Monthly Archives: April 2014

Galactic Views (125)


Hubble’s Messier 5

NASA – “Beautiful Nebula discovered between the Balance [Libra] & the Serpent [Serpens] …” begins the description of the 5th entry in 18th century astronomer Charles Messier’s famous catalog of nebulae and star clusters.

Though it appeared to Messier to be fuzzy and round and without stars, Messier 5 (M5) is now known to be a globular star cluster, 100,000 stars or more, bound by gravity and packed into a region around 165 light-years in diameter. It lies some 25,000 light-years away.

Roaming the halo of our galaxy, globular star clusters are ancient members of the Milky Way. M5 is one of the oldest globulars, its stars estimated to be nearly 13 billion years old.

The beautiful star cluster is a popular target for Earthbound telescopes. Of course, deployed in low Earth orbit on April 25, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has also captured its own stunning close-up view that spans about 20 light-years near the central region of M5.

Even close to its dense core at the left, the cluster’s aging red and blue giant stars and rejuvenated blue stragglers stand out in yellow and blue hues in the sharp color image.

Image Credit: NASA, Hubble Space Telescope, ESA

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

By Andrew Snyder-Beattie – The Great Filter is an argument that attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox: why have we not found aliens, despite the existence of hundreds of billions of solar systems in our galactic neighborhood in which life might evolve?

As the namesake physicist Enrico Fermi [2] noted, it seems rather extraordinary that not a single extraterrestrial signal or engineering project has been detected.

This apparent absence of thriving extraterrestrial civilizations suggests that at least one of the steps from humble planet to interstellar civilization is exceedingly unlikely. The absence could be caused because either intelligent life is extremely rare or intelligent life has a tendency to go extinct. more>

Don’t bother with share-based pay

By Edward Hadas – Over the decades, all investors’ psychological errors might be corrected and all monetary forces could cancel each other out.

But shareholding workers may well have to wait a half-century or so before they can be confident that the stock market will justly reward them for their company’s economic performance.

Most of the employees concerned will have retired or died by the time the stock and economic returns have been well aligned. In the interim, the price will reflect many things, with corporate success quite a way down the list.

The responsibility of almost all workers is too limited to move the share price. A few top executives have that power, but even they are often victims or beneficiaries of larger trends. more>

Updates from SIEMENS

Second North Sea platform linking up offshore wind farms installed
SIEMENS – Nordic Yards has constructed the topside for BorWin2 in its Warnemünde shipyard as a one-off job tailor-made for Siemens.

Once it goes on line, BorWin2’s output of 800 MW will provide wind power for 800,000 households on the mainland.

The offshore platform is 51 meters wide, 72 meters long and 25 meters high – and if the two permanently installed cranes are counted, the overall height adds up to 40 meters. Weighing almost 12,000 tons, the giant steel structure has been designed to spend the next 30 years on rough seas.

During that time, the material will be exposed to extreme conditions, especially in winter when the spray on the surface freezes to ice, which makes particularly tough demands of the paintwork and the anti-corrosion coating. The photo shows the platform as built, before the anti-corrosion coating was applied. 28 months have passed from the start of work to leaving the dock; the final touches will be made to the HVDC platform at sea.

The substructure - also known as the baseframe - on which the platform is erected, covers an area of 51 x 47 meters. (Siemens)The cable route runs through the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. To protect the flora and fauna, strict rules apply in this nature preservation area: for instance, the cables had to be laid within a certain time window and using special equipment to minimize nuisance and impact.

The converter tower for Diele has undergone advance high-voltage shop testing in Siemens’ own test bed in Dresden to verify the resistance of the insulation. The converter technology has been installed both in the onshore station and offshore on the platform. HVDC Plus technology is used on the platform to convert the alternating current generated by the wind farms into low-loss direct current. This is then transported to the mainland via a submarine cable, with a total loss of less than four percent.

The heart of the BorWin 2 grid connection is the BorWin beta offshore converter platform, which houses the Siemens system for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission. Successfully installing this system on the high seas was the most critical part of the project.

Apart from constructing and installing the offshore platform itself, which transforms the alternating current generated into direct current for low-loss transmission, a submarine cable had to be laid and a converter station set up on the mainland. That is where the power delivered from the offshore generating installations is converted into alternating current for feed into the national grid. more>

Updates from GE

GE Bids to Acquire Alstom’s Energy Units for $13.5 Billion

GE – GE announced today that it made a binding offer to acquire the thermal power, renewable energy and electricity grid businesses of the French engineering conglomerate Alstom for $13.5 billion in cash.

This is not the first time the two companies meet. In fact, both GE and Alstom grew out of common roots.

In 1892, Thomas Edison’s Edison General Electric Company merged with Elihu Thomson’s Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form GE. Thomson-Houston’s co-founder Charles A. Coffin became GE’s first chief executive officer and president.

In 1928, Thomson-Houston’s French subsidiary combined with France’s Sociéte Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques to create Alstom. The company developed into a major builder of power plant technology, including gas turbines built around technology licensed from GE.

In 1999, GE acquired Alstom’s heavy duty gas turbines business and the two companies have remained close. Their facilities in the northern French city of Belfort stand next to each other, divided only by a road and a fence, and their top executives live in the same neighborhoods.

In 2011, GE also bought Alstom’s former power conversion business, which became GE Power Conversion. The unit is now developing next-generation energy storage and power systems for a broad range of industries including oil and gas, mining, renewables and shipping.

Forty years ago, GE formed an aviation joint-venture called CFM International with France’s Snecma (Safran). Since then, CFM has delivered some 26,000 jet engines to 530 operators. CFM has more than 6,000 orders valued at $78 billion for its latest engine, the LEAP, which will enter service in 2016. more>


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