There may be a suite of organic chemical reactions occurring in interstellar space that astronomers haven't considered. In 2012, astronomers discovered methoxy molecules containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the Perseus molecular cloud, around 600 light years from Earth. But researchers were unable to reproduce this molecule in the lab by allowing reactants to condense on dust grains, leaving a mystery as to how it could have formed.
Continue reading "Organic Chemical Reactions in Interstellar Space --"Created by Quantum Weirdness" (Weekend Feature)" »
“We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet. Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted,” said Courtney Dressing of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Since red dwarf stars live much longer than Sun-like stars, this raises the interesting possibility that life on such a planet would be much older and more evolved than life on Earth.
Continue reading ""Life on Planets of Red Dwarf Stars May Be More Evolved than on Earth"" »
A NASA astrophysicist has confirmed the existence of giant convection cells –approximately 200,000 kilometers in diameter — flowing slowly on the sun, lending further insight into the transport of heat from its core and the origin of cycles of sunspot activity that affect essential satellite-based communications such as cell phones and TV broadcasting.
Continue reading "Origin of Sunspot Cycles Observed --"Flow of Massive Convection Cells 200,000 Kilometers in Diameter"" »
David Deutsch, a pioneer of quantum computing and a physicist at Oxford, came up with a simplified model of time travel to deal with the paradoxes that would occur if one could travel back in time. For example, would it be possible to travel back in time to kill one’s grandfather? In the Grandfather paradox, a time traveler faces the problem that if he kills his grandfather back in time, then he himself is never born, and consequently is unable to travel through time to kill his grandfather, and so on. Some theorists have used this paradox to argue that it is actually impossible to change the past.
Continue reading "New Theory of Quantum Time Travel --"Could We Clone the Past?"" »
"I think of Ceres actually as a game changer in the Solar System," said Britney Schmidt, science team liaison for the Dawn Mission. "Ceres is arguably the only one of its kind. "Ceres is like the gatekeeper to the history of water in the middle solar system."
Continue reading "Dwarf Planet Ceres --"Gatekeeper to the History of Water in the Solar System"" »
Weighing in at 11 times Jupiter's mass and orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance, planet HD 106906 b is unlike anything in our own Solar System and throws a wrench in planet formation theories. An international team of astronomers, led by a University of Arizona graduate student, has discovered the most distantly orbiting planet found to date around a single, sun-like star.
Continue reading "Odd Planet Found --"Unlike Anything in Our Solar System"" »
Join the 289,000 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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Researchers sequenced the mitochondrial genome of a 400,000-year-old hominin from Sima de los Huesos, the “bone pit”, is a cave site in Northern Spain that has yielded the world’s largest assembly of Middle Pleistocene hominin fossils. Using novel techniques to extract and study ancient DNA researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, determined an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-old representative of the genus Homo and found that it is related to the mitochondrial genome of Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neandertals in Asia. DNA this old has until recently been retrieved only from the permafrost.
Continue reading "400,000-Year-Old Human Ancestor DNA Sequenced --"Shows Link to Extinct Relatives of Neanderthals"" »
Newly released research has identified the existence of a giant cosmic accelerator above the Earth--a natural space "synchrotron accelerator" has scales of hundreds of thousands of kilometers, dwarfing even the largest man-made similar accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which has a circumference of only 27 kilometres.
Continue reading "Colossal Cosmic Accelerator Discovered Hovering Above Earth" »
Scientists believe Jupiter's moon, Europa, is one of the planetary bodies in our solar system most likely to have conditions that could sustain life, an idea reinforced by magnetometer readings from the Galileo spacecraft detecting signs of a salty, global ocean below the moon’s icy shell.
Continue reading "Europa's Ocean Currents Shape Potential Biological Life Zones (News Update)" »
Using the powerful eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets. The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.
Continue reading "Subtle Signals of Water Detected on Five Alien Worlds" »
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived. Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
Continue reading "Quantum ‘Spooky Action’ Creates Wormhole Between Entangled Particles" »
Astronomers have spotted what appear to be two supermassive black holes at the heart of a remote galaxy, circling each other like dance partners. The incredibly rare sighting was made with the help of NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.
Continue reading "Death Spiral of Merging Supermassive Black Holes " »
At the second Kepler Science Conference, held early this month, scientists discussed the latest findings resulting from the analysis of Kepler Space Telescope data, which includes the discovery of 833 new candidate planets. Ten of these candidates are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's habitable zone, which is defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for liquid water.
Continue reading "Super-Earths in Habitable Zones --Astronomers Zoom in on Planets' Dynamics and Climate" »
After several days of continued observations, scientists continue to work to determine and to understand the fate of Comet ISON: There's no doubt that the comet shrank in size considerably as it rounded the sun and there's no doubt that something made it out on the other side to shoot back into space. The question remains as to whether the bright spot seen moving away from the sun was simply debris, or whether a small nucleus of the original ball of ice was still there. Regardless, it is likely that it is now only dust.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: The Death of Comet ISON (VIDEO)" »
Until now, scientists were pretty sure they knew how the surface of a neutron star – a super dense star that forms when a large star explodes and its core collapses into itself – can heat itself up. Scientists had long thought that nuclear reactions within the crust, the thick, solid, outermost layer of the star, contributed to the heating of the star's surface. However, writing in the journal Nature, Hendrik Schatz, a Michigan State University physicist and colleagues report results from theoretical calculations that identify previously unknown layers where nuclear reactions within the crust cause rapid neutrino cooling. Neutrinos are elementary particles created through radioactive decay that pass quickly through matter.
Continue reading "The Mystery of Neutron Stars Deepens --"Strange, Alien Form of Matter Found at Core"" »
China launched its first ever extraterrestrial landing craft the Yutu or Jade Rabbit buggy-— a solar-powered, six-wheeled vehicle similar to ones the United States has sent to Mars- into orbit. Chang'e-3 lunar probe blasted off on board an enhanced Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China's southwestern Sichuan province at 1:30 am (1730 GMT). In two weeks, when the landing vehicle is scheduled to descend on the moon and release the Jade Rabbit, or Yutu, robotic rover to start sending back data and pictures from Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, a basaltic plain formed from lava that filled a crater.
Continue reading "China Launches 1st Moon Rover Mission to Search Out Natural Resources --"Does It Include Helium-3?" (LAUNCH VIDEO)" »
India's Mars orbiter mission left its Earth orbit early Sunday after it fired its main engine for more than 20 minutes to reach the correct velocity to put it on track to orbit the red planet. "The Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended. The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the sun," the Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organization said. The 3,000-pound Mangalyaan, which means "Mars craft" in Hindi, will journey 485 million miles over 300 days to reach an orbit around Mars next September.
Continue reading "India's Mars Mission En Route to Find Clues to Methane and Ancient Water Enigmas" »
The glorious pyrotechnics of the "Northern Lights" get their start about 93 million miles away, on the sun. An aurora borealis (aurora australis in the Southern Hemisphere) is precipitated by explosions on the surface of the sun, sometimes starting as solar flares, according to Robert Nemiroff, an astrophysicist at Michigan Technological University.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: A Spectacular Meteor Streaking Through the Aurora Borealis" »
A team of European astrophysicists has discovered the most extensive planetary system to date that orbit star KOI-351 – with seven planets, more than in other known planetary systems arranged in a similar fashion to the eight planets in the Solar System, with small rocky planets close to the parent star and gas giant planets at greater distances. Although the planetary system around KOI-351 is packed together more tightly, “We cannot stress just how important this discovery is. It is a big step in the search for a ‘twin’ to the Solar System, and thus also in finding a second Earth,” said Juan Cabrera, an astrophysicist at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof.
Continue reading "New Star System Similar to Ours --“We Cannot Stress Just How Important This Discovery Is"" »
"It now looks like some chunk of ISON's nucleus has indeed made it through the solar corona, and re-emerged," said Karl Battams, a comet scientist for the Naval Research Laboratory after ISON swept about 730,000 miles over the sun's surface Thursday about 2 p.m. ET. "It's throwing off dust and (probably) gas, but we don't know how long it can sustain that. Now it has emerged and started to brighten, we need to observe it for a few days to get a feel for its behavior."
Continue reading "ISON's Nucleus Survives Journey Through Sun's Corona (NASA VIDEO)" »
During an epoch of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens (modern humans) evolved in Africa. Several leading scientists are asking: Is the human species entering a new evolutionary, post-biological inflection point? Paul Davies, a British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative at Arizona State University, says that any aliens exploring the universe will be AI-empowered machines. Not only are machines better able to endure extended exposure to the conditions of space, but they have the potential to develop intelligence far beyond the capacity of the human brain.
Continue reading ""Biological Intelligence is a Fleeting Phase in the Evolution of the Universe" (Holiday Weekend Feature)" »
"Humans obviously evolved a much wider range of communication tools to express their thoughts, the most important being language," said John Hoffecker, a fellow at the University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. "Individual human brains within social groups became integrated into a neurologic Internet of sorts, giving birth to the mind."
Continue reading ""The Human 'Super Brain' Emerged 75,000 Years Ago" --New Insights (Holiday Weekend Feature)" »
"Exactly how intermediate-sized black holes would form remains an open issue," said Dominic Walton of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "Some theories suggest they could form in rich, dense clusters of stars through repeated mergers, but there are a lot of questions left to be answered." NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is busy scrutinizing a class of black holes that may fall into the proposed medium-sized category.
Continue reading "Astronomers Search for Elusive, 'Hidden' Intermediate Black Holes" »
Astronomers think that the Milky Way was originally a pure disc of stars which formed a flat bar billions of years ago. The inner part of this then buckled to form the three-dimensional peanut shape seen in new observations.
Continue reading "Odd Orbits of Stars at Milky Way's X-Shaped Central Bulge" »
Life originated as a result of natural processes that exploited early Earth's raw materials. Scientific models of life's origins almost always look to minerals for such essential tasks as the synthesis of life's molecular building blocks or the supply of metabolic energy, which assumes that the mineral species found on Earth today are much the same as they were during Earth's first 550 million years--the Hadean Eon--when life emerged. A new analysis of Hadean mineralogy challenges that assumption.
Continue reading "Minerals Present When Life Emerged in Hadean Eon Vastly Different Than Today" »
When a star explodes as a supernova, it shines brightly for a few weeks or months before fading away. Yet the material blasted outward from the explosion still glows hundreds or thousands of years later, forming a picturesque supernova remnant. What powers such long-lived brilliance? In the case of Tycho's supernova remnant, astronomers have discovered that a reverse shock wave racing inward at Mach 1000 (1000 times the speed of sound) is heating the remnant and causing it to emit X-ray light.
Continue reading "Cosmic "Sonic Boom" Brightens Tycho's Supernova --Its Light Reached Earth in 1572" »
Astrobiologist David Grinspoon believes that scientists should look at our neighboring planets to help understand the perils of global warming. “It seems that both Mars and Venus started out much more like Earth and then changed. They both hold priceless climate information for Earth."
Continue reading "Venus' "Once Earth-like Atmosphere" --New NASA Probe to Explore Its Mysteries" »
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." Yet, If life does exist anywhere else in the universe, it may only be fleeting. Scientists are now to research how signs of life might look on dying planets. Astronomers have discovered hundreds of distant alien planets in the past two decades. Future missions could detect potential signs of life called biosignatures on those worlds, such as oxygen or methane in their atmospheres.
Continue reading ""Life on Alien Planets May Only Be Fleeting" --The New Search for ET Biosignatures" »
ISON! "The "Comet of the Century," first spotted in our skies in September 2012,has brightened brilliantly in the last few days as it nears its Nov. 28 close encounter with the sun. If it survives the heat, radiation and gravity of the Sun (which could cause it to disintegrate) there may be more chances to see it as it moves away from the sun, back toward where its origins in the distant Oort cloud far beyond the edge of our solar system.
Continue reading ""Comet of the Century" --A Blazing ISON on Its Approach to the Sun (Will It Survive the Encounter?)" »