initiatives in Chicago and other public policy areas-- went online. 




    Start production faster with Lean Robotics 

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  • Build an In-House Robotics Team Part I – Identify Skills Required

    When starting an initial robotic cell implementation in a manufacturing environment, the project scope and expertise required can be intimidating. Breaking the scope and skills down into manageable pieces is an excellent strategy to prevent overwhelm.

    To reduce the complexity of robotic cell deployment, the book Lean Robotics – A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory breaks the process into three phases: design, integrate, and operate. The Lean Robotics book also makes the point that successful robotic cell deployment requires project management skills and knowledge of your manufacturing process in addition to robotics skills. Even without robotics expertise, your workforce does have valuable, essential knowledge that’s required for a robotics project. To prepare your team, you need to bridge the gap between the skills they have and the skills they need. This article is the first of a 2-part series about building an in-house robotics team.



    Breaking the scope and skills down into manageable pieces is an excellent strategy to prevent overwhelm for employees.


    Identifying robotics skills required

    To assess the skills you have in house, start by looking at the different skills required for each deployment phase. Robotiq provides a handy Team Skills spreadsheet you can use to help identify who has each skill, and how critical it is to the success of your project. Project management skills are required in all phases, but some skills are specific to design, integration, or operation. Some examples from the spreadsheet are provided below:


    Design phase skills needed

    The design phase is where a minimum viable robotic cell (MVRC) is created with enough features to provide value to the next step in the production process. In this phase the skills required include manual and robotic task mapping, manual-to-robotic gap analysis, robotic cell conceptualization and design, and safety. The design process isn’t about replacing a human with a robot; it’s about redesigning the cell using robotics to create an MVRC. More detail about this process and applying lean methodology to the robotic cell deployment process is provided in the Lean Robotics book.


    Integration phase skills needed

    Integration is where more robotics and programming expertise is needed. The skills required include the ability to install mechanical and electrical robotic cell components, programming instructions into the robot, logic programming, and setting up interfaces between machines.


    Operation phase skills needed

    Just like any machine, robotic components require troubleshooting, maintenance and optimization skills to ensure that the robotic components in the cell are working at maximum efficiency.


    Options for closing the robotics skills gap

    There are two options to source the skills required: use an external integrator, or train internal personnel.  Using external integrators allows you to benefit from their expertise from other deployments, but they will have to learn your manufacturing process. Training internal personnel makes sure that team members know your operations well and understand what you’re trying to do. The robotics skills they gain then become the foundation for future projects.

    Part II of this article series covers assigning roles and responsibilities to the people on your robotics team.


    Give your team the right skills!

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  • 3 Ways The Robotics Industry Can Fill The Talent Gap

    The decision to automate elements of manufacturing is no longer a question. It's not a matter of "if," it's a matter of "when" at this point. As more elements of modern manufacturing are given to robotics, more and more people are getting older and retiring.

    An aging workforce, combined with a rising robotics industry, combines to create a skill gap that is growing exponentially as time goes on. Thankfully, robots are part of the solution, not the problem. Join us as we look at three ways this growing industry can fill the skills gap.


    Schnitt_v3.00_02_22_12.Standbild017 (2)

    With a rising robotics industry it is vital to give your employees the needed skills to do their jobs.


    3 ways robotics can close the talent gap

    The numbers are there. There are millions of jobs available, but not enough people to fill them. The longer we wait to address this issue, the bigger the problem gets. Here are three ways we can leverage robotics to fix this ongoing issue.


    1. Better pay, better jobs

    People like to talk about robots taking jobs, but we don't hear enough about how they're creating them. For every job a robot can perform, it also creates several new jobs. It's also important to remember that the jobs a robot is "taking" are low-pay and low-quality.

    Today's workforce doesn't want to work on an assembly line, nor should they. Basic manufacturing tasks are not ergonomically friendly, and can lead to injuries in the long-term.

    By allowing robots to take over these menial tasks, we can empower human workers to tackle bigger and more important tasks that are not only more valuable, but of higher quality, and therefore, offer better pay.

    These kinds of prospects will attract the kind of talent manufacturers are looking for, thus presenting one way to fill the gap.


    2. Access to training

    Manufacturers need to empower the people they have on staff right now. Today's collaborative robots are not incredibly difficult to program or work with. The training to understand them is relatively simple in the grand scheme of things.

    If we can offer training to current workers that allows them to take on robotic tasks, this can also fill the gap by leveraging the latent talent we currently have in our workforce.


    3. Changes in education

    Finally, we need to go back to the roots of the problem. The robotic industry needs trained people to maintain robots, design them, build them, and improve upon them. This kind of training can be taught in our schools and colleges.

    If we offer more access to robotics education, then people can become more excited about robots earlier in their lives. There isn't enough out there to get people on board, so we need to change that. Robots are indeed the future, but until we start addressing them at a younger age, there won't be enough trained individuals.

    How do you work to fill the skills gap in your manufacturing plant? Let us know what strategies you employ in the comments!


    Give your team the right skills!

    Read more »

NASA Breaking News

Space News

Universe Today

  • Ceres Has Even More Organic Molecules on it Than Previously Thought

    In March of 2015, NASA’s Dawn mission became the first spacecraft to visit the protoplanet Ceres, the largest body in the Main Asteroid Belt. It was also the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, having arrived a few months before the New Horizons mission made its historic flyby of Pluto. Since that time, Dawn has revealed much about Ceres, which in turn is helping scientists to understand the early history of the Solar System.

    Last year, scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission made a startling discovery when they detected complex chains of carbon molecules – organic material essential for life – in patches on the surface of Ceres. And now, thanks to a new study conducted by a team of researchers from Brown University (with the support of NASA), it appears that these patches contain more organic material than previously thought.

    The new findings were recently published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters under the title “New Constraints on the Abundance and Composition of Organic Matter on Ceres“. The study was led by Hannah Kaplan, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University, with the assistance of Ralph E. Milliken and Conel M. O’D. Alexander – an assistant professor at Brown University and a researcher from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, respectively.

    A new analysis of Dawn mission data suggests those organics could be more plentiful than originally thought. Credit: NASA/Rendering by Hannah Kaplan

    The organic materials in question are known as “aliphatics”, a type of compound where carbon atoms form open chains that are commonly bound with oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and chlorine. To be fair, the presence of organic material on Ceres does not mean that the body supports life since such molecules can arise from non-biological processes.

    Aliphatics have also been detected on other planets in the form of methane (on Mars and especially on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan). Nevertheless, such molecules remains an essential building block for life and their presence at Ceres raises the question of how they got there. As such, scientists are interested in how it and other life-essential elements (like water) has been distributed throughout the Solar System.

    Since Ceres is abundant in both organic molecules and water, it raises some intriguing possibilities about the protoplanet. The results of this study and the methods they used could also provide a template for interpreting data for future missions. As Dr. Kaplan – who led the research while completing her PhD at Brown – explained in a recent Brown University press release:

    “What this paper shows is that you can get really different results depending upon the type of organic material you  use to compare with and interpret the Ceres data. That’s important not only for Ceres, but also for missions that will soon explore asteroids that may also contain organic material.”

    Enhanced color-composite image, made with data from the framing camera aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows the area around Ernutet crater. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

    The original discovery of organics on Ceres took place in 2017 when an international team of scientists analyzed data from the Dawn mission’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIRMS). The data provided by this instrument indicated the presence of these hydrocarbons in a 1000 km² region around of the Ernutet crater, which is located in the northern hemisphere of Ceres and measures about 52 km (32 mi) in diameter.

    To get an idea of how abundant the organic compounds were, the original research team compared the VIRMS data to spectra obtained in a laboratory from Earth rocks with traces of organic material. From this, they concluded that between 6 and 10% of the spectral signature detected on Ceres could be explained by organic matter.

    They also hypothesized that the molecules were endogenous in origin, meaning that they originated from inside the protoplanet. This was consistent with previous surveys that showed signs of hydorthermal activity on Ceres, as well others that have detected ammonia-bearing hydrated minerals, water ice, carbonates, and salts – all of which suggested that Ceres had an interior environment that can support prebiotic chemistry.

    But for the sake of their study, Kaplan and her colleagues re-examined the data using a different standard. Instead of relying on Earth rocks for comparison, they decided to examine an extraterrestrial source. In the past, some meteorites – such as carbonaceous chondrites – have been shown to contain organic material that is slightly different than what we are familiar with here on Earth.

    Artist’s rendition of the Dawn mission on approach to the protoplanet Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL

    After re-examining the spectral data using this standard, Kaplan and her team determined that the organics found on Ceres were distinct from their terrestrial counterparts. As Kaplan explained:

    “What we find is that if we model the Ceres data using extraterrestrial organics, which may be a more appropriate analog than those found on Earth, then we need a lot more organic matter on Ceres to explain the strength of the spectral absorption that we see there. We estimate that as much as 40 to 50 percent of the spectral signal we see on Ceres is explained by organics. That’s a huge difference compared to the six to 10 percent previously reported based on terrestrial organic compounds.”

    If the concentrations of organic material are indeed that high, then it raises new questions about where it came from. Whereas the original discovery team claimed it was endogenous in origin, this new study suggests that it was likely delivered by an organic-rich comet or asteroid. On the one hand, the high concentrations on the surface of Ceres are more consistent with a comet impact.

    This is due to the fact that comets are known to have significantly higher internal abundances of organics compared with primitive asteroids, similar to the 40% to 50% figure this study suggests for these locations on Ceres. However, much of those organics would have been destroyed due to the heat of the impact, which leaves the question of how they got there something of a mystery.

    Dawn spacecraft data show a region around the Ernutet crater where organic concentrations have been discovered (labeled “a” through “f”). The color coding shows the strength of the organics absorption band, with warmer colors indicating the highest concentrations. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ASI/INAF/MPS/DLR/IDA

    If they did arise endogenously, then there is the question of how such high concentrations emerged in the northern hemisphere. As Ralph Milliken explained:

    “If the organics are made on Ceres, then you likely still need a mechanism to concentrate it in these specific locations or at least to preserve it in these spots. It’s not clear what that mechanism might be. Ceres is clearly a fascinating object, and understanding the story and origin of organics in these spots and elsewhere on Ceres will likely require future missions that can analyze or return samples.”

    Given that the Main Asteroid Belt is composed of material left over from the formation of the Solar System, determining where these organics came from is expected to shed light on how organic molecules were distributed throughout the Solar System early in its history. In the meantime, the researchers hope that this study will inform upcoming sample missions to near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), which are also thought to host water-bearing minerals and organic compounds.

    These include the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2, which is expected to arrive at the asteroid Ryugu in several weeks’ time, and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission – which is due to reach the asteroid Bennu in August. Dr. Kaplan is currently a science team member with the OSIRIS-REx mission and hopes that the Dawn study she led will help the OSIRIS-REx‘s mission characterize Bennu’s environment.

    “I think the work that went into this study, which included new laboratory measurements of important components of primitive meteorites, can provide a framework of how to better interpret data of asteroids and make links between spacecraft observations and samples in our meteorite collection,” she said. “As a new member to the OSIRIS-REx team, I’m particularly interested in how this might apply to our mission.”

    The New Horizons mission is also expected to rendezvous with the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69 on January 1st, 2019. Between these and other studies of “ancient objects” in our Solar System – not to mention interstellar asteroids that are being detected for the first time – the history of the Solar System (and the emergence of life itself) is slowly becoming more clear.

    Further Reading: Brown University, Geophysical Research Letters

    The post Ceres Has Even More Organic Molecules on it Than Previously Thought appeared first on Universe Today.

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  • A Meteoroid Smashed Into the Side of a Crater on Mars and Then Started a Landslide

    In 2006, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) established orbit around the Red Planet. Using an advanced suite of scientific instruments – which include cameras, spectrometers, and radar – this spacecraft has been analyzing landforms, geology, minerals and ice on Mars for years and assisting with other missions. While the mission was only meant to last two years, the orbiter has remained in operation for the past twelve.

    In that time, the MRO has acted as a relay for other missions to send information back to Earth and provided a wealth of information of its own on the Red Planet. Most recently, it captured an image of an impact crater that caused a landslide, which left a long, dark streak along the crater wall. Such streaks are created when dry dust collapses down the edge of a Martian hill, leaving behind dark swaths.

    Close up of the crater captured by the MRO’s HiRISE instrument. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

    In this respect, these avalanches are not unlike Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), where seasonal dark streaks appear along slopes during warmer days on Mars. These are believed to be caused by either salt water flows or dry dust grains falling naturally. In this case, however, the dry dust on the slope was destabilized by the meteor’s impact, which exposed darker material beneath.

    The impact that created the crater is believed to have happened about ten years ago. And while the crater itself (shown above) is only 5 meters (16.4 feet) across, the streak it resulted in is 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) long! The image also captured the faded scar of an old avalanche, which is visible to the side of the new dark streak.

    The image was captured by the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), which is operated by researchers at the Planetary Image Research Laboratory (PIRL), part of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

    Wider-angle view of the impact crater captured by the MRO’s HiRISE instrument and the resulting dark streak. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

    This is just the latest in a long-line of images and data packages sent back by the MRO. By providing daily reports on Mars’ weather and surface conditions, and studying potential landing sites, the MRO also paves the way for future spacecraft and surface missions. In the future, the orbiter will serve as a highly capable relay satellite for missions like NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which will continue in the hunt for signs of past life on Mars.

    At present, the MRO has enough propellant to keep functioning into the 2030s, and given its intrinsic value to the study of Mars, it is likely to remain in operation right up until it exhausts its fuel. Perhaps it will even be working when astronauts arrived on the Red Planet?

    The post A Meteoroid Smashed Into the Side of a Crater on Mars and Then Started a Landslide appeared first on Universe Today.

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  • The Black Hole Ultimate Solar System: a Supermassive Black Hole, 9 Stars and 550 Planets

    Shortly after Einstein published his Theory of General Relativity in 1915, physicists began to speculate about the existence of black holes. These regions of space-time from which nothing (not even light) can escape are what naturally occur at the end of most massive stars’ life cycle. While black holes are generally thought to be voracious eaters, some physicists have wondered if they could also support planetary systems of their own.

    Looking to address this question, Dr. Sean Raymond – an American physicist currently at the University of Bourdeaux – created a hypothetical planetary system where a black hole lies at the center. Based on a series of gravitational calculations, he determined that a black hole would be capable of keeping nine individual Suns in a stable orbit around it, which would be able to support 550 planets within a habitable zone.

    He named this hypothetical system “The Black Hole Ultimate Solar System“, which consists of a non-spinning black hole that is 1 million times as massive as the Sun. That is roughly one-quarter the mass of Sagittarius A*, the super-massive black hole (SMBH) that resides at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy (which contains 4.31 million Solar Masses).

    Detection of an unusually bright X-Ray flare from Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al.

    As Raymond indicates, one of the immediate advantages of having this black hole at the center of a system is that it can support a large number of Suns. For the sake of his system, Raymond chose 9, thought he indicates that many more could be sustained thanks to the sheer gravitational influence of the central black hole. As he wrote on his website:

    “Given how massive the black hole is, one ring could hold up to 75 Suns! But that would move the habitable zone outward pretty far and I don’t want the system to get too spread out. So I’ll use 9 Suns in the ring, which moves everything out by a factor of 3. Let’s put the ring at 0.5 AU, well outside the innermost stable circular orbit (at about 0.02 AU) but well inside the habitable zone (from about 2.7 to 5.4 AU).”

    Another major advantage of having a black hole at the center of a system is that it shrinks what is known as the “Hill radius” (aka. Hill sphere, or Roche sphere). This is essentially the region around a planet where its gravity is dominant over that of the star it orbits, and can therefore attract satellites. According to Raymond, a planet’s Hill radius would be 100 times smaller around a million-sun black hole than around the Sun.

    This means that a given region of space could stably fit 100 times more planets if they orbited a black hole instead of the Sun. As he explained:

    “Planets can be super close to each other because the black hole’s gravity is so strong! If planets are little toy Hot wheels cars, most planetary systems are laid out like normal highways (side note: I love Hot wheels).  Each car stays in its own lane, but the cars are much much smaller than the distance between them.  Around a black hole, planetary systems can be shrunk way down to Hot wheels-sized tracks.  The Hot wheels cars — our planets — don’t change at all, but they can remain stable while being much closer together. They don’t touch (that would not be stable), they are just closer together.”

    This is what allows for many planets to be placed with the system’s habitable zone. Based on the Earth’s Hill radius, Raymond estimates that about six Earth-mass planets could fit into stable orbits within the same zone around our Sun. This is based on the fact that Earth-mass planets could be spaced roughly 0.1 AU from each other and maintain a stable orbit.

    Given that the Sun’s habitable zone corresponds roughly to the distances between Venus and Mars – which are 0.3 and 0.5 AU away, respectively – this means there is 0.8 AUs of room to work with. However, around a black hole with 1 million Solar Masses, the closest neighboring planet could be just 1/1000th (0.001) of an AU away and still have a stable orbit.

    Doing the math, this means that roughly 550 Earths could fit in the same region orbiting the black hole and its nine Suns. There is one minor drawback to this whole scenario, which is that the black hole would have to remain at its current mass. If it were to become any larger, it would cause the Hill radii of its 550 planets to shrink down further and further.

    Once the Hill radius got down to the point where it was the same size as any of the Earth-mass planets, the black hole would begin to tear them apart. But at 1 million Solar masses, the black hole is capable of supporting a massive system of planets comfortably. “With our million-Sun black hole the Earth’s Hill radius (on its current orbit) would already be down to the limit, just a bit more than twice Earth’s actual radius,” he says.

    Illustration of tightly-packed orbits of Earth-mass planets in orbit around the Sun (in black) vs. around a supermassive black hole (green). Credit: Sean Raymond

    Lastly, Raymond considers the implications that living in such a system would have. For one, a year on any planet within the system’s habitable zone would be much shorter, owing to the fact their orbital periods would be much faster. Basically, a year would last roughly 1.6 days for planets at the inner edge of the habitable zone and 4.6 days for planets at the outer edge of the habitable zone.

    In addition, on the surface of any planet in the system, the sky would be a lot more crowded! With so many planets in close orbit together, they would pass very close to one another. That essentially means that from the surface of any individual Earth, people would be able to see nearby Earths as clear as we see the Moon on some days. As Raymond illustrated:

    “At closest approach (conjunction) the distance between planets is about twice the Earth-Moon distance. These planets are all Earth-sized, about 4 times larger than the Moon. This means that at conjunction each planet’s closest neighbor appears about twice the size of the full Moon in the sky. And there are two nearest neighbors, the inner and outer one. Plus, the next-nearest neighbors are twice as far away so they are still as big as the full Moon during conjunction. And four more planets that would be at least half the full Moon in size during conjunction.”

    He also indicates that conjunctions would occur almost once per orbit, which would mean that every few days, there would be no shortage of giant objects passing across the sky. And of course, there would be the Sun’s themselves. Recall that scene in Star Wars where a young Luke Skywalker is watching two suns set in the desert? Well, it would a little like that, except way more cool!

    According to Raymond’s calculations, the nine Suns would complete an orbit around the black hole every three hours. Every twenty minutes, one of these Suns would pass behind the black hole, taking just 49 seconds to do so. At this point, gravitational lensing would occur, where the black hole would focus the Sun’s light toward the planet and distort the apparent shape of the Sun.

    To illustrate what this would look like, he provides an animation (shown above) created by – a planet modeller who develops space graphics for Kerbal and other programs – using Space Engine.

    While such a system may never occur in nature, it is interesting to know that such a system would be physically possible. And who knows? Perhaps a sufficiently advanced species, with the ability to tow stars and planets from one system and place them in orbit around a black hole, could fashion this Ultimate Solar System. Something for SETI researchers to be on the lookout for, perhaps?

    This hypothetical exercise was the second installment in two-part series by Raymond, titled “Black holes and planets”. In the first installment, “The Black Hole Solar System“, Raymond considered what it would be like if our system orbited around a black hole-Sun binary. As he indicated, the consequences for Earth and the other Solar planets would be interesting, to say the least!

    Raymond also recently expanded on the Ultimate Solar System by proposing The Million Earth Solar System. Check them all out at his website,

    Further Reading: PlanetPlanet

    The post The Black Hole Ultimate Solar System: a Supermassive Black Hole, 9 Stars and 550 Planets appeared first on Universe Today.

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European Space Agency Articles

  • Willkommen an Bord

    Bald werden die Luken geöffnet und Alexander Gerst, Serena Auñón Chancellor und Sergei Prokopjew können die ISS betreten. Das Öffnen der Luke ist für 17:05 Uhr MESZ vorgesehen. Der Stream ist ab 16:30 Uhr MESZ wieder live. Read more »
  • Beginn der 2. ISS-Mission von Alexander Gerst

    ESA-Astronaut Alexander Gerst ist heute gemeinsam mit der NASA-Astronautin Serena Auñón-Chancellor und dem Roskosmos-Kommandanten Sergej Prokopjew auf der Internationalen Raumstation (ISS) angekommen. Gerst beginnt damit seine zweite, Horizons genannte Mission.

    Read more »
  • Docking Aufzeichnung

    Ab 14:15 Uhr MESZ, 8. Juni, ist ESA TV mit einem Livestream zum Docking von Sojus MS-09 an der ISS zurück. Das Docking ist für 15:07 Uhr MESZ geplant (13:07 GMT). Read more »

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