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SpaceX launches 60 more satellites, trying to tone them down

SpaceX launched 60 more mini internet satellites late Monday, this time testing a dark coating to appease stargazers.

It’s a “first step” compromise between SpaceX and astronomers fearful of having dark skies spoiled by hundreds and, eventually, thousands of bright satellites circling overhead.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted into a cold, clear night sky, recycled by SpaceX for its fourth flight. As the first-stage booster flew to a vertical landing on an ocean platform, the Starlink satellites continued hurtling toward orbit to join 120 similar spacecraft launched last year.

Flight controllers applauded, and the launch commentator described the booster’s fourth touchdown as “awesome.” An hour later, all 60 satellites were free of their upper stage and making their own way in orbit. “It’s a beautiful sight,” the commentator observed.

His Starlink fleet now numbering 180, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk plans to ultimately launch thousands of these compact flat-panel satellites to provide global internet service. Each spacecraft is just 575 pounds (260 kilograms).

After the first Starlink batch of 60 was launched in May and the second in November, astronomers complained how the bright satellite chain was hampering their observations. In response, SpaceX came up with a darkening treatment to lessen reflectivity. The coating is being tested on one of the newly launched satellites.

Jeff Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, said the Starlinks have been just an occasional problem — so far — but noted the risk to stargazing will grow as the constellation expands and other companies launch their own fleets. He heads the American Astronomical Society’s committee on light pollution, space debris, and radio interference, and is working with SpaceX on the issue. The matter is on the agenda, in fact, at the society’s conference in Hawaii this week. “Anything that darkens the satellites is a step in the right direction,” Hall said in an email Monday. He said it’s too soon to know whether the dark coating will work, “but it definitely is just a first step and not enough to mitigate the issues astronomy will experience with the Starlinks.”

The Starlinks are initially placed in a relatively low orbit of 180 miles (290 kilometers), easily visible as a long, strung-out cluster parading through the night sky. Over a few months, krypton-powered thrusters raise the satellites to a 340-mile (550-kilometer) orbit.

The higher the orbit, the less visible the satellites are from the ground, according to SpaceX. Even so, SpaceX said it’s supplying astronomy groups with the satellite coordinates in advance, so they can avoid the bright flyover times.

Already established in launching satellites for others and making space station deliveries for NASA, SpaceX is among several companies looking to provide high-speed, reliable internet service around the world, especially in places where it’s hard to get or too expensive. Others include Jeff Bezos’ Amazon and OneWeb.

SpaceX may start service later this year in the northern US and Canada, then expand to the world’s most populated areas after 24 launches.

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‘India-US ties have grown from strength to strength’: PM in call to Trump

The Prime Minister extended new year greetings to President Trump, his family and the people of the United States.

India-US ties have grown from “strength to strength”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told US President Donald Trump in a new year greeting call, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement early on Tuesday morning.

The Prime Minister extended new year greetings to President Trump, his family and the people of the United States.

“PM Modi stated India-US relations have grown from strength to strength. The PM highlighted significant progress made in deepening strategic partnership in previous year and expressed desire to continue to work with President Trump for enhancing cooperation in areas of mutual interest,” said the government.

The government said the US President also wished the people of India prosperity and progress in the new year.

“He (Trump) expressed satisfaction at the achievements in the relationship in the last few years and reiterated his readiness for further deepening bilateral cooperation,” said the government.

earlier this week, India’s outgoing Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the two countries are close to concluding a trade package that would provide enhanced market access to both countries.

At the second 2+2 meeting of their foreign and defence ministers in December, the two nations sealed a key defence agreement to further enhance the interoperability of their militaries.

In September last year, Modi and Trump demonstrated much bonhomie and camaraderie at the joint appearance during the Howdy Modi event in Houston. They hugged, clasped hands, clapped each other on the back and had only the most eloquent praise for each other, the ties between their nations and governments and spoke of the “historic” importance of their joint appearance.

On display was the growing closeness between the two leaders, the easy camaraderie they have come to develop and share over their meetings and interaction, bilaterally and at multilateral meetings.

“You have never had a better friend as president than President Donald Trump,” Trump said, referring to himself in the third person. And the “the prime minister knows that”.

It was Modi who brought up the same subject before introducing Trump to the audience. He reminded Trump of a slogan he used as a candidate for the White House in 2016 — “Abki bar Trump sarkar”, which was version of Modi’s campaign slogan “Abki bar Modi Sarkar”.

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Last inspection at 9:30 pm, most players left by 9: ACA secretary alleges

ACA Secretary Saikia said even he was surprised how the last inspection was done by umpires Chettithody Shamshuddin, Nitin Menon, Anil Chaudhary and match referee David Boon at 9:30 p.m. when most of the players had left the stadium at 9 p.m.

The last inspection for Sunday’s T20I game between India and Sri Lanka at the Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati might have been conducted at 9:30 p.m. — 24 minutes before the match was officially called off — but Assam Cricket Association (ACA) Secretary Devajit Saikia has revealed that the majority of the players had already left at 9 p.m.

Speaking to IANS, Saikia said even he was surprised how the last inspection was done by umpires Chettithody Shamshuddin, Nitin Menon, Anil Chaudhary and match referee David Boon at 9:30 p.m. when most of the players had left the stadium at 9 p.m.

“Well, that is a mystery to me and I will have to find it out because most of the players had left by 9 p.m. That announcement (calling off at 9:54 p.m.) was strategic to ensure that the crowd didn’t turn unruly. That is the usual protocol that is followed. I have given you the hard facts,” he said.

In fact, Saikia said that the match officials had made it clear to the groundstaff that the ground had to be ready for action by 8:45 p.m else the game would have been abandoned.

“For one hour and three minutes there was heavy shower and umpires said we need to get the ground ready by 8:45 p.m. otherwise the match will be abandoned. 57 minutes was given to the groundsmen to get it ready. If we had some more time, we could have readied the ground. There was dampness throughout the pitch due to reverse osmosis system and what was said on commentary, I can’t comment on that,” he explained.

The ACA secretary also said it was not expected that rain would play spoilsport at this time of the year.

“This was an unseasonal rain as we don’t get any such rain in Guwahati in January. Yesterday also we had heavy rain in the afternoon, but we got the ground ready in time for the toss and it happened at 6:30 p.m. Then, the match was supposed to start at 7 p.m. At 6:50 p.m. there was heavy downpour and hailstorm. This continued till 7:53 p.m.

“After rainfall there was a lot of humidity in the atmosphere. After 6:30 p.m. the ground is with the match referee and the umpires and they dictate the terms and our curator team followed their instructions. If we had been given an hour or half an hour, the ground would have been ready,” he rued.

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Benjamin Netanyahu cuts short Greece trip after Qasem Soleimani’s death: Official

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Greece and flew home Friday as Lebanon’s Hezbollah demanded revenge for the killing of a top Iranian commander in a US strike.

A source in Netanyahu’s office said that the premier was returning from Athens but did not elaborate.

Following Friday morning’s killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani, Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement called for the missile strike by Israel’s closest ally, to be avenged.

“Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins… will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide,” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a statement.

The Israeli army on Friday closed a ski resort in the annexed Golan Heights, which border Lebanon and Syria.

“Following a security assessment, it was decided to close Mount Hermon to visitors today,” an army spokeswoman told AFP.

“There are no further instructions for civilians in the area.”

The ski resort on Mount Hermon lies in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move still not recognised by most of the international community.

Across the armistice line sits the Shiite Hezbollah, Israel’s bitter foe with which it fought in 2006.

There has so far been no official Israeli comment on the killing of Soleimani.

Israel’s security cabinet was to hold an emergence session Friday, Israeli media said.

The papers reported that Netanyahu had ordered ministers not to comment on the killing.

Yair Lapid, a senior member of the Blue and White alliance seeking to unseat Netanyahu, was however quick to congratulate President Donald Trump in a Facebook post.

“He who led murderous terrorist attacks from Damascus to Buenos Aires and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents got the end he deserved.

“The Iranian regime is a terror regime and, against terror, determination and strength are required,” Lapid wrote.

In the Gaza Strip, the Islamist Hamas movement which rules the territory, condemned Soleimani’s killing but did not make any overt threats.

“Hamas sends its condolences to the Iranian leadership and people,” a statement said.

“Hamas condemns this American crime which raises tension in the region.”

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Hulu to stream Thunberg documentary in 2020

The documentary is being produced by Stockholm-headquartered B-Reel Films and directed by Nathan Grossman.

Apparently, they’ve been following Greta’s efforts since her early school strikes in Stockholm until she started speaking in front of government leaders and heading international protests, Engadget reported on Tuesday quoting the Deadline.

The streaming platform also came on-board a while back and is involved in the behind-the-scenes process.

Thunberg, last week, was named the ‘Person of the Year’ by Time Magazine.

Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said Thunberg had become the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet and the avatar of a broader generational shift in our culture that is playing out everywhere from the campuses of Hong Kong to the halls of Congress in Washington.

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