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February 13, 2016

"We Can Listen to the Universe Now" --LIGO Gravitational Wave Discovery (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)

 

 

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"We had thought the first signal would be some little small thing poking up out of the noise and we'd have to work really hard to understand what it was," Nergis Mavalvala – the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics and the Associate Department Head of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a member of the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MKI). "But in fact, the signal we got is a very clean and beautiful event. It tells us that the binary black holes were located about 1.5 billion light years away. They whirled around each other at nearly the speed of light before a collision that was so powerful, it converted approximately three times the mass of the Sun into gravitational wave energy—in just a few tenths of a second!"

Continue reading ""We Can Listen to the Universe Now" --LIGO Gravitational Wave Discovery (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)" »


February 12, 2016

"Dark Side of the Universe" --Kip Thorne's Amazing Caltech Gravitational-Wave-LIGO Graphic

 

 

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In June 2009, Thorne resigned his Feynman Professorship (becoming the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus) in order to ramp up a new career in writing, movies, and continued scientific research. His most recent major movie project was Interstellar. Thorne was the film's science advisor and an executive producer. His principal current research is an exploration of the nonlinear dynamical behaviors of curved spacetime, using computer simulations and analytical calculations.

Continue reading ""Dark Side of the Universe" --Kip Thorne's Amazing Caltech Gravitational-Wave-LIGO Graphic" »


Image of the Day: Serene Galaxy Hides One of the Most Colossal Black Holes Ever Discovered

 

 

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The placid appearance of NGC 4889 can fool the unsuspecting observer. But the elliptical galaxy, pictured in this new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, harbours a dark secret. At its heart lurks one of the most massive black holes ever discovered.

Continue reading "Image of the Day: Serene Galaxy Hides One of the Most Colossal Black Holes Ever Discovered" »


"A Cataclysmic, Space-Warping Event" --LIGO Team On Their Epic Detection of Gravitational Waves

 

 

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"To me, this detection means that the stars are no longer silent."—Matthew Evans, Assistant Professor of Physics at MIT. To mark the start of a new era of astronomy, three principal researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) reflect on their epic discovery and how it will transform the way we see the cosmos.

Continue reading ""A Cataclysmic, Space-Warping Event" --LIGO Team On Their Epic Detection of Gravitational Waves" »


February 11, 2016

"The Warped Side of the Universe" --Caltech's Kip Thorne on the Discovery of Gravitational Waves (VIDEO)

 

 

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"With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe—objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime. Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples," says Kip Thorne, Caltech's Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus.

Continue reading ""The Warped Side of the Universe" --Caltech's Kip Thorne on the Discovery of Gravitational Waves (VIDEO)" »


Epic Discovery: "Gravitational Waves Detected from Colliding Black Holes" (NASA/LIGO)

 

 

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"With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe—objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime. Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples," says Kip Thorne, Caltech's Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus.

Continue reading "Epic Discovery: "Gravitational Waves Detected from Colliding Black Holes" (NASA/LIGO)" »


"The Supervoid" --Scientists Probe the Cause of the Largest Structure in the Cosmos (Today's Most Popular)

 

 

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At the most distant reaches of the observable universe exists one of the great enigmas of Big Bang cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot. In 2004, astronomers examining a map of the primordial radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky. The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected. Speculation has swirled around the cause of its existence: is it the presence of another universe? Or is it an incorrect interpretation of the CMB data?

Continue reading ""The Supervoid" --Scientists Probe the Cause of the Largest Structure in the Cosmos (Today's Most Popular)" »


February 10, 2016

Japan Launches X-Ray Observatory to Probe Black Hole Physics and Galaxy Clusters

 

 

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On Friday, Feb. 12, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched their sixth satellite dedicated to X-ray astronomy, ASTRO-H, from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan. The observatory carries a state-of-the-art instrument and two telescope mirrors built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Continue reading "Japan Launches X-Ray Observatory to Probe Black Hole Physics and Galaxy Clusters" »


Milky Way's Place in the Cosmos --"New Insights Into the Great Attractor and Dark Energy" (Today's Most Popular)

 

 

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In September 2014, a group of astronomers including R. Brent Tully of the University of Hawaii and Hélène Courtois of the University of Lyon determined that our Milky Way galaxy is part of a newly identified enormous supercluster of galaxies, which they dubbed "Laniakea," 500 million light-years in diameter and containing the mass of one hundred million billion Suns spread across 100,000 galaxies. The discovery clarifies the boundaries of our galactic neighborhood and establishes previously unrecognized linkages among various galaxy clusters in the local Universe.

Continue reading "Milky Way's Place in the Cosmos --"New Insights Into the Great Attractor and Dark Energy" (Today's Most Popular)" »


February 09, 2016

Great Attractor Mystery Solved! --"Hundreds of Galaxies Discovered Hidden Behind the Milky Way"

 

 

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Hundreds of hidden nearby galaxies have been studied for the first time, shedding light on a mysterious gravitational anomaly dubbed the Great Attractor, which appears to be drawing the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies towards it with a gravitational force equivalent to a million billion Suns. Despite being just 250 million light years from Earth--very close in astronomical terms--the new galaxies had been hidden from view until now by our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Continue reading "Great Attractor Mystery Solved! --"Hundreds of Galaxies Discovered Hidden Behind the Milky Way"" »


CERN: "LHC Recreates the Universe Billionths of a Second After the Big Bang"

 

 

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Researchers have recreated the universe's primordial soup in miniature format by colliding lead atoms with extremely high energy in the 27 km long particle accelerator, the LHC at CERN in Geneva. The primordial soup is a so-called quark-gluon plasma  (above) and researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, have measured its liquid properties with great accuracy at the LHC's top energy. The results have been submitted to Physical Review Letters, which is the top scientific journal for nuclear and particle physics.

Continue reading "CERN: "LHC Recreates the Universe Billionths of a Second After the Big Bang"" »


Dwarf Galaxy Observed Disrupting Outer Regions of a Giant Spiral

 

 

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The Silver Dollar galaxy, NGC 253, is a giant, barred spiral galaxy about 70000 light-years long located in the constellation Sculptor, about 13 million light-years from the Milky Way. It is the brightest member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies, and is also one of the intrinsically brighter galaxies around us, surpassed only by the Andromeda galaxy and the Sombrero galaxy. Known for its strong X-ray and gamma-ray emission,NGC 253 probably originated close to the massive black hole at its nucleus. It exhibits a high rate of star formation in both the center and the spiral arms, which has led to the suggestion that a collision with a dwarf galaxy occurred about 200 million years ago.

Continue reading "Dwarf Galaxy Observed Disrupting Outer Regions of a Giant Spiral" »


February 08, 2016

Earth-like Alien Planets --"Will Have Very Similar Interiors" (CfA)

 

 

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Will rocky exoplanets orbiting other stars have the same three layers? New research suggests that the answer is yes - they will have interiors very similar to Earth. "We wanted to see how Earth-like these rocky planets are. It turns out they are very Earth-like," says lead author Li Zeng of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Continue reading "Earth-like Alien Planets --"Will Have Very Similar Interiors" (CfA)" »


Interstellar "Message in a Bottle" --To Be Broadcast This Fall Towards Polaris

 

 

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Messages from around the world are to be beamed into space at the speed of light as part of a cultural project to create a celestial time capsule. In autumn 2016, dispatches from the public will be converted into radio waves and broadcasted towards the North Star, Polaris, this autumn, reaching their destination in 434 years. The interstellar message in a bottle will comprise of people's responses to a single question: how will our present environmental interactions shape the future?

Continue reading "Interstellar "Message in a Bottle" --To Be Broadcast This Fall Towards Polaris" »


"Graveyards of the Universe" --Massive Dead Galaxies Observed (Today's Most Popular)

 

 

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In the local universe, massive galaxies hosting more than about 100 billion stars are predominantly dead elliptical galaxies, that is, without any signs of star-formation activity. Many questions remain on when, how and for how long star formation occurred in such galaxies before the cessation of star formation, as well as what happened since to form the dead elliptical galaxies seen today.

Continue reading ""Graveyards of the Universe" --Massive Dead Galaxies Observed (Today's Most Popular)" »


February 07, 2016

"Unlocking the Cosmos" --China to Trump CERN's Large Hadron Collider (Weekend Feature)

 

 

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The plane's race in on to reveal a new physics beyond the Standard Model and the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism as well as clues to understanding dark matter and supersymmetry, with China's announcement this past fall that it's planning to build an enormous particle accelerator twice the size and seven times as powerful as CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The Standard Model is the collection of theories physicists have derived — and continually revise — to explain the universe and how the tiniest building blocks of our universe interact with one another. Problems with the Standard Model remain to be solved. For example, gravity has not yet been successfully integrated into the framework.

Continue reading ""Unlocking the Cosmos" --China to Trump CERN's Large Hadron Collider (Weekend Feature)" »


February 06, 2016

"Quantum Hell" --The Universe Before the Big Bang (Week's Most Popular)

 

 

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Martin Bojowald, a professor of phycics at Penn State University, presents his fascinating ideas about “Loop Quantum Cosmology” in Once Before Time: A Whole Story of the Universe. "Will we ever," Bojowald asks, "with a precision that meets scientific standards, see the shape of the universe before the big bang? The answer to such questions remains open. We have a multitude of indications and mathematical models for what might have happened. A diverse set of results within quantum gravity has revealed different phenomena important for revealing what happened at the big bang. But for a reliable extrapolation, parameters would be required with a precision far out of reach of current measurement accuracy.

Continue reading ""Quantum Hell" --The Universe Before the Big Bang (Week's Most Popular)" »


February 05, 2016

NASA: Probing Enceladus's Global Ocean --The Most Habitable Spot in the Solar System?

 

 

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NASA's confirmation of the existence of a vast global ocean on Enceladus this past September casts a spotlight on Saturn's icy moon as the most potentially habitable spot beyond Earth in the Solar System for life as we know it. "It has liquid water, organic carbon, nitrogen [in the form of ammonia], and an energy source," said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Besides Earth, he says, "there is no other environment in the Solar System where we can make all those claims."

Continue reading "NASA: Probing Enceladus's Global Ocean --The Most Habitable Spot in the Solar System?" »


Pluto's 'Icebergs' Float in a Sea of Frozen Nitrogen

 

 

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Hills of water ice on Pluto ‘float’ in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean—another example of Pluto’s fascinating geological activity. The nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto appear as isolated hills that may be fragments of water ice from Pluto’s surrounding uplands. These hills individually measure one to several miles or kilometers across, according to images and data from NASA’s New Horizons mission.

Continue reading "Pluto's 'Icebergs' Float in a Sea of Frozen Nitrogen" »


February 04, 2016

NASA's Juno Spacecraft On Course to Jupiter --"1st Probe Beneath the Gas Giant's Obscuring Cloud Cover"

 

 

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NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft, launched from Earth in 2011, will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach.

Continue reading "NASA's Juno Spacecraft On Course to Jupiter --"1st Probe Beneath the Gas Giant's Obscuring Cloud Cover"" »


Starburst Galaxy With Two Supermassive Black Holes --Ripped by Largest Known Superwinds



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NGC 6240, a butterfly-shaped galaxy that is the product of the collision of two smaller galaxies, revealed that the central region of the galaxy (inset shown below) contains not one, but two active giant black holes. NGC 6240 is a prime example of a "starburst" galaxy in which stars are forming, evolving, and exploding at an exceptionally rapid rate due to a relatively recent merger (30 million years ago).

Continue reading "Starburst Galaxy With Two Supermassive Black Holes --Ripped by Largest Known Superwinds" »


February 03, 2016

Earth's Long-Term Temperatures Predictable --"Unless Affected by Human Impact" (NASA/JPL)

 

 

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New evidence may finally help put the chill on skeptics' belief that long-term global warming occurs in an unpredictable manner, independently of external drivers such as human impacts. By examining how Earth cools itself back down after a period of natural warming, a study by scientists at Duke University and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirms that global temperature does not rise or fall chaotically in the long run. Unless pushed by outside forces, temperature should remain stable.

Continue reading "Earth's Long-Term Temperatures Predictable --"Unless Affected by Human Impact" (NASA/JPL)" »


Jupiter and Saturn --"Delivered Components for Life to Form on Earth"

 

 

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Not only is the "Jupiter as shield" concept, implying that the planet shields Earth from comet impacts, not true, but perhaps Jupiter's most important role in fostering the development of life on Earth was just the opposite -- delivering the volatile materials from the outer Solar System needed for life to form. This new simulation study, and the previously underestimated role that Saturn may have also played in the evolution of life on Earth.

Continue reading "Jupiter and Saturn --"Delivered Components for Life to Form on Earth"" »


NASA: "Death Star" Black Hole Shooting a Massive Beam Into Intergalactic Space

 



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The Star Wars franchise has featured the fictitious “Death Star,” which can shoot powerful beams of radiation across space. The Universe, however, produces phenomena that often surpass what science fiction can conjure. The Pictor A galaxy shown above  is one such object. This galaxy, located nearly 500 million light years from Earth, contains a supermassive black hole at its center that releases a huge amount of gravitational energy as material swirls towards the event horizon, the point of no return for infalling material. This energy produces an enormous beam, or jet, of particles traveling at nearly the speed of light into intergalactic space.

Continue reading " NASA: "Death Star" Black Hole Shooting a Massive Beam Into Intergalactic Space" »


Dark Matter Nixed as Source of Massive Bursts from Milky Way's Center

 

 

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"Either we find hundreds or thousands of millisecond pulsars in the upcoming decade, shedding light on the history of the Milky Way, or we find nothing. In the latter case, a dark matter explanation for the gamma ray excess will become much more obvious," says Christoph Weniger from the University of Amsterdam.

Continue reading "Dark Matter Nixed as Source of Massive Bursts from Milky Way's Center" »


"The Flying Saucer" --New Discovery in a Spectacular Star-Forming Region

 

 

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The international team has measured the temperature of large dust grains around the young star 2MASS J16281370-2431391 in the spectacular Rho Ophiuchi star formation region, about 400 light-years from Earth, surrounded by a disc of gas and dust -- such discs are called protoplanetary discs as they are the early stages in the creation of planetary systems. This particular disc is seen nearly edge-on, and its appearance in visible light pictures has led to its being nicknamed the Flying Saucer.

Continue reading " "The Flying Saucer" --New Discovery in a Spectacular Star-Forming Region " »


February 02, 2016

The Blombos Cave --Emergence of Human Culture, Technology, and the Neocortex

 

 

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Blombos Cave in South Africa has given us vast knowledge about our early ancestors, realigning scientific notions of the origins of early modern behavior, pushing back the dates of evidence of sophisticated cognitive actions such as flint working, ritual behaviors and personal decoration some 50,000 years earlier than the cave paintings of Upper Paleolithic Europe.

Continue reading "The Blombos Cave --Emergence of Human Culture, Technology, and the Neocortex" »


"Advanced Alien Life in the Universe May be in It's 'Very Young' Stage" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)

 

 

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Although there may be exo planets billions of years older than Earth, Harvard astronomer Dimitar Sasselov believes that 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 Sasselov, perhaps "the human species are not late comers to the party. We may be among the early ones."

Continue reading ""Advanced Alien Life in the Universe May be in It's 'Very Young' Stage" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)" »


NASA's Mission to Europa's Global Ocean --"Does It Harbor Conditions for Earth-like Life?" (Today's Most Popular)

 

 

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New NASA technology "will be used to support the overarching goal of the Europa mission, which is to understand the prerequisites of life in the solar system," said Sascha Kempf of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, principal investigator on.NASA’s next flagship mission to  explore whether Jupiter’s moon Europa could harbor conditions suitable for life. Previous missions have provided compelling evidence for such conditions on Europa: The moon most likely harbors a global ocean underneath its icy crust; the conditions within the ocean are acceptable for extant terrestrial life; and the chemical inventory of the ocean provides the range of elements essential for Earth-like organisms.

Continue reading "NASA's Mission to Europa's Global Ocean --"Does It Harbor Conditions for Earth-like Life?" (Today's Most Popular)" »


February 01, 2016

At the Edge of the Observable Universe --"The First Galaxy After the Big Bang?" (Today's Most Popular)

 

 

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Astronomers have mapped and measured the cosmos as far as the laws of physics allow to the very edge of the observable universe. Age and distance are vitally connected in any discussion of the universe. The light we see from our Sun takes just eight minutes to reach us, while the light from distant galaxies we see via today’s advanced telescopes travels for billions of years before it reaches us — so we’re seeing what those galaxies looked like billions of years ago. We cannot see beyond the distance light has traveled to Earth since its Big Bang birth. The actual universe could reach far beyond what we can currently observe.

Continue reading "At the Edge of the Observable Universe --"The First Galaxy After the Big Bang?" (Today's Most Popular)" »




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