In 2027, NASA’s Lucy mission will for the first time fly by Jupiter’s Trojans, primitive bodies that hold crucial information about the history of our solar system. This is a journey citizen astronomers will soon be able to join: Unistellar, the citizen science startup, has announced that two of its eVscopes have been the first telescopes to gather critical data about the asteroid Orus, one of Lucy’s targets.
One of the features of the Unistellar eVscope is that its users can easily become citizen astronomers. In a few minutes, they can set up their digital telescopes and have them point at any interesting celestial object to gather accurate scientific data while they are observing it. This capability recently made the news when Unistellar and the SETI Institute signed an agreement to develop citizen astronomy by leveraging Unistellar’s large network of connected eVscopes.
Recently, NASA asked the astronomical community to contribute to its Lucy project. As many uncertainties surround its six targeted asteroids, NASA needs help to better understand their shape and trajectories, and therefore to improve the path of this $450 million spacecraft. Determining the shape and size of an asteroid will, for example, allow engineers to optimize the exploration schedule, and increase the science return generated by the mission.
On 7 September , a Unistellar team flew to Oman for the world’s first demonstration of citizen science using the eVscope. Oman was the most favorable spot on Earth from which to observe Orus. More precisely, what observers could see was Orus occulting a magnitude 11 star, an event that generated a light curve full of valuable information, such as a precise estimate of the position of Orus as well as an estimate of its size.
Dr. Franck Marchis, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and Unistellar’s Chief Scientific Officer, says: “Orus was recently discovered, in 1999, and much remains to be learned about it. Its shape is poorly constrained and we don’t know if it possesses one or several satellites, which would obviously have consequences for the design of the exploration phase of the Lucy mission. This is the first time an Orus occultation has been observed. We were at the right spot, and everything worked perfectly. One station located near Khalil, Oman detected and recorded this occultation while the other one only 30 km away did not see anything. In the future, it will be as simple as pushing a button on the Unistellar eVscope’s app for users to participate in these campaigns.”
This work was presented at the EPSC-DPS meeting by Dr. Franck Marchis in Geneva on 17 September.
The predicted path of the occultation was provided by Marc Buie, Astronomer at Southwest Research Institute using a combination of observations from the ESA space telescope Gaia, and ground-based facilities like PanSTARRS, as well as other robotic telescopes. A new occultation by Orus will be visible in Australia in November of this year.
With Lucy scheduled for launch in October 2021, Unistellar eVscope users will have multiple opportunities to contribute to NASA’s mission. More than 2,500 connected telescopes have already been preordered worldwide, with the first ones shipping soon.
“This achievement of the Unistellar telescope is a powerful demonstration of how transformative this instrument is for amateur astronomy and citizen science” says Bill Diamond, CEO of the SETI Institute. “For the first time in history, an affordable and portable telescope can make real contributions to serious science! We’re delighted to be the science partner for what is truly a game-changer for astronomy and for science education.”
Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs
You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats.
Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.”
What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online.
To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking.
According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are.
If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks.
Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.
Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version.
Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.
Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.
Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.
Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.
Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.
Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it.
Tech too complex? It stresses out even the tech-savvy
Even the savviest members of the tech industry get stressed by common devices that power their everyday lives, according to a recent poll conducted at CES 2020 by Asurion, the global leader in helping people connect, protect and enjoy their tech.
Asurion surveyed nearly 1,400 attendees of CES 2020, the world’s largest and most influential tech industry event, about their relationship with personal tech and their role as tech expert for family and friends. What the tech care company found is that even the tech-savvy, tech DIY’ers and early adopters stress out over some of the most ordinary devices in our hands and homes.
So, what tech tops the list of devices that stress out some of the consumer electronics industry’s tech enthusiasts?
- Mesh routers and Wi-Fi networks (33%)
- Phones (26%)
- Smart home security systems (23%)
And, the tech-related activities that even the tech-savvy dread the most?
- Troubleshooting a device that worked perfectly yesterday (39%)
- Device security (27%)
- Setting up devices (nearly 27%)
Asurion helps nearly 300 million customers worldwide unlock the potential of their tech with a team of over 10,000 Experts who are just a call, click or tap away. The company’s Experts provide ongoing tech support, same-day device repair, and same-day delivery and setup services. They’ll meet customers virtually, in-home, at select partner stores, and in more than 540 uBreakiFix stores across the country or wherever it’s convenient.
“The tech industry just spent four amazing days experiencing and celebrating the latest innovations in the future of tech,” said Teresa May, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Asurion. “What we heard is that even common tech tasks and devices can be challenging. Every day, our Experts help people across the country with their devices – everything from setting up a new phone to troubleshooting streaming issues on their smart TVs. Our CES poll reveals that the industry’s top tech innovators share the same pain points affecting millions of Americans.”
Asurion’s Experts received more than 18.5 million calls and chats from customers seeking tech help last year. And while the No. 1 question this holiday was a strong “How do I activate my new phone?” Asurion Experts also received many questions ranging from “How do I connect to Wi-Fi?” to “Can I sync my smart speakers to play them in tandem?”
And while the tech industry may have tech challenges of their own, they also get tapped by family and friends for help. Eight out of 10 attendees surveyed said their family and friends rely on them to help set up and troubleshoot their tech. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they hesitate to gift tech to their loved ones because the recipient won’t know how to use it, and nearly half (46%) gave pause to gifting tech to family and friends because they didn’t want to be the one to help set it up.
Asurion CES Tech Poll
Consumer Tech Devices That Stress CES Attendees Out the Most
1. Mesh Routers and Wi-Fi Networks (33%)
2. Phones (26%)
3. Smart Home Security Systems (23%)
4. Smart Home Assistants/Hubs (20%)
5. Bluetooth Printers (19%)
6. Smart Home Automation (19%)
7. Laptops/Tablets (18%)
8. Smart TVs (17%)
9. Smart Appliances (14%)
10. Home Energy, Lighting and Switches (13%)
Tech Activities That Stress Out CES Attendees the Most
1. Troubleshooting Tech That Worked Perfectly Yesterday (39%)
2. Security (27%)
3. Setting up a Device (27%)
4. Privacy (23%)
5. Helping Others With Their Tech (20%)
6. Managing or Connecting Multiple Devices (19%)
7. Wi-Fi Connectivity (19%)
8. Paying for Personal Data Storage (18%)
9. Learning a New Operating System (17%)
10. Choosing Which Brand To Purchase (17%)
To learn more about where you can get tech support and protection, visit Asurion.com.