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Hubble telescope remains inoperative due to mystery problem

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The famous space telescope has dealt with extended technical difficulties after apparent problems related to its memory systems.

The Hubble Space Telescope is out of action as it continues to orbit 547km above the Earth.

The bus-sized device was put into safe mode to preserve its future functionality and it remains in this state.

Hubble first experienced problems on 13 June, with initial indications suggesting a degrading computer memory module as the source of the problem.

The team attempted to switch to a back-up memory module, but this failed to fix the issue.

Reporting on 22 June, NASA wrote: “After performing tests on several of the computer’s memory modules, the results indicate that a different piece of computer hardware may have caused the problem, with the memory errors being only a symptom … The team is currently designing tests that will be run in the next few days to attempt to further isolate the problem and identify a potential solution.”

If the problem with the current computer can’t be fixed, Hubble has a backup payload computer onboard. Once activated, this hardware would need several days’ performance assessment before normal operations are completely restored. This would also be the first time the backup computer has been switched on since its installation in 2009.

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While the 30-year-old telescope has been inoperative for 10 days and counting, the advances and insights generated continue to stream in.

One new report identified spiral galaxy NGC 3254 as a Seyfert galaxy.

Seyfert galaxies have extraordinarily active cores that release as much energy as the rest of the galaxy put together. These galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centre and release vast amounts of radiation.

While NGC 3254 looked like a typical galaxy, Hubble helped to identify its Seyfert nature through composites of photos taken in the visible and infrared spectrum.

A second report that has emerged since Hubble’s breakdown is the existence of a galaxy seemingly lacking the appropriate amount of dark matter.

Debates continue as to the meaning of this finding, but Hubble’s contributions in narrowing down possibilities is inarguable.

The James Webb Space Telescope is due to supplement Hubble sometime in 2021 and is being pushed as the “largest, most powerful and complex space telescope ever built and launched into space”. Hubble, however, was the first telescope designed to be maintained in space by astronauts, with its last visit in 2009, and is estimated to continue its operations for at least another 10 years.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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