New research offers a novel insight into the nature of dark matter and dark energy and what the future of our Universe might be. Cosmology has undergone a paradigm shift since 1998 when researchers announced that the rate at which the Universe was expanding was accelerating. The idea of a constant dark energy throughout space-time (the “cosmological constant”) became the standard model of cosmology, but now reserachers at the University of Portsmouth and Rome believe they have found a better description, including energy transfer between dark energy and dark matter. They have found hints that dark matter, the cosmic scaffolding on which our Universe is built, is being slowly erased, swallowed up by dark energy.
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The puzzling, fascinating surface of Jupiter's icy moon Europa looms large in this newly-reprocessed color view, made from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. This is the color view of Europa from Galileo that shows the largest portion of the moon's surface at the highest resolution.
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“We want to find out whether spacetime is a quantum system just like matter is,” said Craig Hogan, director of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics and the developer of the holographic noise theory. “If we see something, it will completely change ideas about space we’ve used for thousands of years.”
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Similar in premise to many other science fiction films, something sets Interstellar apart: Many of the images are--for the most part--scientifically accurate, based on lensing calculations produced by Cornell University and California Institute of Technology scientists that show what black holes or wormholes look like. At this point, the blockbuster movie has created such a stir that one would almost have to be inside a black hole not to know about it. And while the science fiction thriller may have taken some liberties with science to make its Hollywood plot work, the imagery comes straight from science--National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded science, in fact.
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Betelgeuse is one of the most massive known stars, almost the size of the orbit of Jupiter, surrounded by a nebula, which is much bigger than the supergiant itself, stretching 60 billion kilometres away from the star's surface — about 400 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun. Red supergiants like Betelgeuse represent one of the last stages in the life of a massive star in which the star increases in size, and expels material into space at a tremendous rate — it sheds immense quantities of material equal to the mass of the Sun in just 10 000 years.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: Bizarre Red Supergaint and Neutron Star Hybrid --"A 'Theoretical' Object Proposed in 1974"" »
In 1960, the astronomer Francis Drake pointed a radio telescope located in Green Bank, West Virginia, toward two Sun-like stars 11 light years away. His hope: to pick up a signal that would prove intelligent life might be out there. Fifty years have gone by since Drake’s pioneering SETI experiment, and we’ve yet to hear from the aliens.mmBut thanks to a host of discoveries, the idea that life might exist beyond Earth now seems more plausible than ever. For one, we’ve learned that life can thrive in the most extreme environments here on Earth — from deep-sea methane seep and Antarctic sea ice to acidic rivers and our driest deserts.
Continue reading "“There have been 10,000 Generations Before Us --Ours Could be the First to Discover Extraterrestrial Life” --NASA (Today's Most Viewed)" »
The distribution of galaxies and matter in the universe is non-random. Galaxies are organized, even today, in a manner resembling an enormous network - the cosmic web. This web has dense regions made up of galaxy clusters and groups, sparsely populated regions devoid of galaxies, as well as the filaments that link overdense regions.
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Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years and dismembered by the gravity of planets, asteroid Bennu had a tough life in a rough neighborhood: the early solar system. "Bennu's Journey," a new animation created at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows what's known and what remains mysterious about the life of Bennu and the origin of the solar system.
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"BX442 looks like a nearby galaxy, but in the early universe, galaxies were colliding together much more frequently," says Alice Shapley, a UCLA associate professor of physics and astronomy. "Gas was raining in from the intergalactic medium and feeding stars that were being formed at a much more rapid rate than they are today; black holes grew at a much more rapid rate as well. The universe today is boring compared to this early time. As you go back in time to the early universe, galaxies look really strange, clumpy and irregular, not symmetric. The vast majority of old galaxies look like train wrecks. Our first thought was, why is this one so different, and so beautiful?"
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Thanks to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, some of the most mysterious cosmic residents have just become even more puzzling. New observations of globular clusters in a small galaxy show they are very similar to those found in the Milky Way, and so must have formed in a similar way. One of the leading theories on how these clusters form predicts that globular clusters should only be found nestled in among large quantities of old stars. But these old stars, though rife in the Milky Way, are not present in this small galaxy, and so, the mystery deepens.
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On January 11, 2013, the discovery of a vast grouping of 73s quasars, a form of supermassive black hole active galactic nuclei, with a minimum diameter of 1.4 billion light-years, stretched over four billion light-years at its widest point was announced by the University of Central Lancashire, as the largest known structure in the universe LQGs are thought to be precursors to the sheets, walls and filaments of galaxies found in the relatively nearby universe. The existence of structures of the magnitude of large quasar clusters was believed theoretically impossible. Cosmological structures had been believed to have a size limit of approximately 1.2 billion light-years.
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If two galaxies are on a collision course and eventually collide, they will merge into a single larger galaxy. At the centre of each galaxy is a massive black hole and they will also merge. But if gravitational waves have been formed in the process, spreading out into space, there might be a recoiling effect, so one of the two black holes is ejected. In some cases, the recoil effect is relatively weak and the black hole is pulled back to the centre. In other cases, the recoil effect is so strong that the black hole is flung out of the galaxy forever and remains isolated in the universe.
Continue reading "Enigmatic Object Observed --"May be a Supermassive Black Hole Ejected Into Deep Space"" »
"It is possible that pulsars imploding into black holes may provide the first concrete signal of particulate dark matter," said study co-author Joseph Bramante, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame. “In 2013, the first pulsar at the galactic center was detected, and this observation has deepened the mystery of these stellar objects,” explained Bramante. “Prior to this detection, it was thought that pulsars at the galactic center might simply be shielded from observation by dense material in the center of the galaxy.”
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New research investigates the last unknown parameter in the Standard Model – the interaction between the Higgs particle and gravity. “The Standard Model of particle physics, which scientists use to explain elementary particles and their interactions, has so far not provided an answer to why the universe did not collapse following the Big Bang,” explains Professor Arttu Rajantie, from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.
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Chinese scientists are planning to launch a Mars rover "around 2020", state media reported on Tuesday, as the country pours billions into its space programme and works to catch up with the US and Europe. Although the government has not officially announced plans for a Mars mission, officials from the China National Space Administration are currently lobbying to have it put on the agenda and have begun "preliminary research", the state-run China Daily reported.
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Over the last years, physicists have placed detectors in underground sites a kilometer or more deep in order to detect dark matter. The idea is that dark matter is easier to detect in deep sites because there is less noise from cosmic or Earth-produced radiation that can potentially cover the dark matter signal. This approach of detecting dark matter makes sense provided that dark matter interacts only a bit with atoms as it goes underground. The scientific term for this is that dark matter is weakly interacting with its surroundings.
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A gamma-ray burst known as GRB 090429B detected by NASA's Swift satellite was found to be a candidate for the most distant object in the Universe at an estimated distance of 13.14 billion light years, far beyond any known quasar and could be more distant than any previously known galaxy or gamma-ray burst. The gigantic burst of gamma rays erupted from an exploding star when the Universe was less than 4% of its present age, just 520 million years old, and less than 10% of its present size.
Continue reading ""The Pale Red Dot" --One of the Oldest Objects in the Universe (Today's Most Popular)" »
"Life in Antarctica, in the form of algal mats, is very resistant to extremely cold and dry conditions and simply waits for the episodic infusion of water to 'bloom' and develop," says James W. Head, professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University. "Thus, the ancient and currently dry and barren river and lake floors on Mars may harbor the remnants of similar primitive life, if it ever occurred on Mars."
Continue reading ""Climate on Early Mars May Have Been Very Similar to Antarctica"" »
While the extinction of the dinosaurs has largely been explained by the impact of a large meteorite, the crash of the stromatolites remains unsolved. “It’s one of the major questions in Earth history,” says Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution microbial ecologist Virginia Edgcomb.
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Lacking power, its instruments and most systems went into standby mode after three days of non-stop work, the Rosetta mission sent back data that will keep scientists busy for years. "The data collected by Philae and Rosetta is set to make this mission a game-changer in cometary science," said Matt Taylor, Rosetta project scientist. Europe's science probe streamed data from its experiments back to its mother ship Rosetta in the final hours before its battery ran down. This included the outcome of an eagerly-waited chemistry test of a sample drilled from the comet's icy and dusty surface, scientists said.
Continue reading "Dying Philae Robot Lab Streamed Back Data on an Alien World -- "May Shed Light on Origins of Life"" »
The new SciFi blockbuster, Interstellar, shows astonauts from post apocalyptic earth, destroyed by what appears to be a modern dust-bowl, catapulted into the unknown of outer space in the hopes of finding a new home for the human race, only to discover an extraterrestrial tidal wave on a distant exo planet. How realistic is the premise of an alien water planet? New findings suggest it's based on solid science.
Continue reading "A Universe of Pale Blue Dots? --"Water Common During the Formation of All Planetary Systems" (Weekend Feature)" »
With the sci-fi movie "Interstellar" — hitting theaters last week — with its computer-generated views of one of most enigmatic and fascinating phenomena in the universe, University of Arizona astrophysicists are likely to nod appreciatively and say something like, "Meh, that looks nice, but check out what we've got."
Continue reading ""The Supermassive Shadow" --Imaging the Glow of Milky Way's Central Black Hole" »
Robot lab Philae drilled into its host comet Friday with just hours of battery left, but may lose power before it can transmit results of a much-anticipated attempt to probe below the surface, mission scientists said. Charged with 60 hours of onboard power, the lander bounced twice after initial touchdown Wednesday, settling at an angle in a crevice in an unknown location, shadowed from sunlight that could potentially have extended its battery life. Besides 60 hours of power on its main battery, Philae was also designed with solar panels to recharge and extend the mission duration by as much as possible. But in the lander's dark location, evident from photos and data it sent home, one solar panel was only receiving about 80 minutes of sunlight per 12.4-hour comet day and two others 20 or 30 minutes -- much less than the six or seven hours engineers had bargained on.
Continue reading ""Race Against Time" --Philae Comet Probe's Battery Fading Fast" »
When two LIGO detectors are switched on in the US next year, scientists hope to pick up the faint long-sought ripples of black hole collisions millions of years ago, known as gravitational waves. Black holes cannot be seen, but scientists hope the revamped detectors - which act like giant microphones - will find remnants of black hole collisions. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a large-scale physics experiment aiming to directly detect gravitational waves, founded in 1992 by Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever of Caltech and Rainer Weiss of MIT. The original detectors were disassembled and are currently being replaced by improved versions known as "Advanced LIGO", scheduled to be operational by 2015.
Continue reading ""Giant Cosmic Microphones" --Will They Detect Gravitational-Waves from Ancient Black Hole Collisions?" »
Earth and its planetary neighbors arose in a magnetic field strong enough to sculpt the disk of gas and dust that spawned our solar system and set the stage for a planet capable of developing life. That's the implication of new work that uses a meteorite to deduce the strength of the magnetic field around the young sun.
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NASA's New Horizons spacecraft comes out of hibernation for the last time on Dec. 6. Between now and then, while the Pluto-bound probe enjoys three more weeks of electronic slumber, work on Earth is well under way to prepare the spacecraft for a six-month encounter with the dwarf planet that begins in January.
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New research on Mars weather promises to advance scientists’ understanding of the dynamics of Earth’s own atmosphere – and could provide insights into the weather of Venus, Saturn’s moon Titan, and possibly the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
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The epic Philae landing will unlock hold vital clues about our solar system's history. Comets are considered primitive building blocks of the solar system that are literally frozen in time. Comets may have played a part in "seeding" Earth with water and, possibly, the basic ingredients for life.
Continue reading "The Rosetta Comet Mission --"Unlocking the Secrets of Our Origins" (Today's Most Popular)" »
The combination photo of different images taken with the CIVA camera system released by the European Space Agency ESA on Thursday Nov. 13, 2014 shows Rosetta's lander Philae as it is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first CIVA images confirm. One of the lander's three feet can be seen in the foreground. Philae became the first spacecraft to land on a comet when it touched down Wednesday on the comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
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