“The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where did the water that was present on early Mars go, about where did the carbon dioxide go,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. “These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life.”
Continue reading "Maven Mission Nearing Mars Orbit in Search for Clues to Fate of Ancient Oceans" »
Is dark matter the "operating system" of the Universe? Tom Broadhurst, an Ikerbasque researcher at the UPV/EHU's Department of Theoretical Physics, thinks it is. He has participated alongside scientists of the National Taiwan University in a piece of research that explores cold dark matter in depth and proposes new answers about the formation of galaxies and the structure of the Universe. These predictions, published today in the prestigious journal Nature Physics, are being contrasted with fresh data provided by the Hubble space telescope.
Continue reading "Dark Matter as the "OS" of the Universe --"It's a Quantum Fluid Governing the Formation of the Structure of the Cosmos"" »
Theoretical physicists have theorized a possible solution to a longstanding mystery bolstered by the recent discovery of the Higgs boson – a way to preserve the theory of supersymmetry. It was a breakthrough with profound implications for the world as we know it: the Higgs boson, the elementary particle that gives all other particles their mass, discovered at the Large Hadron Collider in 2012. But, for many scientists, it’s only the beginning. When the LHC fires up again in 2015 at its highest-ever collision energy, theorists will be watching with intense interest.
Continue reading ""Hidden Supersymmetry?" --Debate Over a New Physics Intensifies (The Weekend Feature)" »
Galaxies such as our own Milky Way are believed to form over billions of years through the coming together of many smaller galaxies. As a result, it is expected that there should be many smaller dwarf galaxies scattered around the Milky Way. However, very few of these tiny relic galaxies have been observed, which has led astronomers to conclude that many of them must have very few stars or may be made almost exclusively of dark matter.
Continue reading "The Weekend Image: Dwarf Dark-Matter Galaxy 10 Billion Light Years from Earth" »
“Dark matter is there,” says says Paolo Zuccon, an assistant professor of physics at MIT. “We just don’t know what it is. AMS has the possibility to shine a light on its features. We see some hint now, and it is within our possibility to say if that hint is true.”
“The new phenomena could be evidence for the long-sought dark matter in the universe, or it could be due to some other equally exciting new science,” says Barry Barish, a professor emeritus of physics and high-energy physics at the California Institute of Technology., who was not involved in the experiments. “In either case, the observation in itself is what is exciting; the scientific explanation will come with further experimentation.”
Continue reading ""Cosmic Particles Detected that May Come from a New Unknown Source" --MIT Dark-Matter Team" »
Massive galaxies in the Universe have stopped making their own stars and are instead cannibalising nearby galaxies, according to research by Australian scientists. Astronomers looked at more than 22,000 galaxies and found that while smaller galaxies were very efficient at creating stars from gas, the most massive galaxies were much less efficient at star formation, producing hardly any new stars themselves, and instead grew by eating other galaxies.
Continue reading ""Gravity will Eventually Create a Universe with Only a Few Mega-Galaxies"" »
The DNA of every organism on Earth is a right-handed double helix, but why that would be has puzzled scientists since not long after Francis Crick and James Watson announced the discovery of DNA's double-helical structure in 1953. It's a puzzle because no one has been able to think of a fundamental reason why DNA couldn't also be left-handed.
Continue reading "Cosmic Puzzle Solved? --"Why Every Organism on Earth is a Right-handed Double Helix"" »
Astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground observation have found an unlikely object in an improbable place -- a monster black hole lurking inside one of the tiniest galaxies ever known. “That is pretty amazing, given that the Milky Way is 500 times larger and more than 1,000 times heavier than the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1,” said Anil Seth, a University of Utah astronomer.
Continue reading "New Hubble Discovery --Supermasssive Black Hole at Center of a Dwarf Galaxy 1/500th Size of Milky Way" »
An international research has made surprising observations that most galaxy collisions in the nearby Universe — within 40 million light-years from Earth — result in so-called disc galaxies. Disc galaxies — including spiral galaxies like the Milky Way and lenticular galaxies — are defined by pancake-shaped regions of dust and gas, and are distinct from the category of elliptical galaxies.
Continue reading "Origins of Spiral Galaxies --The Result of Colossal Cosmic Collisions?" »
NGC 2683 is a spiral galaxy seen almost edge-on, giving it the shape of a classic science fiction spaceship, which is why the astronomers at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory, Cocoa, Fla., gave it this nickname. This barred spiral is receding from Earth at 410 km/s (250 mi/s), and from the Galactic Center at 375 km/s. The reddened light from the center of the galaxy appears yellowish due to the intervening gas and dust located within the outer arms.
Continue reading "Image of the Day --"The UFO Galaxy"" »
“Humankind hasn't had an experience like this--an encounter with a new planet--in a long time,” he Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. “Everything we see on Pluto will be a revelation.” One of the fastest spacecraft ever built -- NASA's New Horizons -- which is fast approaching Pluto's tiny moon, Hydra, is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its unexplored destination.
Continue reading "New Horizon Spacecraft Racing Towards the "Unexplored Planet" --"Could Have Astrobiological Potential"" »
Conditions on Earth for the first 500 million years after it formed may have been surprisingly similar to the present day, complete with oceans, continents and active crustal plates. This alternate view of Earth’s first geologic eon, called the Hadean, has gained substantial new support from the first detailed comparison of zircon crystals that formed more than 4 billion years ago with those formed contemporaneously in Iceland, which has been proposed as a possible geological analog for early Earth.
Continue reading "Early Earth's Hadean Era --"Surprising Similar to Today --With Oceans, Continents and Tectonic Plates"" »
“If the Sun were less intense, Mercury would be within the habitable zone, and therefore life would have to adapt to strange light cycles,” said Sarah Brown, an astrobiologist at the United Kingdom Center for Astrobiology in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mercury has an oddball orbit — it takes longer for it to rotate on its axis and complete a day than it takes to orbit the sun and complete a year. Researchers suggest photosynthesis could take place on an alien planet with a similarly bizarre orbit, potentially helping support complex life.
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There is an ongoing drama in the Saturnian ring system that causes small moons to be born and then destroyed on time scales that are but an eyeblink in the history of the solar system. SETI Institute scientists Robert French and Mark Showalter have examined photos made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and compared them to 30 year-old pictures made by the Voyager mission. They find that there is a marked difference in the appearance of one of the rings, even over this cosmologically short interval, a difference that can be explained by the brief strut and fret of small moons.
Continue reading "Mystery of Missing Bright Spots in Saturn's Rings --Solved by New Cassini Pics" »
Over the history of the Earth, billions of football-sized rocks have landed on its surface, some only slightly heated by the launch, reaching Earth in a matter of a few months. Recent research on lunar rocks discovered in Antarctica has shown that rocks greater than 10 kilograms in mass could be ejected from terrestrial planets -rocks capable of carrying living microbes- and survive the searing violence of the launch.
Continue reading "1.3 Billion-Year-Old Mars Meteorite --"New Evidence of Possibility of Life on Mars?"" »
At a public lecture Einstein gave in Pittsburgh in 1934, four hundred students were present when Einstein mathematically derived his famous mass-energy equivalence equation: E=mc2. This is thought to be the only surviving photo that shows Einstein working on that derivation, pulled from a halftone newspaper clipping by David Topper and Dwight Vincent of the University of Winnipeg, who discovered it in 2007.
Continue reading "The Only Existing Photo of Einstein Blackboarding His E=MC2 Formula (Weekend Feature)" »
Around 12,800 years ago, a sudden, catastrophic event plunged much of the Earth into a period of cold climatic conditions and drought. This drastic climate change—the Younger Dryas—coincided with the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna, such as the saber-tooth cats and the mastodon, and resulted in major declines in prehistoric human populations, including the termination of the Clovis culture. A new study published in The Journal of Geology provides support for the theory that a cosmic impact event over North America some 13,000 years ago caused a major period of climate change known as the Younger Dryas stadial, or “Big Freeze.”
Continue reading "Extraterrestrial Impact Event Cause of "Big Freeze" 12,000 Years Ago" »
Planet Venus, with its thick atmosphere made of carbon dioxide, its parched surface, and pressures so high that landers are crushed within a few hours, offers scientists a chance to study a planet very foreign to our own. Mysterious holes in the planet's ionosphere provide additional clues to understanding Venus's atmosphere, how the planet interacts with the constant onslaught of solar wind from the sun, and perhaps even what's lurking deep in its core.
Continue reading "Gigantic Holes in Venus's Hellish Atmosphere Provides Clues to Long-Standing Enigmas" »
Astronomers searching the atmospheres of alien worlds for gases that might be produced by life can't rely on the detection of just one type, such as oxygen, ozone, or methane, because in some cases these gases can be produced non-biologically, according to extensive simulations by researchers in the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory.
Continue reading "NASA Simulates Alien-Planet Atmospheres that Indicate Biological Activity" »
Kepler researchers want to understand how terrestrial planets like Venus, Earth and Mars and gas giant planets like Jupiter are distributed in planetary systems around other stars. Understanding how planetary systems form and where different types of planets form can shed light on whether our solar system is unique, or more likely, is a "standard" form of planetary system formation.
Continue reading ""Is Our Solar System Unique or the 'Standard'?" --Kepler Mission Scientists " »
Quasars are supermassive black holes that live at the center of distant massive galaxies. They shine as the most luminous beacons in the sky across the entire electromagnetic spectrum by rapidly accreting matter into their gravitationally inescapable centers. New work from Carnegie’s Hubble Fellow Yue Shen and Luis Ho of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) at Peking University solves a quasar mystery that astronomers have been puzzling over for 20 years. Their work, published in the September 11 issue of Nature, shows that most observed quasar phenomena can be unified with two simple quantities: one that describes how efficiently the hole is being fed, and the other that reflects the viewing orientation of the astronomer.
Continue reading "Quasar Mystery Solved --"Clues to Understanding Cosmic Growth of Supermassive Black Holes"" »
The question of how massive stars spend their short lives until they become supernovae is of great interest for astrophysicists. According to the standard theory, which is only applicable to isolated stars, only cool and extended (red supergiants) or hot and blue (Wolf-Rayet stars) are able to become supernovae. However, growing evidence suggests that most massive stars are not lonely singles but they belong to close binary systems with profuse interactions. Episodes of mass transfer between the members of binary star systems affect the way the stars evolve, meaning that there are a great many more potential scenarios for the final stages of supernova progenitors.
Continue reading "Supernova Puzzle Solved --"The Disappearing Yellow Supergiant"" »
A new survey of galaxies by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is taking a plunge into the deep and uncharted waters of our cosmos. In one of the longest surveys the telescope will have ever performed, astronomers have begun a three-month expedition trawling for faint galaxies billions of light-years away. The results are already yielding big surprises.
Continue reading "New NASA Team Spots Massive Galaxies at the Very Edge of the Visible Universe" »
"Understanding organic dust is important, because such materials are more resistant to destruction during atmospheric entry, and some could have been delivered intact to the early Earth, thereby fueling the emergence of life,” said Michael Mumma, director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology and a co-author on the study. "These observations open a new window on this poorly known component of cometary organics."
Continue reading ""Ghostly Organic Atmospheres of Comets Fueled the Emergence of Life" --Goddard Center for Astrobiology" »
The Milky Way galaxy is orbited by more than 150 globular star clusters, which are balls of hundreds of thousands of old stars dating back to the formation of the galaxy. One of these, along with several others in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), was found in the late eighteenth century by the French comet hunter Charles Messier and given the designation Messier 54.
Continue reading "A Mystery of the Early Universe --"The Missing Element"" »
Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Plate tectonics are essential to life as we know it, according to Diana Valencia of Harvard University. Plate tectonics -the movement of huge chunks, or plates, of a planet's surface- are crucial to a planet's habitability because they enable complex chemistry and recycle substances like carbon dioxide, which acts as a thermostat and keeps Earth balmy. Carbon dioxide that was locked into rocks is released when those rocks melt, returning to the atmosphere from volcanoes and oceanic ridges. "Recycling is important even on a planetary scale," Valencia explained.
Continue reading "Shifting Surface of Jupiter's Europa: 1st Evidence Discovered of Plate Tectonics --A Key to Life?" »
The 2020 Mars rover has the overarching goal of seeking the signs of life, following up on the Curiosity rover's discovery at the Gale Crater landing site (above) that Mars could have been habitable billions of years ago. So the focus of the NASA science community is: Where would be the best place on Mars where evidence of life might have been preserved, according to Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for the Mars program. NASA officials have identified more than 50 potential landing spots requested by the scientific community during a workshop held in May. Now, NASA officials working with the rover are going to start investigating those suggestions to see which will be the best fit for the spacecraft and its mission, specifically an area that isn't too rocky or high in altitude.
Continue reading "The 2020 MARS Rover --"NASA's Most Sophisticated Search for Signs of Life"" »
A team of scientists At the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile has discovered the first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own Solar System. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets -- Jupiter, Saturn (above), Uranus, and Neptune -- but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now.
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"Sunspots have been the perennial marker for understanding the mechanisms that rule the sun's interior," said Scott McIntosh, a space scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "But the processes that make sunspots are not well understood, and far less, those that govern their migration and what drives their movement. Now we can see there are bright points in the solar atmosphere, which act like buoys anchored to what's going on much deeper down. They help us develop a different picture of the interior of the sun."
Continue reading "Space Scientists Decipher Long-standing Mysteries of Sunspot Cycles" »