Astronomy Rewind revives ‘zombie’ pictures

Astronomy Rewind at work

A photo of the Orion Nebula from the June 1905 issue of Astronomical Journal, at left, can be matched up automatically with WorldWide Telescope’s sky atlas, at right. (AAS / NASA / SAO Astrophysics Data System / WorldWide Telescope)

A new project called Astronomy Rewind is recruiting citizen scientists to bring decades-old cosmic images back from the dead and restore them to their rightful place.

It’s the latest offering from Zooniverse, a crowdsourcing platform that got its start a decade ago with Galaxy Zoo and has since branched out into the search for Planet Nine, worlds around distant stars, exotic subatomic particles and much, much more.

Astronomy Rewind pulls together scanned images and maps from American Astronomical Society journals that go back to the 19th century, and invites volunteers to classify them by category.

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Richard Branson mourns Virgin America

Richard Branson

Virgin billionaire Richard Branson reflects on the passing of Virgin America. (Virgin Photo)

The Virgin Group’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, says “many tears” are being shed over Alaska Airlines’ decision to retire the Virgin America brand in the wake of its $4 billion acquisition.

Branson bid farewell to the brand in a “Dear Virgin America” letter posted online today, even though the brand isn’t likely to be phased out until 2019.

He compared the news of the phase-out to his 1992 sale of Virgin Records for $1 billion, “which we needed to fight off British Airways’ Dirty Tricks campaign to try to put Virgin Atlantic out of business.

“With a lot of things in life, there is a point where we have to let go and appreciate the fact that we had this ride at all,” Branson said. Most of the letter was devoted to a walk down memory lane, from the company’s launch day in 2007, through zany promotions such as an in-flight wedding performed by Branson, an in-flight Skype session with Oprah Winfrey and the annual Chihuahua airlift.

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Why Alaska Airlines is killing Virgin America

Virgin America and Alaska Airlines jet tails

Alaska Airlines will retire the Virgin America brand and logo by the end of 2019. (Alaska Air Photo)

It all comes down to cost and consistency of branding: That’s why Alaska Airlines announced today that it would retire the Virgin America name for the airline it acquired last year.

Seattle-based Alaska Air Group completed the $4 billion transaction (including debt and lease payments) to take over Virgin America’s operation and its routes late last year – but the question of what to do with the operation’s name had been hanging over the acquisition since it was announced last April.

“We spent the last 10 months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most,” Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing, said in today’s announcement. “While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares.”

Alaska said the Virgin America name and logo would be retired “likely sometime in 2019.” Alaska has to wait at least long enough to win certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for the two airlines to operate as a single carrier.

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Boom picks up $33M to build supersonic jet

Boom supersonic jet

Boom Technology’s full-scale supersonic jet would carry 40 passengers. (Boom Photo)

Colorado-based Boom Technology has raised $33 million in a Series A round to build and fly its first supersonic jet, a one-third-scale prototype known as the XB-1 or “Baby Boom.” Testing the XB-1 would blaze the trail for a full-scale jet capable of taking 40 passengers from New York to London in less than three and a half hours for a $2,500 one-way ticket.

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Amazon and DHL reportedly team up

Amazon and DHL jets

Reports suggest Amazon and DHL are teaming up in Kentucky and Germany. (GeekWire / Fly Away)

Amazon is reportedly partnering with the German-based DHL delivery service for its Prime Air transport operation in Kentucky as well as for Amazon Fresh food deliveries in Germany.

The Lane Report says Amazon will begin processing shipments at DHL’s facility at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport in May. The arrangement would give Amazon a head start on its $1.5 billion plan to use the airport as a major shipping hub for its Prime Air fleet.

DHL would use the facility at night for its own operations, as usual, but let Amazon use it during the day, sources told The Lane Report.

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Elon Musk isn’t smiling over NASA legislation

Elon Musk

Elon Musk has his sights set on going to Mars. (SpaceX via YouTube)

President Donald Trump may be beaming over a newly signed law that calls on NASA to look into sending astronauts to Mars by 2033, but not Elon Musk.

SpaceX’s billionaire CEO is aiming to put his fortune behind a push to send up to a million settlers to Mars, starting as early as the mid-2020s.

In a back-and-forth series of tweets with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Musk made clear that he’s looking for much more than words from the federal government when it comes to Mars missions.

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Trump signs off on NASA’s Mars agenda

Donald Trump signs NASA bill

Flanked by astronauts Chris Cassidy and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, President Donald Trump shows off a flight jacket he was given after signing a NASA authorization bill into law. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)

President Donald Trump today signed legislation laying out the broad agenda for NASA’s journey to Mars – but not to a near-Earth asteroid – and signaled that Vice President Mike Pence would revive a panel to oversee U.S. policy beyond Earth.

“In very short order, the president will be taking action to relaunch the National Space Council, and he’s asked me to chair that, as vice presidents have in the past,” Pence said during the Oval Office signing ceremony. “And we’re going to be bringing together the best and the brightest in NASA and also in the private sector.”

As Pence was speaking, Trump nodded his head and said, “Right.”

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