Researchers from Brown University have completed a new analysis of an ancient Martian lake system in Jezero Crater, near the planet’s equator. The study finds that the onslaught of water that filled the crater was one of at least two separate periods of water activity in the region surrounding Jezero.
Continue reading " Ancient Paleo-Lake Identified at Mars' Jezero Crater -- Could Reveal Biologic or Organic Material" »
Star formation takes place in cold, dense molecular clouds. By heating and dispersing gas that could one day make stars, the black-hole wind forever alters a large portion of its galaxy. By combining observations from the Japan-led Suzaku X-ray satellite and the European Space Agency's infrared Herschel Space Observatory, scientists have connected a fierce "wind" produced near a galaxy's monster black hole to an outward torrent of cold gas a thousand light-years across. The finding validates a long-suspected feedback mechanism enabling a supermassive black hole to influence the evolution of its host galaxy.
Continue reading "The Starmaker --Fierce Colossal Winds of a Galaxy's Supermassive Black Hole" »
On Earth, bursts of particles spewed by the Sun spark shimmering auroras, like the Northern Lights, that briefly dance at our planet’s poles. But, on Jupiter, there’s an auroral glow all the time, and new observations show that this Jovian display sometimes flares up because of a process having nothing to do with the Sun.
Continue reading "Jupiter's Explosive Ever-Present Polar Lights --Many Times Size of the Earth" »
It's almost a rite of passage in physics and astronomy. Scientists spend years scrounging up money to build a fantastic new instrument. Then, when the long-awaited device finally approaches completion, the panic begins: How will they handle the torrent of data?
Continue reading " "Hacking the Cosmos" --New Systems Able to Process Square Kilometer Array Data Tsunami" »
In a few months, the Craters, mountains and other landforms of Pluto will take shape before our eyes. When New Horizons flies past Pluto in July, we will see a new, alien landscape in stark detail. At that point, we will have a lot to talk about. The only way we can talk about it is if those features, whatever they turn out to be, have names.
Continue reading "Naming the Mysterious Features of Pluto and Charon --"An Open Invitation to the World Community"" »
Long before Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars formed, it seems that the inner solar system may have harbored a number of super-Earths--planets larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. If so, those planets are long gone--broken up and fallen into the sun billions of years ago largely due to a great inward-and-then-outward journey that Jupiter made early in the solar system's history.
Continue reading "Did Our Early Solar System Harbor Super-Earths? -- "Earth Belongs to a 2nd Generation of Planets"" »
New observations made with APEX and other telescopes reveal that the star that European astronomers saw appear in the sky in 1670 was not a nova, but a much rarer, violent breed of stellar collision. It was spectacular enough to be easily seen with the naked eye during its first outburst, but the traces it left were so faint that very careful analysis using submillimetre telescopes was needed before the mystery could finally be unraveled more than 340 years later.
Continue reading "Mystery Solved! Rare Stellar Collision Observed in 1670" »
A chance discovery by a team of researchers, including a University of York scientist, has provided experimental evidence that stars may generate sound. The study of fluids in motion -- now known as hydrodynamics -- goes back to the Egyptians, so it is not often that new discoveries are made. However when examining the interaction of an ultra-intense laser with a plasma target, the team observed something unexpected.
Continue reading ""Cosmic Music?" --Discovery: Stars May Generate Sound" »
A 400 kilometer-wide impact zone from a huge meteorite that broke in two moments before it slammed into the Earth has been found in Central Australia. The crater from the impact millions of years ago has long disappeared. But a team of geophysicists has found the twin scars of the impacts - the largest impact zone ever found on Earth - hidden deep in the earth's crust.
Continue reading ""The Missing Extinction Event" --Earth's Largest Known Asteroid Impact Zone Discovered in Australia" »
"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.”
Continue reading "Pulsars Imploding Into Black Holes --"May Unveil Secrets of Dark Matter"" »
A's comet probe Rosetta has for the first time ever measured nitrogen gas at a comet, providing clues to the early stages of the formation of our solar system. Molecular nitrogen, N2, is the major molecule in the atmosphere of Earth and is also present in the atmospheres and the surfaces of Pluto and Neptune's moon Triton. It also is thought to have been the dominant form of nitrogen in the early nebula from which our solar system emerged. Martin Rubin from the Physics Institute at the University of Bern and his team were now able to measure this "most wanted molecule," as Rubin calls it, in the coma, the atmosphere, of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Continue reading "Rosetta Probe Reveals Key Molecule from Early Nebula Origin of Solar System" »
"Dust itself is very important because it's the stuff that forms stars and planets, like the sun and Earth, respectively, so to know where it comes from is an important question," said Ryan Lau, Cornell postdoctoral associate for astronomy. "Our work strongly reinforces the theory that supernovae are producing the dust seen in galaxies of the early universe," he said.
Continue reading "Ancient Supernova Dust Factory Observed at Milky Way Center --"Building Block of the Universe"" »
More than a million young stars are forming in a hot, dusty cloud of molecular gases in a tiny galaxy near our own, an international team of astronomers has discovered. The star cluster is buried within a supernebula in a dwarf galaxy known as NGC 5253, in the constellation Centaurus. The cluster has one billion times the luminosity of our sun, but is invisible in ordinary light, hidden by its own hot gases.
Continue reading "Amazing Luminous Star Cluster Inside a Supernova in a Tiny Dwarf Galaxy " »
Overpopulation, the greenhouse effect, warming temperatures and overall climate disruption are all well recognized as a major threat to the ecology and biodiversity of the Earth. The issue of mankind's negative impact on the environment, albeit hotly debated and continuously present in the public eye, still only leads to limited policy action. Nature is us, and responding to the Anthropocene means building a culture that grows with the Earth's biological wealth instead of depleting it.
Continue reading "The Anthropocene Epoch: "How We Became Nature"" »
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories' Z machine, the most powerful deliverer of bursts of electrical energy in the world, have helped untangle a long-standing mystery of astrophysics: why iron is found spattered throughout Earth's mantle, the roughly 2,000-mile thick region between Earth's core and its crust.
Continue reading ""Iron Rain Fell on Early Earth" --Gravity Seeded Our Iron Deposits vs the Moon" »
Discussions at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, of icy volcanism on Ceres have led to speculation that the dwarf planet may potentially be habitable. Although Ceres does not have an atmosphere, life might exist in a subsurface ocean, similar to those thought to be on Jupiter's Europa or Saturn's Enceladus.
Continue reading "The Mystery of Ceres' White Spots --"Could the Dwarf Planet be Habitable?"" »
"In these 31 planetary systems that were close to the habitable zone, our calculations showed that there was an average of two planets in the habitable zone" says Steffen Kjær Jacobsen with the research group Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen."According to the statistics and the indications we have, a good share of the planets in the habitable zone will be solid planets where there might be liquid water and where life could exist."
Continue reading ""Alien Solar Systems Harbor an Average of Two Habitable Planets"" »
Scientists have produced a new map of the Moon's most unusual volcano (above) showing that its explosive eruption spread debris over an area much greater than previously thought. A team of astronomers and geologists, led by experts in the Institute for Computational Cosmology and Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University, UK, studied an area of the lunar surface in the Compton-Belkovich Volcanic Complex. The red region (approximately 35km in diameter) is the volcanic complex and the green area is that containing the radioactive debris from the volcano's eruption, which stretches 300 kilometers to the east.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: Moon's Most Unusual Volcano More Massive than Thought" »
In Hollywood blockbusters, explosions are often among the stars of the show. In space, explosions of actual stars are a focus for scientists who hope to better understand their births, lives, and deaths and how they interact with their surroundings. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have studied one particular explosion that may provide clues to the dynamics of other, much larger stellar eruptions.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: GK Persei --Mini Nova Exploded Outward 90 Billion Miles in 13 Years" »
The Higgs boson is an essential ingredient of the Standard Model of particle physics, the theory that describes all known elementary particles and their interactions. The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, through which the existence of the Higgs boson was predicted, is believed to give mass to all elementary particles. It is the most precise measurement of the Higgs boson mass yet and among the most precise measurements performed at the LHC to date.
Continue reading "The Higgs Boson --"The Study of Its Properties has Just Begun"" »
To spot the tint of Earth, alien astronomers from Andromeda might measure light shimmering off the surface of a planet, as sunlight reflected from our planet's vegetation reaches their telescopes. Conversely, astronomers here can see pigmentation on exoplanets and determine their makeup by looking at their color.
Continue reading "How Would Alien Astronomers from Andromeda Detect Life On Earth?" »
There are only five bodies in our solar system that are known to bear rings. The most obvious is the planet Saturn; to a lesser extent, rings of gas and dust also encircle Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. The fifth member of this haloed group is Chariklo, one of a class of minor planets called centaurs: small, rocky bodies that possess qualities of both asteroids and comets.
Continue reading "Ringed Centaur Found Between Jupiter and Pluto" »
New Desktop Application Has Potential to Increase Asteroid Detection, Now Available to Public
Asteroid Data Hunter. NASA's Asteroid Data Hunter contest series was part of NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge, which is focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them. A software application based on an algorithm created by a NASA challenge has the potential to increase the number of new asteroid discoveries by amateur astronomers. Analysis of images taken of our solar system’s main belt asteroids between Mars and Jupiter using the algorithm showed a 15 percent increase in positive identification of new asteroids.
Continue reading ""It Came from Outer Space" --Crowdsourcing Asteroids Via "The NASA Challenge"" »
Sulfide chondrules, a new type of building blocks discovered in meteorites left over from the solar system's infancy, provide evidence for a previously unknown region in the protoplanetary disk that gave rise to the planets including Earth.
Continue reading "Previously Unknown Region from Dawn of Solar System Gave Rise to Earth, Mars, Venus" »
Astronomers have determined that our own Milky Way galaxy is part of a newly identified ginormous supercluster of galaxies, which they have dubbed "Laniakea," which means "immense heaven" in Hawaiian. This discovery clarifies the boundaries of our galactic neighborhood and establishes previously unrecognized linkages among various galaxy clusters in the local Universe.The Milky Way resides in the outskirts of the supercluster, whose extent has for the first time been carefully mapped using these new techniques. This so-called Laniakea Supercluster is 500 million light-years in diameter and contains the mass of one hundred million billion Suns spread across 100,000 galaxies.
Continue reading "The Great Attractor --"Exists Within an Immense Supercluster of 100,000 Galaxies" (Weekend Feature)" »
In 1969, the astrophysicists Rashid Sunyaev and Yakov Zel'dovich realized that the then recently discovered cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) would be distorted by hot cosmic gas. Hot electrons in the intergalactic medium preferentially scatter the light in one direction, causing a change in the brightness of the CMBR towards clusters of galaxies where electrons should be abundant. They showed that the effect would reveal the large-scale structure of the universe, the nature of the CMBR, cosmological parameters like the Hubble constant, and physical conditions in galaxy clusters.
Continue reading "Weak Signal from Big Bang's Cosmic Background Radiation --A Mystery" »
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has measured a curious abundance of methane spewing into the atmosphere of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. A team of American and French scientists published findings in Geophysical Research Letters suggesting two scenarios that could explain the methane abundance observed in the plumes.
Continue reading "Enceladus's Methane Saturated Geysers --Hint of Early Earth's Oceans Where Life Formed" »