It launches tonight: famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is reviving Carl Sagan’s popular PBS television series as Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The new series is airing on Fox and the National Geographic Channel, continuing Sagan’s “epic exploration of our place in the universe,” re-inventing celebrated elements of the legendary original series, including the Cosmic Calendar. Starting with tonight's episode, “Standing Up in the Milky Way,” we are placed in a “ship of the imagination” that rockets through space, with Dr. Tyson as our Captain Kirk replicating the original series.
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Mark Levinson’s thrilling new documentary “Particle Fever,” which depicts the 2012 discovery of the fabled Higgs boson – the Holy Grail of particle physics, and makes the greatest scientific achievement of our new century come alive, and by making the theoretical and experimental frontiers of physics seem so profoundly urgent and cool. The film captures the collective worldwide excitement when the LHC comes online for the first time, and when two separate teams of researchers confirm the discovery of the previously unknown elementary particle with a mass between 125 and 127 giga-electron-volts.
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After searching hundreds of millions of objects across our sky, NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the hypothesized celestial body in our solar system commonly dubbed "Planet X." Researchers previously had theorized about the existence of this large, but unseen celestial body, suspected to lie somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto. In addition to "Planet X," the body had garnered other nicknames, including "Nemesis" and "Tyche."
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Astronomers exploring the disk of debris around the young star Beta Pictoris have discovered a compact cloud of carbon monoxide located about 8 billion miles (13 billion kilometers) from the star. This concentration of poisonous gas – usually destroyed by starlight – is being constantly replenished by ongoing rapid-fire collisions among a swarm of icy, comet-like bodies. To offset the destruction of carbon monoxide (CO) molecules around the star, a large comet must be getting completely destroyed every five minutes, say researchers who suggest the comet swarm is most likely frozen debris trapped and concentrated by the gravity of an as-yet-unseen exoplanet.
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The discovery by astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's (ESA's) XMM-Newton, that the black hole in RX J1131 is spinning at over half the speed of light suggests this black hole, observed at a distance of six billion light years, corresponding to an age about 7.7 billion years after the Big Bang, has grown via mergers, rather than pulling material in from different directions. Prior to the announcement of this work, the most distant black holes with direct spin estimates were located 2.5 billion and 4.7 billion light-years away. This monster black hole rotates at roughly half the speed of light twisting space as it turns. The fast-spin points to how galaxies, such as ours, grew larger billions of years ago.
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Maybe the intelligence of the Tree of Souls (image above) on the planet Pandora in James Cameron's Avatar is more probable in the evolutionary scheme of things in the Universe than we think. In a new discovery, scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Göttingen, have concluded from their study of Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), which is able to abort its own seeds to prevent parasite infestation, that plants can make complex decisions. The results are the first ecological evidence of complex behavior in plants. They indicate that this species has a structural memory, is able to differentiate between inner and outer conditions as well as anticipate future risks.
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Five years ago today, on March 6, 2009, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope rocketed into the night skies to find planets around other stars within a field of view 1/400th the size of the Milky Way in search of potentially habitable worlds. Since then, Kepler has unveiled a whole new side of our galaxy -- one that is teeming with planets. Because of Kepler we now know that most stars have planets, Earth-sized planets are common, and planets quite unlike those in our solar system exist.
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Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in northern Chile have today announced the discovery of an unexpected clump of carbon monoxide gas in the dusty disc around the star Beta Pictoris. This is a surprise, as such gas is expected to be rapidly destroyed by the star’s UV radiation. Something — probably frequent collisions between small, icy objects such as comets — must be causing the gas to be continuously replenished. "To get the amount of carbon monoxide we observe, the rate of collisions would be truly startling — complete destruction of a large comet once every five minutes," noted Aki Roberge, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Research Center in Greenbelt, USA, and coauthor of the paper. "To get this number of collisions, this would have to be a very tight, massive swarm."
Continue reading "Beta Pictoris: A Young, Violent Star System --"The Complete Destruction of a Large Comet Every Five Minutes"" »
Astronomers say that magnetic storms in the gas orbiting young stars may explain a mystery that has persisted since before 2006. Researchers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to study developing stars have had a hard time figuring out why the stars give off more infrared light than expected.
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The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid, which has fragmented into as many as ten smaller pieces. Although fragile comet nuclei have been seen to fall apart as they approach the Sun, nothing like the breakup of this asteroid, P/2013 R3, has ever been observed before in the asteroid belt. "This is a really bizarre thing to observe — we've never seen anything like it before,” says co-author Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany. "The break-up could have many different causes, but the Hubble observations are detailed enough that we can actually pinpoint the process responsible.”
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A team of astronomers have realized that oxygen dimer molecules are often more detectable in an alien planet atmosphere than other markers of oxygen. That’s important from a biological standpoint. “It’s tied to photosynthesis, and we have pretty good evidence that it’s hard to get a lot of oxygen in an atmosphere unless you have algae or plants that are producing it at a regular rate," says Amit Misra, withthe University of Washington astronomy department. "So if we find a good target planet, and you could detect these dimer molecules — which might be possible within the next 10 to 15 years — that would not only tell you something about pressure, but actually tell you that there’s life on that planet.”
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The spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 looks like a dandelion caught in a breeze in this new Hubble Space Telescope image. The galaxy is zooming toward the upper right of this image, in between other galaxies in the Norma cluster located over 200 million light-years away. The road is harsh: intergalactic gas in the Norma cluster is sparse, but so hot at 180 million degrees Fahrenheit that it glows in X-rays.
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With new more sensitive technique, astronomers have discovered the eight worlds, three of which are in the so-called ‘habitable zone’ of their stars and only a little more massive than the Earth. Planets in this region, where the temperature is just right for water to be present as a liquid, are more likely to be able to support life. This group of astronomers from the UK and Chile reported the discovery of the eight new small planets orbiting nearby red dwarf stars, three of which may be habitable. From this result the scientists, led by Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, estimate that a large fraction of red dwarfs, which make up at least three quarters of the stars in the universe, has associated low-mass planets.
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"Gravity" won Oscar gold in seven of those categories, missing only Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Production Design. The film stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as an astronaut who fights for her survival after being cut loose from her space shuttle. Don't miss the interview below with Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, who won the Oscar for best director. It was the first Academy Award for Cuaron, 52, and the first best director Oscar for a Mexican. His 3-D film starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney mixes dazzling special effects, suspense and human drama. As a child, Cuaron wanted to be an astronaut, spent three years with a team developing the film's special effects and on-screen space panoramas, which many critics said broke new ground in the use of 3-D cinematic technology.
Continue reading "'Gravity-The Movie' Wins 7 Oscars --Physicists Ask: "Is Gravity an Illusion?"" »
The largest known structure in the universe has been discovered by an international team of astronomers. The large quasar group (LQG -a portion shown above)) is so large that it would take a vehicle traveling at the speed of light some 4 billion years to cross it.
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In July of 2012, astronomers observed a spiral galaxy in the early universe, billions of years before many other spiral galaxies formed while using the Hubble Space Telescope. They were taking pictures of about 300 very distant galaxies in the early universe to study their properties. This distant object existed roughly three billion years after the Big Bang, and light from this part of the universe has been traveling to Earth for about 10.7 billion years.
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Evidence of past water movement throughout a Martian meteorite, reviving debate in the scientific community over life on Mars, has been disdcovered by a team of scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 1996, a group of scientists at Johnson led by David McKay, Everett Gibson and Kathie Thomas-Keprta published an article in Science announcing the discovery of biogenic evidence in the Allan Hills 84001(ALH84001) meteorite. In this new study, Gibson and his colleagues focused on structures deep within a 30-pound (13.7-kilogram) Martian meteorite known as Yamato 000593 (Y000593). The team reports that newly discovered different structures and compositional features within the larger Yamato meteorite suggest biological processes might have been at work on Mars hundreds of millions of years ago.
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A tiny neighbor of the Milky Way houses invaluable clues to how the Big Bang unfolded. Using one of the world’s premier telescopes, University of Minnesota astrophysicists Evan Skillman and Kristen McQuinn have discovered a priceless relic of the Big Bang in the Milky Way’s back yard. They are part of an international team that found Leo P, a tiny galaxy in the constellation Leo that contains relatively few stars, but has large clouds of hydrogen and helium. The ratio of elements in those clouds is of great interest because it is believed to mirror conditions in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.
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“By studying microquasars such as MQ1, we get a glimpse of how the early universe evolved, how fast quasars grew and how much energy black holes provided to their environment.”As a comparison, the most powerful microquasar in our galaxy, known as SS433, is about 10 times less powerful than MQ1." A team of Australian and American astronomers have been studying nearby galaxy M83 and have found this new superpowered small black hole, MQ1, the first object of its kind to be studied in this much detail.
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Join the 298,000 Daily Galaxy fans around the world who follow us via their Twitter page. Our followers include many of the planet's leading astronomers and scientists, astronauts, space observatories, news organizations, universities and governmental space organizations such as NASA, JPL, ESO, SETI, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and Royal Astronomy Society members. Follow us daily at twitter.com/dailygalaxy.
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Today, the Kepler team announced the discovery of 715. Even before the announcement, the observatory had confirmed 246 new worlds outside the solar system. The latest discoveries almost quadruple that number. Kepler works by looking for the slight dimming of starlight caused when a distant planet transits its parent star. Any dip in stellar brightness attracts the attention of the Kepler team, and can prompt them to declare a planet candidate. Verification of candidates can be a laborious process, proceeding slowly, planet-by-planet.
Continue reading ""We're Getting Closer!"--NASA's Kepler Mission Announces Discovery of 715 New Planets in Multi-Transiting Systems" »
There's one supernova every second somwhere in the Universe. They are among the most powerful events in the universe, releasing so much energy that a single outburst can outshine an entire galaxy. A new supernova, dubbed SN 2014J, is of a particular kind known as a Type Ia. This type of supernova results in the complete destruction of a white dwarf star-the small, dense, aged remnant of a typical star like our sun.
Continue reading "New Supernova Lights Up M82 --"The Cigar Galaxy"" »
Could Alien life have exsited in the Big Bang afterglow? According to Abraham Loeb, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, in the early Universe, the energy required to keep water liquid could have come from the cosmic microwave background, the afterglow of the Big Bang, rather than from host stars. A set of calculations -standard adiabatic cold dark matter (ACDM) cosmology- suggests that the first star forming halos within the Hubble volume started collapsing at redshifts allowing liquid water chemistry— a prerequisite for life — to form on rocky planets just 15 million years after the Big Bang regardless of their distance from a star. “The whole Universe was once an incubator for life,” he says.
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New images from the Smithsonian's Submillimeter Array (SMA) telescope shown below provide the most detailed view yet of stellar nurseries within the Snake nebula. These images offer new insights into how cosmic seeds can grow into massive stars.
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Giant elliptical galaxies are the most puzzling type of galaxy in the Universe. Since they mysteriously shut down their star-forming activity and remain home only to the longest-lived of their stars – which are low-mass ones and appear red – astronomers often call these galaxies 'red and dead'. The Herschel Space Telescope has discovered massive elliptical galaxies in the nearby Universe containing plenty of cold gas, even though the galaxies fail to produce new stars. Comparison with other data suggests that, while hot gas cools down in these galaxies, stars do not form because jets from the central supermassive black hole heat or stir up the gas and prevent it from turning into stars.
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Intelligent life may be in it's "very young" stage in the observable Universe. Its 200 billion galaxies show a clear potential to continue on as we see them today for hundreds of billions of years, if not much longer. Because planets and life are so young in our Universe, says Harvard's Dimitar Sasselov, perhaps "the human species are not late comers to the party. We may be among the early ones."
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Water has been detected in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system with a new technique that could help researchers to learn how many planets with water, like Earth, exist throughout the universe. The team of scientists that made the discovery includes astronomers at Penn State University and other institutions. The astronomers detected the water in the atmosphere of a planet as massive as Jupiter that is orbiting the nearby star tau Boötis. The discovery is described in a scientific paper published in the 24 February 2014 online version of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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Andromeda, the massive sister spiral galaxy to the Milky Way, is orbited by a swarm of small galaxies – astronomers so far have counted more than 20. They have names like Andromeda I, II, III, IV...etc. Researchers from the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, have analysed measurements of the stars in the dwarf galaxy Andromeda II and made a surprising discovery.
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For years, scientists have been studying a mysterious infrared glow from the Milky Way and other galaxies, radiating from dusty regions in deep space. By duplicating the harsh conditions of space in their laboratories and computers, scientists have identified the mystifying infrared emiters as PAHs produced by carbon-rich, giant stars. PAHs are flat, chicken-wire shaped, nano-sized molecules that are very common on Earth.
Continue reading "Forget WhatsApp! --NASA Creates App to Trace Evolution of Cosmic Carbon and Probe Conditions Spanning the Universe" »
Top quarks are the heaviest and among the most puzzling elementary particles. They weigh even more than the Higgs boson – as much as an atom of gold – and only two machines have ever produced them: Fermilab’s Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. There are several ways to produce them, as predicted by the theoretical framework known as the Standard Model, and the most common one was the first one discovered: a collision in which the strong nuclear force creates a pair consisting of a top quark and its antimatter cousin, the anti-top quark.
Continue reading ""Most Puzzling Particle in the Universe" --Physicists Discover Way to Create" »