Some 200 “culturally significant” books including works by Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton and Goya that were stolen in a west London heist have been found buried underground in Romania.The books were swiped in January 2017 during a burglary in Feltham, which saw thieves cut holes in the roof of the warehouse they were being stored in and abseil down, thus avoiding sensors in a Mission Impossible-style break-in.They were recovered this week by a joint partnership with the Met and the Romanian National Police.The books, featuring works from the seventeenth century by Italian astronomer Galileo, Newton, and the eighteenth century Spanish painter Francisco Goya, have a combined value of more than £2.5 million, but are deemed to be of international importance and are considered irreplaceable.Over the past three years the Met has been working with officers from the Romanian National Police and Italian Carabinieri, supported by Europol and Eurojust, on the international operation to recover the books and bring the offenders to justice.In January 2017 they were being stored in a postal transit warehouse in Feltham waiting to be sent to Las Vegas for a specialist book auction.Detective Inspector Andy Durham, from Specialist Crime South, said: “This recovery is a perfect end to this operation and is a demonstration of successful joint working between the Met and our European law enforcement partners in Romania and Italy - and at Europol and Eurojust. “These books are extremely valuable, but more importantly they are irreplaceable and are of great importance to international cultural heritage.“If it wasn’t for the hard work of Detective Constable David Ward and others in this Joint Investigation Team these books would have been sadly lost to the world forever.”The Met investigation identified the suspects involved were part of a Romanian Organised Crime Group (OCG) that were responsible for high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK.The OCG flies members into the UK to commit specific offences and then flies them out of the country shortly afterwards, with the stolen property taken out of the country by other OCG members using different transport methods.The OCG is linked to a number of prominent Romanian crime families who form part of the Clamparu crime group. This group is based in the Iași region in Eastern Romania and have a history of complex and large-scale high value thefts, yet have mainly avoided prosecution by offending outside Romania.A joint operation with the Romanian National Police and Italian Carabinieri, supported by Europol and Eurojust, has since unearthed another 11 offences in London and across the UK where a further £2 million worth of property has been stolen, generally using the same method of entering through the roof.This culminated in coordinated arrests and searches of 45 addresses across the UK, Romania and Italy in June 2019.Thirteen individuals were charged in the UK with conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019, and to acquire criminal property.Court proceedings are currently active, with 12 individuals having already pleaded guilty and sentencing is due to take place over four days, beginning on Monday, 28 September.The thirteenth defendant will tried in March 2021.Investigations have continued since the coordinated action in June 2019 and this has resulted in the further searches today that have led to the recovery of these books.Related...
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Early this week, a massive asteroid measuring about 3280 feet wide flew past the Earth. The asteroid was dubbed 2020 QU6 and was discovered by an amateur astronomer from Brazil. The asteroid is classified as potentially hazardous but safely passed by the Earth at a distance of more than 20 million miles. It’s hard to put 20 million miles in … Continue reading
An amateur astronomer has discovered a huge asteroid headed near Earth. But there's no need to panic, as it will miss our planet by 25 million miles.
SpaceX just launched a new batch of Starlink internet-beaming satellites equipped with visors to block sun glare.
The new visors should make the fleet of satellites less visible in the night sky.
But visor technology won't prevent satellite constellations generally from affecting many scientists' astronomy projects.
Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
After a two-month gap, SpaceX has resumed launching batches of dozens of satellites in its gambit to blanket Earth with high-speed internet access.
The satellites are a new "VisorSat" variety to make them less shiny to the ground and especially to astronomers' telescopes. But researchers say the spacecraft's experimental new feature, while helpful, won't fully solve problems posed by the existence of Starlink itself (or other planned thousands-strong satellite fleets, for that matter).
SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, calls its internet project Starlink, and may deploy tens of thousands of the broadband internet-beaming satellites into low-Earth orbit. On Friday at 1:12 a.m ET, one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets launched a new batch of them, along with two Earth-imaging spacecraft built by BlackSky Global.
SpaceX fitted all 57 of its desk-sized Starlink satellites with a new feature: sun visors or shades.
The visors should deploy after launch and block sunlight from reflecting off the satellites' surfaces — glare that makes Starlink spacecraft appear as bright, moving trails in the night sky that can photobomb telescope observations, blot out faint astronomical objects, and even hinder searches for killer asteroids.
The visors will probably make the satellites less bright, but it won't stop them from interfering with astronomy, says astronomer Jonathan McDowell.
"If you figure out where to put the visors, you should be able to really cut down those reflections. And that will make the satellites no longer naked-eye objects, which is good," he told Business Insider in June. "It won't, probably, make them so faint that they won't be a problem for professional astronomers."
Astronomers fear that SpaceX's bright satellites could outshine the stars
After SpaceX launched its first set of Starlink satellites in May 2019, many astronomers were alarmed by how bright the new objects were. In the days after the launch, people across the world spotted the train of satellites, like a line of twinkling stars.
"I felt as if life as an astronomer and a lover of the night sky would never be the same," astronomer James Lowenthal told The New York Times in November.
"If there are lots and lots of bright moving objects in the sky, it tremendously complicates our job," Lowenthal added. "It potentially threatens the science of astronomy itself."
Telescopes on Earth that look for distant, dim objects could pick up these false stars and ruin astronomers' data. A single satellite can create a continuous streak of light across a telescope's long-exposure images of the sky, blocking the objects astronomers want to study.
"It takes just a couple seconds for the satellite to cross the telescope's field of view, but we take really long exposures with our cameras. So in that couple of seconds, a whole 10- or 15-minute exposure is ruined," McDowell said.
The satellites can especially affect telescopes that observe close to the horizon near dawn — the kind of observations that help astronomers track asteroids flying close to Earth.
SpaceX is sharing Starlink's orbital-path data with astronomers so that they can plan their telescope observations around the satellites' movements. Briefly shutting off the camera as the satellite passes overhead can save a long-exposure image.
To date, SpaceX has flown nearly 600 Starlink spacecraft to orbit — the most of any satellite operator. But Musk's grand ambitions could make it practically impossible for astronomers to avoid the fast-moving satellites. SpaceX already has permission to launch nearly 12,000 satellites, and last year sought additional clearance to put up to a total of 42,000 satellites into orbit. And that's not counting other providers' plans.
"If they're coming over all the time, then knowing when they're coming over isn't helpful," McDowell said. Even now, he added, sometimes astronomers can't avoid the photobombers.
It's not yet clear how well a VisorSat works
It's unclear how effective the SpaceX's new visors will be, though the company launched an experimental "VisorSat" to test the concept on June 3. SpaceX has yet to report the results of that test.
"We're still waiting for the satellite to reach its operational orbit," Youmei Zhou, an integration and test engineer for SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship, said during a live broadcast of the launch early Friday morning.
Launching a whole fleet of visor-equipped satellites without widely sharing, or possibly knowing, the results of the experimental spacecraft visor seems like "a gusty move" to McDowell.
"I think what it reflects is that they have much more confidence now that they understand the sources of the problem," he said.
The company doesn't expect earlier, visor-free Starlink satellites to complete their five-year life span, Patricia Cooper, SpaceX's vice president of satellite government relations, told Spaceflight Now in May. That means that, in a few years, the brightest satellites may no longer appear in the sky.
Satellite constellations pose larger problems that visors can't fix
The Starlink fleet caught astronomers' attention for how bright it was, but it revealed a much larger problem: The skies could soon be swarming with false stars.
SpaceX isn't the only company building a massive fleet of satellites. Companies like Amazon and OneWeb have similar aspirations to establish their own fleets and rake in billions of dollars each year.
"If OneWeb goes ahead and launches its proposed constellation without mitigation, that is going to have very severe impacts on ground-based astronomy to the point that, for at least four months out of the year, it's going to be pretty impossible to do most observations," McDowell said. "You might as well just shut the observatory down for the summer months, because there's going to be so many satellites screwing up your data."
Mitigating solar reflections also goes only so far. Astronomers also worry about invisible wavelengths of light that stand to compromise other forms of astronomy.
The Federal Communications Commission, which authorizes the flight and use of internet-beaming satellites in the US, says preventing disruption to astronomy is "not a condition" for licensing — so SpaceX is pursuing solutions on its own accord. Sources known to Business Insider also say Amazon's Kuiper satellite-internet project is working with astronomers to reduce those satellites' impact.
But SpaceX and others have yet to announce potential harm-reduction measures for radiowaves the satellites will broadcast, or for the infrared light they emit by producing heat. Both can interfere with telescopes on Earth that observe the skies using radio or infrared.
"We're in a new phase of space utilization. It's a new space industrial revolution, things are different, and astronomy's going to be affected," McDowell said. "We just have to make sure we're part of the conversation so we can keep it down to the 'pain in the neck' level and not the 'give up and go home' level."
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dave Mosher contributed reporting.SEE ALSO: 27 epic images show how SpaceX made history by flying NASA astronauts to and from the space station
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Starlink satellites photobombed Comet Neowise in a striking photo. The juxtaposition highlights astronomers' concerns about Elon Musk's internet project.
The photo is a composite of 17 images taken over 30 seconds, so it doesn't show what you would see with the naked eye.
Still, plenty of astronomy research relies on long-exposure images, and Starlink's streaks of light can ruin scientists' work.
Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Elon Musk's growing constellation of internet satellites has been sending streaks of bright light across night skies around the world. Even the biggest comet to pass Earth in 25 years wasn't spared.
A striking photo showing Comet Neowise behind those streaks of light shows how easily the satellites can upstage observations of distant objects in space.
The satellite project, called Starlink, is Musk's plan to blanket Earth in high-speed satellite internet. The effort has drawn criticism from professional and amateur astronomers, however, because the bright satellites can mar the skies and disrupt telescope observations.
That's what happened to astrophotographer Daniel López on July 21, when he was shooting Comet Neowise before it flies out of view for another 6,800 years. He shared the resulting image on the Facebook page of his photography company, El Cielo de Canarias, saying it was a shame to see the satellites make such a spectacle.
López's photo is a composite of 17 images taken in the span of 30 seconds. Each image was long-exposure, meaning it captured the comet over several seconds.
Astronomer Julien Girard shared the picture on Twitter, saying that the satellites had "completely photobombed" the comet.
"Two of my pictures the other night were also bombed by a Starlink [satellite]," Girard said.
López also shared the time-lapse video behind the picture. He added that traces of the satellites were visible in 20 of his images.
El Cielo de Canarias
Because it's a composite time-lapse, the image doesn't show what you would see with the naked eye. But it illustrates why many astronomers worry about the threat that satellite constellations like Starlink pose to ground-based astronomy.
Too many satellites could mess with astronomy on Earth
Long-exposure images are crucial when studying distant objects in the night sky. Telescopes on Earth watch celestial targets for hours, slowly building up a detailed image that offers astronomers rich data.
But one poorly timed Starlink satellite can ruin that kind of research by creating a long streak across the image and blocking the objects that astronomers want to study.
"In that couple of seconds, a whole 10- or 15-minute exposure is ruined," astronomer Jonathan McDowell told Business Insider in June.
SpaceX is sharing Starlink's orbital path data with astronomers so that they can plan their telescope observations around the satellites' movements. Briefly shutting off the camera as the satellite passes overhead can save a long-exposure image.
But Musk's ambitions could make it nearly impossible to avoid the fast-moving satellites. SpaceX has sought government permission to put a total of 42,000 satellites into orbit to form a "megaconstellation" around Earth.
"If they're coming over all the time, then knowing when they're coming over isn't helpful," McDowell said. Even now, he added, sometimes astronomers can't avoid the photobombers.
SpaceX isn't the only company building a massive fleet of satellites. Companies like OneWeb and Amazon have similar ambitions.
"The sky will not be what it has been for millions of years. Thousands of dots will appear and disappear in the night sky," López told Gizmodo. "I personally think that if no action is taken, it will be the end of astronomy as we know it from the surface of the Earth."
Professional astronomers have given similarly dire warnings.
"The night sky is for everybody, it has been scrutinized and used for millennia," Girard said. "We should cherish it and protect it just like our Earth."SEE ALSO: Comet Neowise, a meteor, and a mysterious aurora-like phenomenon called STEVE all share the night sky in one incredible photo
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Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Watch the unbelievable death spiral this spacecraft flew around a comet for 2.5 years
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The human future in the cosmos could be all but limitless, if we don’t destroy ourselves first. The same would be true of intelligent aliens elsewhere in the Universe, assuming they exist: how far they travel depends strongly on how long they survive as a species. That survival variable, which the US astronomer Frank Drake incorporated into his famous equation on the likelihood of technological civilisations beyond Earth, is unknowable at present because we are the only such civilization yet identified. Let’s be optimistic and assume that humans are persistent, working their way through the manifest problems of mastering their… This story continues at The Next Web
Planet nine may be orbiting far from the Sun, at the edge of our solar system. Astronomers, seeing odd irregularities in the orbits of the outer planets suspect another, unknown, planet may orbit beyond the eight we know of today. The number of known planets in our solar system has risen and fallen over time. From the six worlds known to ancient people (including Earth), astronomers have found the planets Uranus and Neptune. Uranus was first seen in 1781, and seventy years later, astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi announced his discovery of an “eighth planet,” orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. This object, Ceres, was… This story continues at The Next Web
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