"There have been hints for a while now that maybe something else is going on," says Stanford's Kavli Foundation Deputy Director John Carlstrom, who leads two other experiments that study the universe's first light. "Maybe we need to… allow some new physics in there. Maybe there are more neutrinos. Maybe they're more massive than we thought. Or maybe it's something none of us have thought of yet."
Continue reading "Fossil Signal from the Earliest Moments of the Universe Reveals New Unknowns --Does It Point to a New Physics?" »
What if spacetime were a kind of fluid? This is the question tackled by theoretical physicists working on quantum gravity by creating models attempting to reconcile gravity and quantum mechanics. Some of these models predict that spacetime at the Planck scale (10-33cm) is no longer continuous – as held by classical physics – but discrete in nature. Just like the solids or fluids we come into contact with every day, which can be seen as made up of atoms and molecules when observed at sufficient resolution. A structure of this kind generally implies, at very high energies, violations of Einstein's special relativity (a integral part of general relativity).
Continue reading ""Spacetime is an Emerging Phenomenon" --Does It Violate Einstein's Special Relativity?" »
“Whether we are an extremely rare fluke — a phenomenon that only happens once in a universe — or in a galaxy teeming with life is a very basic question not only of science, but of our existence,” said Dimitar Sasselov, a planetary astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the discovery. It’s “the first time in human history we have a good shot at answering that question, and that’s very exciting.”
Continue reading "NASA's Scientists' Insights on Kepler-Mision Discovery of 1st Earth-Sized Planet in Habitable Zone" »
The universe we can see is made up of thousands of millions of galaxies, each containing anywhere from hundreds of thousands to hundreds of billions of stars. Large numbers of galaxies are elliptical in shape, red and mostly made up of old stars. Another (more familiar) type is the spiral, where arms wind out in a blue thin disk from a central red bulge. On average stars in spiral galaxies tend to be much younger than those in ellipticals. Now a group of astronomers has found a (relatively) simple relationship between the color of a galaxy and the size of its bulge: the more massive the bulge, the redder the galaxy. Big bulges mean big black holes and these can put an end to star formation.
Continue reading "Red Galaxies Revealed to Have Massive Central Bulges and Black Holes" »
For decades, scientists believed that the atmosphere of early Earth was highly reduced, meaning that oxygen was greatly limited. Such oxygen-poor conditions would have resulted in an atmosphere filled with noxious methane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia. To date, there remain widely held theories and studies of how life on Earth may have been built out of this deadly atmosphere cocktail.
Continue reading "Earth's Early Atmosphere --New Clues to Origin of Life on Earth and Beyond (Today's Most Popular)" »
"Because 55 Cancri is so bright that it can be seen with the naked eye, astronomers have been able to measure the velocity of this star from four different observatories over a thousand times, giving the planets in this system much more attention than most exoplanets receive," said Penn State assistant professor Jason Wright, who led a program to scrutinize this and several other planetary systems. The 55 Cancri planetary system is just 39 light years away in the constellation Cancer.
Continue reading "Puzzle of the 55-Cancri Planetary System Solved --"Just 39 Light Years Away"" »
"We found organic soil that has been frozen to the bottom of the ice sheet for 2.7 million years," said University of Vermont geologist and lead author Paul Bierman. The finding provides strong evidence that the Greenland Ice Sheet has persisted much longer than previously known, enduring through many past periods of global warming.
Continue reading "NASA Team Finds Pristine 3-Million-Year-Old Landscape Under Greenland Ice Sheet" »
In Episode Seven, The Clean Room, Neil deGrasse Tyson starts our journey traveling to the shallow seas that formed what we now know as the Grand Canyon a billion years ago in what then was the Precambrian Epoch to find the only kind of life on the planet: blue-green bacteria. Oxygen, one of the by-products of photosynthesis by microbes such as cyanobacteria and their descendants -including algae and higher plants, transformed the Precambrian Earth and made possible the evolution of more complex organisms.
Continue reading "'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey' (Monday's Episode 7) --Preview & Background for "The Clean Room"" »
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.
Continue reading ""Getting Closer and Closer" --Kepler Mission Findings Reveal Star Systems in a Milky Way Teeming with Planets" »
"The next great war will start inside us. In the next stage of evolution, mankind is history," said Greg Bear, author of Darwin's Radio. Michael Crichton would have loved this discovery: research has shown that about eight percent of human genetic material comes from a virus and not from our ancestors, according to researchers in Japan and the U.S.
Continue reading ""Darwin's DNA?" Eight % of Human Genome Comes from RNA Viruses (Weekend Feature)" »
“This is really a tip-of-the-iceberg discovery,” said study co-author Jason Rowe, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who spent a year analyzing data gathered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope that led to finding the planet known as Kepler-186f. "We can infer that other ones are likely to exist. And that’s going to be the job of future missions to find [them].”
Continue reading "Epic Discovery! NASA Announces First Earth-Size Planet Found That Could Support Life" »
NASA will host a news teleconference at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) Thursday, April 17, to announce a new discovery made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope. The journal Science has embargoed the findings until the time of the news conference. For a detailed background briefing, see our post "Getting Closer and Closer" --Kepler Mission Findings Reveal Alien Star Systems in a Milky Way Teeming with Planets.
Continue reading "New Kepler-Mission Discovery Livestreamed by NASA Today 2 PM EDT --Is It a Twin Earth?" »
Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. The results will help guide researchers’ next steps in understanding whether life exists, or has ever existed, on Mars and how water—now absent from the Martian surface—flowed there in the past. Their study shows that the atmospheres of Mars and Earth diverged in important ways very early in the 4.6 billion year evolution of our solar system.
Continue reading "Diverging Evolution of Early Earth and Mars Revealed by Meteorites" »
"Perhaps empty space is not completely empty after all, but permeated by an unknown field, similar to the Higgs-field", says Professor Hartmut Abele of the Vienna University of Technology, director of the Atominstitut. These theories are named after Aristotle's "quintessence" – a hypothetical fifth element, in addition to the four classical elements of ancient Greek philosophy.
Continue reading ""The Universe May be Permeated by an as Yet Unknown Field"" »
New findings may have the effect of expanding that perceived habitable zone by 10 to 20 percent, almost doubling the number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy. A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah’s Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps. These " tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them — turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets — are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.
Continue reading ""Number of Potentially Habitable Planets in the Milky Way May Be Double" --NASA" »
"We have not seen anything like this before," said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London. "We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right. The theory holds that Saturn long ago had a much more massive ring system capable of giving birth to larger moons," he added. "As the moons formed near the edge, they depleted the rings and evolved, so the ones that formed earliest are the largest and the farthest out."
Continue reading "Saturn's Rings -- "Do They Reveal the Creation of a New Moon?"" »
Massive Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth planets orbiting distant stars have exposed continents rather than just water-covered surfaces.
Continue reading "SuperEarths with Exposed Continents Boost Probability of Extraterrestrial Life" »
In 1980 and 1981 NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 space probes passed for the first time over the planet Saturn, located 1,500 million km from the Sun. Among their numerous discoveries they observed a strange, hexagon-shaped structure in the planet's uppermost clouds surrounding its north pole. The hexagon remained virtually static, without moving, vis-à-vis the planet's overall rotation that was not accurately known. What is more, the images captured by the Voyager probes found that the clouds were moving rapidly inside the hexagon in an enclosed jet stream and were being dragged by winds travelling at over 400 km/h.
Continue reading "Saturn's Enigmatic Hexagon --"Yields Clues to the Hydrogen-Gas Giant's Hidden Atmosphere"" »
During a lunch at Los Alamos in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi asked his colleagues working on the Manhattan Project, "Don't you ever wonder where everybody is?" Fermi argued that given the large number of stars and planetary systems in the Milky Way and their old age, life should have arose and acquired technology that would be far more advanced than ours.
Continue reading ""Where Are They?" --Will Enrico Fermi's Question Be Answered Soon? (VIDEO)" »
"We haven't found strange stars yet," explains Prashanth Jaikumar at the Argonne National Laboratory. "But that doesn't mean they don't exist. Maybe we have found them. Maybe some of these neutron stars are really strange stars. According to our theory, it would be very difficult to tell a strange star from a neutron star."
Continue reading "Strange Quark Stars --Does One Actually Exist in a Nearby Supernova?" »
Since Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, there have been several rumors that evidence has been found of Martian life in the forms of fossils, statues and even a carved alien skull and that NASA has "covered up" the existence of alien life on the planet.
Continue reading "NASA Refutes Rumors that Source of Mars' Flash of Light is Alien Life" »
Join the 303,000 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.
Continue reading "The 'Daily Galaxy' Twitter Followers Soar Above 300,000!" »
Gusev Crater once held a lake, according to a team of Mars scientists. If desert mirages occur on Mars, "Lake Gusev" belongs among them. This come-and-go body of ancient water has come and gone more than once, at least in the eyes of Mars scientists. Now, however, it's finally shifting into sharper focus, thanks to a new analysis of old data by a team led by Steve Ruff, associate research professor at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The team's report was just published in the April 2014 issue of the journal Geology.
Continue reading "Mars' Crater Landing Site for NASA's Spirit Rover --Harbored an Ancient Lake" »
The discovery of dark matter means we would have identified the dominant form of matter in the universe that seeded structure and led to galaxies, solar systems and planets, and ultimately to our Earth with intelligent life. In late February, dark matter hunters from around the world gathered at the University of California, Los Angeles for “Dark Matter 2014” --the unknown stuff that makes up more than a quarter of the universe yet remains a mystery.
Continue reading ""The Quest for Dark Matter" --World's Leading Experts Discuss Their Search" »
Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured this eye-catching image of planetary nebula PN A66 33 — usually known as Abell 33. Created when an aging star blew off its outer layers, this beautiful blue bubble is, by chance, aligned with a foreground star, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetric, appearing to be almost circular on the sky.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: Sparkling Blue Ring of Cosmic Relics" »
Thirteen billion years ago our universe was dark. There were neither stars nor galaxies; there was only hydrogen gas left over after the Big Bang. This early universe was hot and ionized. But as the universe expanded, it cooled, and 380,000 years after the Big Bang, protons joined electrons to make neutral hydrogen atoms, which block light. As stars and galaxies evolved whose radiation ionized the universe anew, allowing light to speed through space unimpeded. Eventually that mysterious time came to an end as the first stars ignited and their radiation transformed the nearby gas atoms into ions. This phase of the universe's history is called the Epoch of Reionization (EoR), and is linked to many fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology.
Continue reading "Extinct Galaxy Observed Orbiting Milky Way --"A Fossil of the Early Universe"" »
Quasars are young galaxies powered by massive black holes, extremely bright, extremely distant, and thus highly redshifted. The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), pioneered the use of quasars to map density variations in intergalactic gas at high redshifts, tracing the structure of the young universe. BOSS charts the history of the universe's expansion in order to illuminate the nature of dark energy, and new measures of large-scale structure have yielded the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies first formed.
Continue reading "Massive Galaxies of Early Universe Powered by Black Holes --"Reveal the Nature of Dark Energy"" »
A new approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios that could explain the genetic similarities shared by Neandertals and modern humans from Europe and Asia. Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to this new genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal Genetics. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.
Continue reading "Is There a Neandertal in Your DNA? --New Confirmation of Interbreeding" »